A new school has been built outside of Sylhet, Bangladesh through the ongoing efforts of Lipscomb Academy students, faculty and friends over several years and the story just keeps getting better.
In 2010, Rita Cochrane, seventh grade geography teacher, was selected by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Departments of State and IREX
(International Research and Exchanges Board) to participate in a two-way exchange program that provides professional development opportunities to secondary school teachers around the world.
During her two-week trip, Cochrane and her international counterpart, Musammmat Badrunnnshea, discussed the best teaching practices and related educational issues in Bangladesh with a wider community of educators. Through this program, Cochrane was able to share teaching practices from the United States and learn about the culture of Bangladesh to share with her seventh grade students at Lipscomb Academy.
Soon after Cochrane’s return to the states, Badrunnnshea reached out to Cochrane for help. The village school outside of Sylhet had been destroyed by a monsoon in March of 2010 and the small town had no funds to rebuild the school. Cochrane began a fundraiser at Lipscomb Academy Middle School called “Making Change in Bangladesh”. The program asked students to bring in spare change and soon the students had raised $1,000 to donate to begin rebuilding the school, but the story doesn’t end there.
The senior class of 2010 donated $2,000 in honor of Ms. Janet Smith, a beloved teacher from Lipscomb Academy who was retiring from Lipscomb Academy after 40 years of service. “I am so thrilled that the senior class of 2010 chose to honor Ms. Smith in this way. Her years of dedication to her students and to Lipscomb are unparalleled. It is such a fitting honor that her teaching legacy continue in the lives of students halfway around the world,” said Cochrane.
In 2011, Cochrane continued her fundraising efforts for the small school and drew inspiration from the most popular sport in Bangladesh, cricket. In collaboration with the Physical Education Department at Lipscomb Academy, the middle school students were taught the game during physical education classes and a tournament was played as a fundraiser. A goal of $5,000 was set for the tournament and through admission and concessions, $2,500 was raised by the students.
Mrs. Neika Stephens, a long-time member of the Lipscomb Board of Trustees, generously donated the remaining $2,500 to help the students reach their goal of $5,000. The Stephens’ service to Lipscomb, and especially the Academy, spans decades. Her family relationships to the school stretch back to David Lipscomb himself. “We are blessed on a daily basis by the love and dedication Bill and Neika Stephens have shown Lipscomb Academy, the donation to the school in Bangladesh is another example of the selfless service of this incredible couple, “ said Lisa Bruce, Middle School Principal.
On March 8, 2013, Lipscomb Academy hosted World Clean Water Day. During this day, students were asked to forgo their normal beverage at lunchtime and instead drink water. This day brought awareness to the students because while they were able to have clean water with little effort, the people of Bangladesh must walk a good distance to get a container of clean water to bring to their school.
The money the Lipscomb Academy students normally would have spent for a drink at lunch was collected and the sum was $1,800. Rita Cochrane and her husband, Mike, who is a civil engineer that specializes in water resource, spent spring break visiting the school in Bangladesh coming up with a plan to add a water source at the school. The money raised during World Clean Water day was enough to create a water source at the school and will provide the teachers and students there with clean water.
After three years of continued efforts, planning and fundraising from Lipscomb Academy, the village school is complete. Eighteen students attend school in the small building that includes one classroom, a small kitchen, a restroom and a small library.
In May, Lipscomb Academy Middle School students played in the Second Annual Cricket Tournament to raise money to add another classroom to the building. The seventh grade class won the cricket tournament, but the real winners were the children in Bangladesh, who will have another classroom built soon with the $3,750 raised during the tournament.
“I am so very proud of our Lipscomb Academy students. They are letting their light shine for Jesus in a part of the world that does not know Christianity. This may be the only Jesus these students have ever seen. As in the past, our students continue striving to make the world a better place,” said Rita Cochrane.