Alumnus Hank de Jong wears an “I ♥ Barton St” button pinned to his shirt pocket as he gives a tour of Campus 621, a huge, brick building on the corner of Barton and Gibson in downtown Hamilton. Campus 621 is the new home of EduDeo, where de Jong serves as executive director.
EduDeo provides Christ-centred education to children in developing countries through building projects, indigenous teacher training and student scholarships. Barton Street is one of the main arteries of the Gibson and Lansdale Area (GALA), a ragged neighbourhood that the City of Hamilton has identified for revitalization.
“If you look at the city where God has called us to be, it’s Hamilton.”
You’d be forgiven for not seeing an immediate connection between beautifying Barton Street and building a school in Belize. So why has EduDeo set up shop on Barton? When EduDeo outgrew its former space, staff grappled with the importance of place and how they could impact whatever community they moved to next. “If you look at the city where God has called us to be, it’s Hamilton,” de Jong affirms. “We began to focus on an area that is one of the most underdeveloped regions of our city, and we very intentionally set up shop there to be a beacon and a place of renewal within our city.”
That place of renewal, Campus 621, will enable EduDeo staff and supporters to live out their mission—to advance Christ-centred education for children worldwide—while also living into their vision—to see every community transformed by the Gospel. And that vision includes the communities they’re in.
De Jong envisions Campus 621 as a hub for social entrepreneurs, churches and other Christian organizations working for renewal in the local community. Aside from a cheery cooperative workspace, the building boasts a storefront on a busy corner and cavernous lower-level rooms, available for community meetings and events.
The side wall of Campus 621 has been approved as the site of an exterior wall mural, part of the City’s plans for reinvigorating Barton Street. In artist Tim Nijenhuis’s proposed design, books morph into butterflies, reflecting EduDeo’s commitment to education and renewal. A Rwandan schoolyard flows into the Hamilton skyline, reflecting the fact that the local and the global have more to do with each other than ever before. De Jong notes, “We are a body of Christ that spans the globe. We have a responsibility to one another, and this is a way for us to live into that in a very tangible way.”