Alongside the Next Generation…

Posted by on February 19, 2024 in Blog | 0 comments

By definition, a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who spends a significant part of his or her first 18 years of life accompanying parent(s) into a country that is different from at least one parent’s passport country(ies) due to a parent’s choice of work or advanced training. Examples of TCKs include Missionary Kids, Military Kids, Foreign Service Kids and NGO kids. The majority of kids at Rift Valley Academy are Missionary Kids yet all fall into the category of TCKs or Cross Cultural Kids (CCKs)

In 2021, TCK Training conducted research with 1,904 adult Third Culture Kids, specifically focusing on demographics and ACE Scores (Adverse Childhood Experiences). This research was then compared to ACE scores of monocultural individuals in both developed and developing countries.

The 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences that make up the ACE score include: 

* Child physical abuse

* Child sexual abuse

* Child emotional abuse

* Emotional neglect

* Physical neglect

* Mentally ill, depressed or suicidal person in the home

* Drug addicted of alcoholic family member

* Witnessing domestic violence against the mother

* Loss of a parent to death or abandonment by parental divorce

* Incarceration of any family member for a crime. 

For individuals who report 4 or more ACE scores (1 point per experience), it is found that there is a direct link to an increase in negative physical and mental health later in life. 

TCK Training’s research on the globally mobile Third Culture Kid revealed that 21% (1 in 5 TCKs) reported 4 or more Adverse Childhood Experiences, putting them in the high-risk category for negative outcomes later in life– nearly double as seen in the monocultural studies around the world. 

As a parent of TCKs and a wife of an adult TCK, this is a hard study to read and sit with. Thankfully, it’s also not the whole story! 

Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) are vital and have a proven link to preventing the negative outcomes of high ACE scores, in addition to developing healthy resilience and long term thriving of missionary kids and third culture kids worldwide.  

The 7 Positive Childhood Experiences are: 

* Feeling that feelings can be shared, heard and validated in the home

* Belief that the family stands together and prioritizes one another during difficult times

* Feeling safe and protected in the home

* Feeling supported by a peer group

* Feeling a sense of belonging in a larger multigenerational group

* Having family or community traditions to look forward to

* Feeling a sense of belonging in high school and having two non-parent adults who take a genuine interest in the child    

Research has shown that when a person with four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences also has at least six Positive Childhood Experiences, their risk for depression in adulthood is lowered by 72%! For third culture kids and missionary kids who are at risk of accumulating high ACE scores, this brings tremendous hope!

Third Culture Kid (TCK) Care Coordinator…

Nearly a year ago, I (Alissa) approached the leadership at Rift Valley Academy about starting a TCK Care Program on campus and after many conversations and prayer, it was accepted! While in the USA this fall, I took a 13 week, 10-hour a week course through TCK Training which provided extensive education in how to engage in TCK care from multiple facets. Upon our return to Kenya, I started this new role of TCK Care Coordinator (while continuing dorm parenting and working with the Sarobidy Maternity Center). 

My deep desire is to develop this position into a team that has a three-pronged approach…. 1. to bring education and awareness to staff, 2. to come alongside students, and 3. to offer resources to parents. 

To be honest, I feel like I’ve just jumped into a lake, without knowing how to swim and without a floatation device!! I covet your prayers for this new role… that I would daily seek the Lord and His leading, be faithful and bold in following His direction, have wisdom and discernment beyond myself, and that this would take hold in this nearly 120-year old institution at Rift Valley Academy. We want to see generations upon generations of healthy third culture kids being firmly rooted in their faith and change agents in their communities across this big world!

Non-Parent Adults…

As mentioned above, one of the protective Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) is having two non-parent adults take a genuine interest in a child’s life. Here at RVA, Jamie and I are thankful for the many ways that we have a unique opportunity to come alongside students. 

* Investing into 20 guys in the dorm– whether it be through helping them navigate difficult situations, teaching them to play pickle ball, conversations in the kitchen or a myriad of other opportunities.

* Early morning Bible Studies with several sophomore guys each week.

* Sunday School with 10 sophomore girls over pancakes (the same group of girls for the last two years ❤️). 

* Intentional weekly mentoring relationships with two students.

* Coaching girls soccer and guys rugby.

* Relationships and solid conversations with our kid’s friends. 

* Continued relationships with previous dorm guys.

Being back at Rift Valley Academy where Jamie spent his Junior High and High School years has forced him (in a good way) to reflect on previous staff members who invested into him and had a transformational impact on his life. We are so thankful for those adults that took a genuine interest in this crazy missionary kid from Madagascar! It is our prayer that we would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in how to be the same for the students in our midst. Would you join us in praying?  

Thank you for investing in prayer and in sacrificial giving for our family to be both at Rift Valley Academy as well as in Madagascar. In doing so, you are also investing into the lives of these missionary kids, who we have no doubt, will one day be investing into the lives of others and sharing Christ with the world around them! 

Because of His great love, 

Alissa, Jamie, Isabella, Eliana and Gavin 

PS… RVA currently has several gaps in staffing for the upcoming 2024/2025 school year. Click here to learn more or to pass along to others who may be interested in serving in Kenya! 

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