Oasis Schools “Pay it Forward”
June 07, 2012 | Featured
By Whitney Hale
"Our ability to impact the lives of students is more about what we live out before them daily than a prescribed combination of words, strategies or plans." — Joe Hale
NICS’ Oasis schools are a division of schools which possess the same level of quality education and excellent teachers as NICS but take a more sensitive approach to religious issues due to host country restrictions. The Purpose Statement for these schools reads: “Oasis International Schools exists because of our belief that a major impact can be made on our world through the education of international children who will in turn impact others in a positive way.” There are currently five Oasis schools across the world, and all of them are finding ways to impact students who in turn are impacting others. Logan Tilley is a third grade teacher in Ankara, Turkey, and she beautifully describes how this purpose is fleshed out at her school:
In the lobby of Oasis International School, Ankara, there is an area decorated with golden plaques. Each plaque bears the name of an Oasis teacher or staff member, those past and present. The school is now represented by a number of these plaques, attesting to the school’s growth and the investment of a variety of individuals in the eight years that it has been open.
Each plaque represents one person, able to make a difference among a fraction of the 250 international students currently at our school. Each individual’s service, working alongside so many others, is what makes Oasis an effective and purposeful educational institution.
This lesson of unity in purpose has been beautifully taught to our students recently through several opportunities to serve our community and our world-wide neighbors in need. Last year, our school administrators decided to partner with a local ministry which provides food and other necessities to refugees in the area, but was suffering from lack of funds and supplies. Oasis classes began collecting simple food supplies such as oil, beans, box milk, and rice to benefit the refugees. High school students began helping organize and distribute the supplies alongside other volunteers on a monthly basis. The ministry is now able to operate consistently and effectively as we work together. In a similar manner, students, parents, and school staff were able to accumulate enough blankets, coats, and food items to fill a truck designated for the relief of earthquake victims in eastern Turkey this past October.
In January we participated in a school wide fundraiser called, “Loose Change to Loosen Chains”, in an effort to free people in modern day slavery. This was motivated by a sixth grader who is very conscientious about the needs around her and desires to involve others. Her example, as well as the initiative as a whole, is another perfect example to the students at Oasis that one person can’t change everything, but can do something.
Students have been able to see the tangible results of individuals working together toward a common goal through these projects. They have been able to participate in filling baskets with food, observing that one bag of rice, though small, is still important. They’ve heard the jingle of small coins fill a bag and then do the math, seeing it add up to an impressive amount. Individual children have had the opportunity to consider that the coats they once wore are now warming other people. Each one was important and made a difference.
Not only are the students who are currently enrolled in the school thinking of ways that they can impact their community, there are several alumni who are purposefully using their careers and lives to impact the world. Samantha Puckett, OIS alumnus, remembers her time at the school:
Oasis provided me the greatest true encouragement for service: an environment of service. The school itself is a family. It behaves as a family with all its little frustrations and miscommunications and with all the love and caring and service of one as well. My opportunities to serve came more in the everyday happenstance than in organized events. For younger students I was a mentor; for my fellow classmates I was a confidant. I helped the teachers with copies, messages, and errands. Because of Oasis, I have seen just how very alike people are, regardless of race, religion, language, and socioeconomic status. I have learned, and seen, and experienced how to love and serve people as individuals in spite of the considerable disparity of their circumstances.
Samantha received a biological engineering degree in May from the University of Arkansas. She is currently applying to medical schools in the U.S., and she plans to begin medical school in the fall of 2013. Her goal and dream is to become a doctor and serve in a part of the world with little access to medical care. In the meantime, she will be going back to OIS as the high school biology teacher.
OIS is certainly not the only Oasis school making a difference by this “pay it forward” mentality; there are also schools in Kabul, Afghanistan and the Far East that are impacting those countries and the world by producing alumni “who will in turn impact others in a positive way.” There are also two new schools that will soon be furthering this purpose. The first project is in Batam, Indonesia, and is situated in an area where international businesses are being established, tourism is on the rise, and the expatriate population is drastically increasing due to its proximity to Singapore. The other project, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is in the center of one of Asia’s “rising star” cities, and has the potential to become quite large rather quickly. (To read more about these schools, visit the Seeds column.)
NICS President and Founder, Joe Hale, outlines several relevant observations regarding Oasis in his article “Defining Our Oasis.” He says, “Race, age, ethnicity nor direction of the traveler are issues for the oasis… she welcomes all who come her way.” It seems that this description is not only true within the Oasis schools, but the idea is also instilled in the hearts and lives of the students. Because the teachers and staff invest in students regardless of where they come from or who they are, these students are being impacted and are “paying it forward” as they then serve their communities and the world.