We visited the UMC HopeHome program today. Initially supported by Hopegivers International (2006-07), it now is supported by WorldHope Corps (2008-09). What started with 15 now totals over 100 Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) who are cared for by local families and fed at the church with local food products purchased by WHC funds ($1000/month).

Our mission team participated in the church ‘picnic’ or feeding program today and fed over 107 kids. Last week there were 125, Copeland told us.

In addition, WHC sponsors 10 girls and 10 boys as recipients of Hope Scholarships for secondary school and vocational training. We interviewed some and photographed as many kids as we could who were in need of sponsors.

Urgent Need: So far, WHC has only two individual child sponsors, though we provide food for 60 registered OVC in the HopeHome program. The UMC Global AIDS Fund grant runs out in July and no new funding is yet in place.

Part of the solution: Micro-businesses. Two income-generating business ideas that Pastor Copeland Nkhata is committed to are these: 1) women’s sewing, tailoring and dress-making training and production, and 2) hens to lay eggs to sell.

Christian Ciabonu, a Drew college student and shalom intern, is working with Copeland and the UMC Mzuzu leadership team to develop these two economic enterprises during the months of May and June. The sewing business already has started with 2 Singer sewing machines, seven motivated women, and a trainer.

Since funds are limited, I recommend that WHC give priority to funding Hope Scholarships with cash donations, and help the UMC of Mzuzu to transition the HopeHome program from a local church project to a community-based and locally owned community initiative through ShalomZone Training and initiative.

As for the Hope Home feeding program, ‘it takes a village’ as they say…Within 1km of the UMC are a number of churches and institutions, including: Assembly of God, St Augustine’s RC, an indigenous Pentecostal church, and a Presbyterian Church. Also a computer training school, government office, hospital and Mzuzu University.

Together, all the resources within the 1km radius constitute the ShalomZone that Claire and Christian are developing as part of their internship. Shalom work starts with mapping the geographically defined community, then mobilizing resources, aligning the assets and connecting the dots so that the entire community collaborates and cooperates in caring for the orphans in the zone. It is our shalom conviction that “there are sufficient resources in any community to do the development work that must be done to prosper.”

The church and community working together, I believe, can access the food they need through income generating micro enterprises, mobilizing local resources, and aligning assets through the ShalomZone initiative led by Pastor Copeland and Christian Ciabonu.