Recent grads invited to help rebuild Rwanda

Langley, B.C.—When Jeff Komant needed a partner to start a bold new initiative in the formerly devastated Central African country of Rwanda, fellow Trinity Western alumni and good friend Richard Taylor was the obvious choice. Jeff and Richard insist they are not the real life version of the recent movie Stuck on You. Still, their similarities are striking. Same height. Same weight. Injured ear on the same side. Both grew up in Africa, attended the same boarding school in Kenya, played rugby together throughout high school and University, and graduated from TWU in 2002. It gets even more intriguing. Taylor and Komant are brother-in-laws. They married sisters who are both nurses from Portland, Oregon.

The two friends also share the same passion for serving their people in Africa through meaningful development work. Komant recently spent over two years working on various projects in the Central African country of Rwanda. During that time he worked with several influential Rwandans who believed that the church needed to take the lead in providing a quality education for Rwandan young people. In March, 2003 he wrote Taylor describing an incredible opportunity for them to partner with these prominent Rwandese and build a new generation of Christian leaders in that country.

“Rwanda currently has no natural resources they can depend on,” explains Komant. “But the one thing they do have is people. Therefore their priority is to develop their people—and you can only do that through education.”

Since the genocide of 1994, when 800,000 Rwandan people were brutally murdered, quality education has become one of the most critical needs for rebuilding this tiny African nation. Only 60% of Rwandans have completed primary school, only 7% have finished secondary schooling, and only 0.4% have any post-secondary education. Most schools are overcrowded, have few educational resources, and rely on archaic, rote-based models of instruction from under trained teachers. As a result the majority of the population is not equipped to deal with critical issues or provide leadership for the future—most lack the educational background and training.

In response, and at the clear invitation of Rwandans with a vision for a different model of education, Jeff and Richard started The Wellspring Foundation for Education in May, 2003. Wellspring’s mission is to promote high quality, values based education in Rwanda that will produce creative, principled, and capable leaders to serve within all sectors of society.

“Our initiative will focus on two major areas,” says Komant. “Training teachers and building new high quality schools in partnership with capable Rwandan churches.”

That means the start of a four year, 2M dollar fundraising campaign to build a model school, provide training and resources for teachers, and establish Wellspring in Rwanda. The first teacher training seminar will be held in July, 2004. The first school is scheduled to open by September, 2005. Wellspring has already secured land, building permits, a Rwandan development committee, construction equipment, electricity and water through their partnerships.

“We’ve been able to move ahead because the Rwandan people have welcomed Wellspring with open arms to join with them in rebuilding their nation,” says Taylor who returned to his Surrey home at the end of November.

Recognition of the great need for this initiative has been confirmed many times since Wellspring was formed. During a recent trip to Rwanda, Komant and Taylor received support from many prominent Rwandan leaders including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, State Minister for Education, and the Minister of Local Government, Information, and Social Affairs. They also secured the long-term partnership of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) an association of over 5000 Christian schools.

ASCI will be able to link with educators, process donor funds, gather resources, and provide guidance to teacher training and curriculum development for Wellspring’s projects. “The critical support of experienced educators through ACSI will enable us to train Rwandan teachers effectively,” explains Taylor.

Wellspring has already gone beyond what Komant and Taylor first imagined. “Our heart is to make a difference,” says Komant. “At Trinity we thought maybe we would launch into a project together ten years down the road. But now is when we most need to act. This is an absolutely unique and timely opportunity. The initiative is a unique model of partnership between visionary and capable Rwandese, expert educators, Wellspring, and interested donors in North America. By working together these groups can accomplish what they could not hope to achieve by themselves.”

Despite the incredible opportunity starting a new initiative is not an easy task. There are many different tasks that need to be performed simultaneously and the two friends admit that sometimes the whole process can be overwhelming. “There are times when we have felt kicked in the teeth,” says Jeff, “but we’ve pressed on. The beauty of working with a friend is that when one is weak the other is most often strong. We help pick each other up and push each other to keep going.

The two also receive strong support from their wives Ericka and Jodi. Taylor reveals that the Portland born women didn’t grow up thinking about Africa as a possible future. Over time they have both gained their own vision for establishing their lives in Rwanda and using their gifts in nursing. “As people begin to realize the long term impact their support can have they are becoming very excited about what we are trying to accomplish in Rwanda,” he says. “We feel privileged to dedicate our lives to an incredible cause and can’t help but sense that God had a divine purpose in giving us such a strong friendship.”

Last Updated: 2015-07-20
Author: Keela Keeping