Spotlight: Invictus Institute
Ruth, a 10-year-old Ugandan, receives little educational help at home from a hard-working mother with limited resources, but—thanks to the help of Provo-based Invictus Institute—that does not mean Ruth’s potential will be squandered. Using Internet technology, Invictus Institute volunteers are helping Ruth (and about 200 students like her) achieve significant educational improvements.
Kasey Beck, Invictus Institute founder, says, “There is so much potential in Ruth, and the only way it will be unlocked is through one-on-one help, friendship, and someone shows interest in her. Because we have added this girl to our program and given her a tutor who wants her to succeed, Ruth is getting what she needs to create a successful future for herself.” In 2018, Beck plans to double or triple the reach of Invictus Institute.
In 2007, Kasey traveled with a Provo-based nonprofit organization to volunteer in Uganda. While there, Beck became aware of challenges with global education. In Uganda, for example, existing schools often pack 75-100 children into each classroom. “The average teacher has several jobs and sometimes can’t make teaching school their first priority,” Beck says. “Turnover is high, and about 20% of the time, a teacher simply doesn’t show up.” In such cases, already mammoth classes are combined.
But what could Beck do? Beck says, “I was just a poor college student, but I loved the people I had met in Uganda and had a strong desire to help. I decided to reach out and began tutoring just a few Ugandan students online.” Using platforms such as Google Hangout and Skype, Beck and his friends began helping students with their schooling. “Around 2013,” Beck remembers, “I started to see how much our consistent, one-on-one help was benefitting the kids. I wanted to grow our efforts and make them official.” So in 2014, Invictus Institute was formed.
Invictus Institute’s model relies heavily on volunteers, several of whom are university students living in or near the organization’s home base of Provo. “We ask our volunteers to serve an hour or two each week,” Beck says. “The volunteers tell us when they can help. We tell them about our programs, give them training, and find them service opportunities to match their availability and skills.”
The volunteer tutors help students with math, science, and particularly English. “In developing countries,” Beck explains, “fluency in English increases earning potential. At first, students are often shy and have a hard time understanding our tutors’ accents. But after a couple of lessons, the students begin to progress quickly. Studying English with native speakers is invaluable to the children.”
At first, Invictus Institute focused solely on finding low-hanging fruit by contacting foreign schools and orphanages that already had computers and Internet access. These were mostly in large cities in Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. But Invictus Institute recently spread its efforts to help students in rural Kenya as well.
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