Global mission has focused on Malawi, Africa.
In the last ten years our long term friendship with the "warm heart of Africa" built a school, established a non-profit, funded two new Presbyterian missionaries, earned a Presbyterian Women Thank Offering grant for a literacy project, built shallow wells and enjoyed the blessing of a 15 member choir who toured the North Country for a month.
In 2005, a group of members from First Presbyterian renewed our longstanding partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Malawi, Africa. During this visit, we encountered a dynamic malaria coordinator named Grace Chiumia.
As our friendship with Grace grew so did our awareness of the plight of Malawian widows. Widows in Malawi are often "cleaned out" by in-laws after the loss of a spouse. It is a frightful and painful tradition. In 2007 we began working on a "widow's fund" that would allow for the most vulnerable in Malawi to find hope. Each year on Christmas Eve, we take an offering that goes directly to those in the greatest need. The Widows' Fund has now become a standalone non-profit organization with support from both the Watertown and Canton Presbyterian churches.
For more more information please visit http://womenofgracewidowsfund.org.
Grace was elected a member of Parliament, and currently serves the government as Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security. She previously served as Minister of Sports and Culture. Her husband Sam Chirwa acts as local liason for our Malawi programs.
M.E.L.T. is comprised of a group of education and business professionals with a passion for young children and the doors that can be opened for those children through literacy. It is our mission to equip the children in the Northern Region of Malawi, Africa with up to date, culturally appropriate early literacy materials and readers. The readers we publish are about Malawi village daily life, science and culture, and basic health concepts. We will continue teacher training in the six schools that we serve so the teachers can get top results when using these materials.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Between 2008 and 2014, five short term mission trips in Northern Malawi focused on training primary teachers to teach early reading. Although the Malawian teachers were grateful and enthusiastic learners, the trainers were dismayed by the severe lack of curriculum materials and early reading books.
THE NEXT STEP
A three-person team (Margot McGorman, Mike Miller, Heather White) traveled to Malawi in April 2015 to meet with government education officials and Malawian teachers who had participated in the training program. This visit confirmed the ongoing need for early literacy readers, teacher training, and supplemental classroom literacy materials.
The M.E.L.T. Committee was formed in December of 2015 to continue these early literacy efforts in Malawi. M.E.L.T. is undertaking a literacy project in the Northern Region of Malawi which will:
- Develop and publish K-2 early literacy readers (a 30 - 40 title library).
- Provide an alphabet fluency kit for each teacher in our program.
- Purchase a Land Cruiser for use as a bookmobile.
- Offer teacher instruction in early reading practices over the next five years.
- Hire a Malawi field manager to manage the bookmobile service year round.
In the summer of 2016 Margot McGorman and Women of Grace board member Ellen Grayson traveled to Malawi for 2 weeks to teach a group of widows how to use a treadle sewing machine. The participants were taught to make items such as school uniforms, chair cushions, and shopping bags. They were fortunate to partner with a trained tailor who was very helpful in providing training. She hopes to raise funds to improve the output of the solar panels at the community center pictured below so they can use electric machines by next year. The items made can be sold at local markets to generate income for the widows.
For the summer of 2017, Margot McGorman has found a design for feminine hygiene underwear for young girls and women. She and a group of ladies have been sewing these kits which include a stylish purse with shoulder strap, an ovulation calendar, and flannel padding. This will allow girls to continue to attend school and not be absent one week of each month. The intent is to take the kits to Malawi to teach the widows how to sew them and thus earn funds.
There are many ways you can help the sustainable sewing project. While fabric is plentiful in Malawi, we are gathering sewing items such as scissors, machine needles, zippers, elastic and thread. We also ask for your prayers for the trainers and the widows. Items can be dropped off at either the Canton or Watertown Presbyterian churches.
First Presbyterian provided funds to build a school in the village of Chivumu. In addition, the Watertown YMCA raised money to build a sports field nearby. As of April 2017, the head teacher's home has been built nearby and the field was mostly covered in grass. The village would like us to build a second home for a teacher. This allows them to attract and retain teachers. A house costs $7,000 for mortar, timber, iron roofing sheets and the work of a mason. The village has begun to make bricks for the house. Our goal is to build one a year until all teachers have a house.
Beginning in 2006, First Presbyterian Church has raised funds to provide for more than 150 shallow wells in the sub-Saharan Africa countries of Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania. Working with the able Marion Medical Mission organization, our humble donations become new life for villages enduring the absence of clean, drinkable water.
Numerous individuals have volunteered to take part in their installation.
The Crisis Nursery is a temporary orphanage for babies 0-2. In Malawi the first two years of an infant's life is one the most crucial in concerns to development but also the most strenuous financially, physically and emotionally for the parents. The twin scourges of malaria and AIDS can devastate family structure. To make sure these infants were taken care of properly for these first two years the Crisis Nursery was set up In Lilongwe and Mzuzu. The Crisis Nursery in Mzuzu was the operation of the North Country's own Rev. Paul and Darlene Heller. Several Church members have spent weeks working within these Nurseries giving donations of baby's clothes but also volunteering their time taking care of the babies in various ways. In an exciting new development, the Crisis Nursery is working to purchase a new building in 2013 to serve as its permanent home.