Q: Who does Tent Schools International define as “displaced” within your mission statement?

A: We define our mission of serving displaced children as those fleeing war, natural disaster and/or persecution due to gender, ethnicity, or ability. Some, not all, have refugee status.

Q: Are the schools you establish actually in tents?

A: Often, they are! Many of the schools we start with our partners are based out of sturdy tent structures, and in some cases schools have even been run out of large shipping containers. Tents or other portable structures are the most effective and efficient way to bring education to children living in transitional areas, such as refugee camps. We do have partners who run schools out of more permanent structures (a church building, for example) but all of the school projects we are involved with serve displaced children.

Q: Why can’t displaced or refugee students attend state schools in their host countries?

A: There are often two different situations at play for the kids we serve – one for displaced children and another for children with refugee status. In Jordan, for example, Iraqi families fleeing war in their home country do not arrive as refugees – they entered with their passports. Their children are unable to attend public school because they are neither citizens of Jordan, nor are they refugees, and the public schools are overcrowded with both Jordanian and Syrian (refugee) children who have refugee ID cards allowing them admittance since 2017. Iraqi students can attend private schools in Jordan, but they are expensive and families are typically unable to meet tuition and transportation requirements.

Syrian refugees in Jordan can attend public school with refugee ID, but there are reasons to provide a different option, overcrowding being one of them. At this point 83% of Syrian refugees live outside the camps and there are no specific schools for refugees outside of those camps. Syrian parents, as well as Iraqis, prefer to keep their kids home from public school because they tend to have trouble blending with Jordanian kids and they have a greater frequency of post-trauma needs that are not addressed in state schools. Lastly, the state schools are often quite a distance from where families live and transportation is a challenge. In winter they arrive home when it is getting dark because they attend the second shift (afternoon session) of a double-shift school. Parents fear for the kids’ safety in these situations.

Q: Do you send North American instructors to teach in refugee camps?

A: We do not send teachers to camps. Instead, we work through trusted partners to support Christian instructors from within a host country. However, we do offer trauma-informed guides for educators working with displaced children, no matter where they are based. As an example, a U.S. teacher in a public school may be interested in using our guide, Beyond PTSD, to better remove barriers to learning for the resettled refugee students in his or her classroom. Learn more about the resources we provide to teachers here.

Q: Do you lead mission trips to refugee camps?

A: We do not currently lead mission teams to the camps. Instead, we offer our expertise along with that of our partners on what we call “vision trips” – teams of supporters who travel to transitional areas to learn about the school projects and form relationships with our partners and with those from within the displaced populations we serve. We then encourage advocacy for the Tent Schools mission once supporters have returned. To learn more about how you can travel on a vision trip, contact us.

Q: Do you own or operate the schools?

A: No. We are involved with school projects that are owned and operated by in-country partners and staff. This is done to increase longevity and maximize impact. We provide aid in the sense that we assist with start-up funding for schools as well as ongoing access to educational resources and technology. However, we do not provide indefinite aid or take ownership of a project.

Q: What is included in start-up funding for a tent school?

A: Typically, three main categories are involved in starting up a tent school: construction materials, school supplies and technology for the teacher and for classroom use. We require our in-country partners to have a sustainability plan in place, including teacher salary support and monthly utilities, before start-up funding is sent.

Q:What services do you provide?

A: We provide three main areas of service to our partners:

  1. Funding for actual tent school structures including both one-time and ongoing costs associated with launching a school within an established time limit,
  2. technology for tent-school instructors and older students involved in career training, and
  3. teacher resources such as trauma-informed guides and curriculum.

Q: Where do you currently work?

A: Most recently, Tent Schools International has worked with in-country partners on school projects in Lebanon with Syrian refugees, Jordan with Iraqi refugees, Tanzania with refugees from Burundi, and Nepal with trafficking survivors and children displaced by the 2015 earthquake. We are based in the United States, offering our services domestically in the areas of technology and teacher resources for instructors working with re-settled students.

Q: What curriculum is used in the schools you support?

A: We support a compassionate approach to developing curriculum that considers both urgent educational needs (i.e. learning to read and write) and a child’s past experiences that may affect his or her ability to learn. The core subjects taught by in-country instructors in Lebanon, for example, are typically Arabic, Math, Reading and English. In an effort to meet the unique needs of children displaced by war and other disasters, we have worked with experts in the fields of mental health and disability to provide guides for educators such as Beyond PTSD and Nature as Therapy.

Q: Is Tent Schools International a Christian organization?

A: Yes, we are a faith-rooted organization that continues to be shaped by God’s love for all people, seen through the life of Jesus. We are not affiliated with a denomination and we welcome supporters of any or no faith background. Our goal is to serve as Jesus’ hands and feet toward displaced children.

Q: Do you proselytize or promote an agenda with these schools?

A: Our agenda is to welcome refugees by serving displaced children through education, as part of our call in Matthew 25:35 to welcome the stranger. We are a Christian organization working with in-country Christian partners, many of whom begin the school day with a devotional time based around God’s love for all people and the teachings of Jesus. Our partners do not conduct devotional times without permission from parents; when this permission does not exist, we continue to serve displaced communities through education in answer to Matthew 25, no strings attached.