Dirt paths wind from nearby villages to an area surrounded by black rocks- a God-crafted jungle gym. Within those rocks sits an educational oasis providing comfort, access, safe adults, snacks, and support. Inside those walls a young girl’s future was reclaimed, restored, and renamed.
“I was not good at many things,” she shared evenly. “I struggled to read, to speak English; really, I had no hope for my own future.”
Amara* is the fourth child of nine and grew up in a village near the Education Center. The center, founded in 2011, provides holistic care to children through educational tutoring, Bible studies, nutritious foods, and emotional and social support. In 2018, staff met Amara and soon discovered she was a young girl going to school of her own will and with her own resources.
“When we realized just how much she was doing on her own, we chose to come alongside her, pay her school fees, and support her educational and emotional growth at the center,” shared Stephen Igba, Back2Back staff.
In her own words, Amara describes the younger version of herself, “I lacked vision and drive for what I wanted to add to society and the world, I felt hopeless.” Once she started at the education center, Amara’s view of the world, and of herself within it, transformed. Stephen Igba and Leah Smart, current and former Back2Back staff, tutored her faithfully, offering her passages to read and helping her with her homework after school. She received nutritious snacks and safe adults saw her potential long before she knew to look for it within herself.
Part of her time at the center was spent with Patience Demka, staff psychologist. During their time together, Amara was encouraged to rely on God and press into Him, and she felt something shift. “The education center changed everything – my hopes, my dreams; they introduced me to Jesus, and the hopelessness I felt gave way to seeing myself as an important person with plans from God,” Amara shared. “I fully understood what it meant to be cared for and I flourished.”
The nurturing and instruction Amara received through the education center continued through her teen years and into university studies. And when Back2Back opened their trauma-informed school, Amara knew this was the place for her, no longer the wandering little girl with untapped potential. She now serves there as an assistant teacher in the first grade classroom.
When asked about her role, her grin grows and she shares about what it means to be a teacher near where she was served so faithfully. “To serve children in the same ways I was served is a great honor,” she explained. “I consider all the things I was given when I was younger, by safe adults who just wanted to see me succeed and draw near to Jesus. I am so excited to return it all to my own students.” Amara notes that, when she feels frustrated or faces challenges, she stops, prays God would give her direction, and help her be what the child in front of her needs in that moment.
Back2Back staff met Amara at a time where she had little hope and narrowed vision; as she considers her own students now, her hopes for them are high and ever expanding. “I want my students to know God is a healer; I want them to understand they are beautifully and wonderfully made and He has many plans for each of them, plans that will change the world and their communities,” she shared.
“Amara has worked very hard for everything she has,” shared Jason Munafo, Back2Back Nigeria Stateside Director. “From the first time I met her, she was always available; she took advantage of every opportunity God gave her, and she is the epitome of someone who will not allow their situation to define who they are or what they will be. Amara knows who she is, because she knows who she is in Christ.”
It is this certainty that got her to where she is today. Daily, she looks for ways to glorify God and offer His hope to those around her. It’s allowed her to care for children from similar backgrounds, and glorify God’s name as she offers guidance to her students. Amara’s story is one that tangibly shows what can happen when a safe adult, in a safe place, sees something in a child. Refusing to let it be extinguished, she carries the light and the power she has reclaimed, and shows the generation behind her how it’s done.