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.
Malawi Early Literacy Team (MELT)
The Women of Grace Widows’ Fund was awarded a $34,000 grant specifically dedicated to improving early literacy for K-2 Malawian children. The grant was awarded by the Presbyterian Women organization of the Presbyterian Church (USA) funding through the “Thank Offering”. This grant work was a three-year project, and completed in July 2014. After the first year, it was evident that while English is extensively taught in Malawi, some materials had to be adapted for use there, so elementary teacher Heather White created an early literacy book made of pictures of items she saw on her trip.
A three-person team (Margot McGorman, Mike Miller, Heather White) traveled to Malawi in April 2015 to meet with government officials responsible for education and teachers who had participated in the Keys to Education program. This visit confirmed the belief that there is an ongoing need for: early literacy readers, teacher training, and resources within reach for teachers’ use.
In summer 2016, Heather returned to Malawi and was able to earn official government support for the teaching materials that Heather had developed. The photo below shows Heather and her team with Malawian officials.
Heather White has formed this committee with assistance from Michael Miller and Margot McGorman. The intent of this committee is to pick up where Keys to Education ended. Our non- denominational team members include: Heather White, Mike Miller, Margot McGorman, Caroline Osborne, Andy Burns, Joanne Lavarnway, Barb Eldridge, and Carol Stevens.
M.E.L.T. will work over the next year applying for a grant to complete a project in the Northern Region of Malawi including: A teacher lending center equipped with Standard One and Two early literacy reader kits (a 30 - 40 title library), hire a field manager and part time person at the center, a book mobile, and offer teacher instruction in early reading practices. The library will include readers written about Malawian children in Malawi. We are currently raising "Bucks for a Truck" to serve as the book mobile.
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.
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.
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.