March 16th 2011
I took a five hour bus ride from Lilongwe to Blantyre on Tuesday morning to meet Sullivan, the director of Project TEACH, at the bus station at noon. Project TEACH is located about an hour outside of the city of Blantyre in southern Malawi, in the district of Mulanje. I am staying with Sullivan, his brother, and his three nephews in their three bedroom house with their dog Fox and about ten chickens that run around in the yard. Sullivan serves as the director of the after school program, and as the owner and coach of a high school age and young men’s soccer team in the community. Project TEACH after school program serves about 40 children from the community, and the soccer team consists of about 25 youth and young men. This week I was able to attend after school program, help with snack and lesson, and stay to watch soccer practice after program is over, since Sullivan is my ride home and he is one of the coaches and players on the team.
Project TEACH serves underprivileged children and youth of the Mulanje community through after school programs and a youth leadership program. After school program runs from two in the afternoon until five, Monday through Thursday. The children gather in the small school complex to enjoy snacks each afternoon, which usually consists of some sort of bread or other carbohydrate, and a glass of sobo -a fruity drink that you buy by the bottle and dilute with water currently one of my favorite drinks in Malawi. After snack time the rest of program consists of tutoring and lessons led by the youth leaders- lessons in math, English, agriculture, history, or bible. Each week the leaders focus on a different subject, and then hold a quiz with the children at the end of each week. To encourage them in their education and to help them form good study habits, leaders reward the children who do well on the quizzes, and they mentor the ones who are struggling.
The youth leaders are youth who are employed by Project TEACH to help run the program, mentor and act as positive role models for the children. The youth program not only promotes responsibility and leadership, but it also provides finances for the youth leaders to attend high school, which many of them would otherwise not be able to do because of lack of finances. They use their earnings from working with Project TEACH to pay for schooling. The youth leadership program truly is one of a kind. It encourages young people to be leaders and role models who positively affect their communities.
It has been so much fun getting to know and be a part of the Project TEACH soccer program. Soccer is the most popular sport here in Malawi. It seems like every boy, no matter what age, wants to be a soccer player, or avidly follows and is dedicated to a team. The team is well known and respected in the community, and has gained a positive reputation through its team spirit. The team practices and prays together, and is more like a brotherhood than a soccer team. Sullivan’s dream for project TEACH is to expand the after school program, to have his own soccer field, and to someday build a soccer academy. He believes in the importance of teaching leadership, hope, respect, morals, and hard work through the sport of soccer. It keeps the boys out of trouble and gives them something positive to work towards. The team is very talented, and I have already had the privilege of watching them play and win two games in their league.
Hope for a brighter future is something that each UPI ministry works to instill in every child and youth. Their futures seem so determined, so set to be one of poverty, hard work, and struggle. But they deserve something so much more. They deserveopportunity, education, and a chance for a brighter future. Organizations like the ministries of UPI are so effective in providing this for the children and youth in the communities that they serve because the leaders and staff are individuals from the communities and county themselves. They know the issues that need to be addressed, and how to address them. They themselves broke from the cycle of poverty and have followed the call of the Lord to serve and love others. This is why it is so important for the church to follow the call of the Lord and to support efforts like these, and join them in any way possible, that we may be a part of providing hope and sharing Christ’s love with others. As I spend time at each site, I am able to see the great need and potential of the ministries. It truly has been such a blessing to be able to work alongside these leaders to advise and hopefully expand their ministries through fund development efforts.
- For Sullivan and Project TEACH, as he looks to the future of their programs. That the Lord would provide for a soccer academy, and to grow and expand after school programs.
- That the Lord continue to provide for the families of Malawi, as the rainy season is almost over they will soon begin to harvest and store food for the coming year.
- Praise the Lord that He has kept me healthy and safe thus far during my time here in Malawi.
- For God’s direction and provision for my future as I return to the States in May.