I was born into a family of three, and I lost my parents while still young. My dad died when I was 9 and my mom when I was 16. Life became hard and I lost all hope of continuing with school. I finally got a chance to go to school because family members and other well-wishers agreed to pay my tuition fees. However, my sister never got the opportunity because she was a girl child. I was given the opportunity because I am a man and my community valued me as someone who would have more to offer something to the community and family than my sister who would one day get married. My sister is now 23 and did not finish even high school. She can’t get a job, and she can’t go back to high school because of her age. Seeing the struggle my sister has gone through gave me a passion to help women in my community.
I believe women in Malawi should have an equal opportunity to go to school, have food, and have shelter just like any other man can have,
Voices Awake Organization is creating that platform, and it’s a privilege to be part of the change.
This November, I was approved by the UPI board to launch Voices Awake Ventures. This is a social enterprise that will use a mini bus business to provide financial support to Voices Awake Organization.
I believe business is a good tool for the sustainability of Voices Awake Organization. I am passionate about business and ministry. I have got over five years of experience in the Public transportation business in Malawi, and I want to use the same experience as a ministry at Voices Awake. Voices Awake Organization believes in sustainability to achieve its full potential and effectiveness.
This is important because with this enterprise, Voices Awake would be able to support its programs including:
• Paying tuition fees for the girls in the girl empowerment program
• Providing food for the girls living at the Voices Awake Girls home
• Paying salaries to the staff
• Providing Micro-loans to women
The potiential of this enterprise is exciting! Not only could this enterprise bless Voices Awake, but when this model proves successful, it could be a tool for our other UPI ministries in Malawi to join in and build a more sustainable source of revenue for their ministries.
It will take $25 000 to launch this enterprise and buy the mini buses. If you are interested in supporting this venture or talking to me about it, I’d love to meet with you.
My name is Gilbert Mfitundinda, an UrbanPromise International Fellow from southwestern Uganda. I was born to a family so poor that even the poor people in our community looked down on us. At a young age, I did not think that the future had anything to offer me. As the eighth child in my family, I had seen my siblings drop out of school. I was so hopeless.
My family survived on less than $1 per day. Life was a daily struggle. Our house was a makeshift house made of mud. I slept on a mat on a dirt floor and covered myself with another mat. Mattresses were unheard of and blanket never existed in my family’s dictionary.
At the age of 7, I was invited by my local church and community leaders to participate in a child sponsorship organization called Compassion International—who later changed my life. Compassion have me a mattress to sleep on and a blanket that I could use to cover myself. This was the first mattress that my family ever held.
Can you imagine how might have felt having on mattress in a family of ten? (Eight kids plus mom and dad). The blanket and the mattress became the most treasured items in our house at that time. Since Compassion had technically given the mattress to me, I had a bigger share on it.
However, my parents could not entrust me with the only treasure in our house. I was still young and irresponsible. I did bed wetting almost every night. When my parents justified why I could not use the mattress, I had no objection. My parents decided to keep the mattress until I was old enough to use it. For a period of time, whoever felt sick in my family was the one to use the mattress. It was a shared treasure.
During this season of Thanksgiving, I would urge you to take a moment and ponder your blessings. Can you name them one by one? It is easy to take a small thing like having a mattress for granted, yet it could mean the whole world to a child in Malawi, Uganda or any other developing country. I would also like to request you pray for a child longing for a mattress or blanket sometime in his/her lifetime. Perhaps you could be an answer to the prayers of this child.
Gilbert Mfitundinda, Founder and CEO of Love Restoration—a non-profit organization that he started to help his community. Gilbert holds a degree in information technology from Uganda Christian University. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in organizational leadership at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, USA.
So I found myself in the United States for the first time in my entire life. Although I had an idea of what to expect, I remember getting off the plane, looking into the sky and wondering what the future may hold. Sincerely, there was a little bit of self-doubt as I wondered if I was good enough for the Urban Promise International (UPI) fellowship. What had I really done to deserve a fully sponsored trip to the USA, to get a fully sponsored Masters’ degree and an opportunity to gain first-hand experience in ministerial work? One constant thought though was that God had me here for a reason and somehow, I had peace knowing that only his will would be manifested.
Now, here I am; about a month into the program and I feel like I have had the time of my life: From meeting amazing leaders from other African countries, to the beautiful staff of UPI who are quick to shower us with all the love. So, this last month has been a time of reflection, learning and community building. As I try to balance my commitment between school, camp and other UPI obligations; there has been a conscious effort to open my heart to all of the experiences, and it has truly been amazing!
First, there was the experience at Eastern University which quite exceeded my expectations. Beyond theory, each class was practical with the professors acting like consultants, willing to discuss unique problems of our organizations and jointly proffering real solutions. Also, contrary to the school system that I have been used to, the classes were more of discussions than lectures. They presented a platform for every member to share his views and an opportunity to learn from diverse experiences.
However, my favourite part of school would have to be the carefully selected pile of books we have to read for the semester. I won’t deny that they were quite scary initially, but diving into each book started to change my perception about leadership. In fact, one statement from Overstreet (2011) has been lingering in my mind. She noted that “when measuring performance, the only standard that truly matters to a follower of Jesus is what God thinks of our leadership” pg. 12. Truly, it has been a wakeup call for me. Beyond skills, beyond hard work or the busy schedules, I am now drawn to inquire each night how the Lord feels about my leadership. After all, that is all that really matters.
Another beautiful experience would have to be my camp involvement. The camp director was kind enough to explain that many of the children there have had traumatic experiences and our afterschool program is aimed at creating an atmosphere of love and joy for the kids. This however became clear on my first day at camp when one of the kids said to me: “Sarah, camp is the only time I truly get to be happy in a day.” This single sentence made all the difference for me. I realized then that beyond learning how to run a ministry, the UPI fellowship journey has presented me with an opportunity to be a part of the life of these kids. Trust me, I am enjoying every bit of camp: from getting to know to kids, to having lots of fun and learning at the same time. Through camp, I’ve gone for fishing for the first time in my life and I even caught a fish #SMILES.
What more can I say, my experience as a UPI fellow has been great so far even if I am still recovering from the culture shock. For one, I have had a taste of a variety of great American meals but I have been really shocked by the combinations.
Well, I had never imagined that it was possible to have ham burger, sweet corn and chips on the same plate!
And for the weather, my friends are wondering how many jackets I would likely wear during winter, considering that it is still fall and most times I have a jacket on. In all, it has been fun to learn about a new culture and see life in an entirely new perspective.
Today, I am reminded of a life lesson I learnt after I lost my biological father. I have come to realize that life is definitely beyond getting born into a family, going to school, maintaining a good job and possibly starting another family. It is more about letting each day count by putting smiles in the faces of those around us. To me, this is what Urban Promise International is all about. The fellowship seeks to empower us to be leaders that would make each day count for children in our local communities. It seeks to equip us with all the skills and knowledge we need to be Christ-like leaders in our respective countries.
So, I am grateful to be a part of this fellowship and I am looking forward to both spiritual and professional growth. In two years, I hope to be fully self-aware, to have my vision clarified and be empowered for the future that lies ahead. Above all, my desire is that whenever I go to inquire of the Lord, I am rest assured that He is pleased with my leadership.
To celebrate 29 years of marriage I've promised to take Pam on a "river cruise"....down the Delaware in a canoe. Sound like fun?
Pam has been a great sport over the years to put up with me. We actually got married one month before officially starting UrbanPromise in 1988--so she's been part of all the ups and downs and an amazing partner in building this ministry. In a few weeks we'll be putting our marriage to the test by spending 8 hours in a canoe together--something we've never done!
Pam's a city girl, so a day on the water is a big stretch.
But Pam has seen our work in Africa and believes kids in Malawi and Uganda deserve an amazing summer camp experience.
We hope you'll support "Team Main" as we strive to raise $20,000!
Every dollar raised will go directly to feed children, cover trip costs, pay for staff and provide an amazing 6 week summer camp experience for close to 2000 children. These programs are truly life saving and life transforming.
For a gift of over $500, Pam will call you from the canoe and say thanks--and maybe ask for a little marriage counseling.
Thanks for the many ways you have supported our efforts over the years. Your generosity will be a true source of inspiration.
We love you!
Bruce and Pam
PS. Click here to learn more about the amazing work UrbanPromise is doing around the world.
PPS. Canadian donors! Click here and choose Paddle for Promise- Bruce & Pam
James Mureithi, UPI Fellow, shares his story and his vision for UrbanPromise Kenya. James is currently a part of UPI's school of leadership and will be returning to Kenya in just a few months to launch his ministry. Inspiring words from an incredible leader!
Who would have thought a boy in a small village in Kenya, walking barefoot to school, with an avocado or a piece of sugarcane for lunch, would one day step through the doors of Eastern University? Talking about myself now can be a bit embarrassing and may sound like blowing one's own trumpet. I can't help but believe that everything that has helped shape me is on this page. Poverty would not stop me. Neither would the lack of school fees or having nothing to eat. Not even domestic violence and abusive relationships were enough to stop me. I was determined to work hard to secure my place at a public university. I knew I could do it-going to college was all that I wanted and I believed in the brighter future that would come afterward.
At times, the temptation to quit and try my luck somewhere else was intense. The odds were against me. The scourge of a polygamist family was following me.
My call to ministry came at a turbulent time in my life. My mom had just run away from her troubled marriage as the third wife. I had just graduated with my first degree, and was hoping to get a job to support my mom and educate my sister. I hesitated at first to be a church minister since I was surrounded by many troubles, but after one year, God’s call was unequivocal. I accepted it and over time became an associate pastor in my local church in Kenya.
I have been involved with developing and managing a village youth group for about a decade now. Part of what my friends and I have focused on is helping orphaned children. One highlight has been our annual Christmas party. We provide snacks and play games, pray with them and offer each child school materials and Christmas gifts. The joy we see on their faces upon discovering that someone cares for them is indescribable. I want to see more of that joy and want to be able to do more as God helps transform my dream into reality. I want to create more opportunities for those children. They can be like any other children in other parts of the country and world.
Imagine going through elementary and high school without touching a computer keyboard.
That’s the challenge most aspiring scholars have to overcome in Embu, Kenya. I acquired my own laptop at age 32. Currently less than 21% of Africans have access to the internet. In a global economy, that puts children in Embu in danger of being left behind in a rapidly changing world. I want to change that by establishing a nonprofit - Youth Promise Kenya. Through a partnership with UrbanPromise International, I will launch a new affiliate site based on their youth ministry model. With a focus on digital literacy and information access, my vision is to transform the lives of children & youth in the community through education, information technology & spiritual growth.
I often draw inspiration from the Bible and James 1:27 states “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
I’ll be returning to Kenya in just a few months. I can't wait to be reunited with my wife in the near future and to continue serving alongside her. My eyes are open now. Now I see that the hardships I went through were God’s tools to prepare me for this future ministry, which I am now embracing wholeheartedly.
Whenever I remember my experience walking 4 miles every day to high school, it makes me want to support vulnerable kids so that they can access high school education. I believe in giving young people opportunities to become change agents in their families and communities.
When Jesus told children to come to him in Matthew 19:14, he knew they were needed for His kingdom. Today, what are we hoping for our kids? What are we doing for them? Whatever good thing we do comes back to us and to our generation many times over.