First Baptist Church of Indianapolis, Indiana, has a large number of Karen refugees from Myanmar who have moved into its neighborhood in recent years. As the church has reached out to help its new neighbors, they have noticed that the children of the families often begin school ill equipped to learn. They do not speak English, and they are not accustomed to the kind of social interactions that are normative in the American culture. Even children who have been in the U.S. for some time are insulated from the broader culture during their preschool years.
The church has created a scholarship program to allow these children to attend their preschool. The Karen children enter the classroom with welcoming smiles and excitement for the day’s activities. Their social skills continue to grow throughout the school year. Learning to work and play with new friends is an invaluable lesson. Friendship truly is a universal language.
This year the ABCUSA Matthew 25 grant allowed First Baptist to fully fund the preschool costs for one Karen child, Sam. He made great progress over the course of the academic year, improving his English and learning quickly. He gets along well with his classmates and has learned the rules and routines of the classroom. He is learning to combine his Karen roots with his American surroundings. Because of this opportunity, Sam will enter kindergarten this fall with the readiness skills necessary for academic success.
Many studies have indicated the importance of early educational opportunities. Sam’s future is brighter today because First Baptist Church of Indianapolis cared about him and helped him acquire the tools for success.
The Matthew 25 Grant, sponsored by ABCUSA, is funded by a generous donor whose goal is to help meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.” Ministries must be in relationship with American Baptist Churches to be eligible to apply. Awards for the Matthew 25 grant are made twice a year, in April and October, with application deadlines of March 1 and September 1. To view the guidelines and download the application form, click here.