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Community Investment

Focus: A Well on Common Ground

Jonathan Titus-Williams, African Leadership’s Country Director in Sierra Leone, has a Common Ground Academy class in a village called Magburuka. Ninety percent of the students in this class come from Magburuka’s neighboring villages, including the nearby Moyatha community. Moyatha is a Muslim-dominated town of 1,000 people. The community faces several local challenges, revealed in their 2012 hospital records – staggering child morbidity and malnutrition rates and the effects of extremely limited access to sanitation facilities. Sixty percent of all illness in the community is caused by inadequate water or sanitation during the rainy season.

One of Jonathan’s students saw this as an opportunity. While Jonathan led the class through the Common Ground Handbook, a student from Moyatha suggested the class focus their Handbook efforts on his community. The Handbook is a practical tool that walks a local leader through an effective, step-by-step approach to creating a solution for their community that combats the challenges they face.

So the class got to work.

Under Jonathan’s leadership and the Handbook’s guidance, the class conducted a social analysis and listening survey. What they noticed confirmed the findings of the hospital records. The core culprit appeared to be the poor quality of drinking water. Three out of five people reported experiencing water related diseases in a year. Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources envisions “water and sanitation for all always,” but so far only 32% of the rural population has access to clean water. With the lack of government action, there was definitely room here for the local church to step in.

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Jonathan’s class did some more research. They mapped local resources and identified local stakeholders. Then they developed an action plan. The plan included constructing a water well, building a community water committee, and distributing mosquito nets to further protect from malaria, a waterborne illness. Their plan was approved for one-time funding by African Leadership and was put into motion earlier this year.

Now completed, what we’re most proud of here at African Leadership is what we didn’t do. We didn’t identify the location, the problem, or the solution. We didn’t investigate local opinions or existing resources. And we won’t be paying for ongoing expenses or maintenance of the water pump as local pump caretakers are being trained to maintain it and make needed repairs in the future. This solution was and is owned by the African community around it – not us.

Want to hear the story in Jonathan’s words and learn how this community – a community of Muslims – responded to the Christian church building them a well? Join us in August for Coffee and Conversations with Jonathan!

They made it!

We're excited to report that the shipment of medical supplies — x-ray machines, generators, lab equipment, basic hospital supplies, and more — has made it! The shipment arrived in Malawi and was delivered to three previously undersupplied rural clinics: Dzuwa Village Clinic, Kabudula Community Hospital, and Lilongwe Private Clinic. Take a look back at what used to be, then celebrate the delivery with us below. Thank you to all who made this shipment possible!



Common Focus: Democratic Republic of Congo

Get to Know: Denis Hangi, Country Director

Denis began pastoring in the village of Bambo in 1977 before attending Bible college in Kenya. While in school, he mentored an underclassman named Mezack Nkundabantu, who would later become African Leadership’s Rwanda & Burundi Country Director. After graduating in 1985, Denis was sent to rebuild a church in a local village that was falling apart. The church grew and became a mission church, creating 15 new churches under Denis’ leadership.

The war forced Denis and his family to flee to Goma in 1994. Here, seeing fellow refugees having to live in a school building, Denis was overcome with compassion and began a church in Goma. In 2002, Mezack recruited Denis to African Leadership, and three years later Denis was confirmed as the DRC’s Country Director.

In his time with African Leadership, Denis has graduated 1,214 pastors and currently oversees 20 classes with a total of 487 students. He is known for his dedication to reconciliation and trauma-healing outreach. He has helped rebuild homes of his pastors in war-torn areas and has had graduates go on to minister to other countries or start churches of their own in struggling villages. “The war has provoked tribalism hatred, but only God’s Word can heal,” he says.

Today, Denis lives in Goma with his wife and ten children. He is both African Leadership’s Country Director and a senior pastor at his church as he lives out “his work to build the capacity of God’s people."

To follow stories of Denis' ministry in the DRC, read more here.

A prescription for action

Kenya’s slums are home to 3.9 million people. [1] Huruma, one of these slums, is on government-owned land, but it is less than governed – the area has been largely ignored in terms of the availability of basic human services.

Irene Tongoi took this as an opportunity, a chance to offer a new dawn for those in the slums. In 2007, she opened the New Dawn Mji Wa Huruma Clinic to serve Huruma and the surrounding communities. It was the only provider of medical care services in the slum.

In the time since, the clinic has been in consistent operation, serving everyone in the slum community – malnourished children, the elderly, and adults with needs ranging from respiratory illnesses to rheumatism to malaria. In just the first half of 2013 alone, the clinic provided a total of 10,581 treatments, including caring for 1,265 children in the child welfare system, providing preventative care for 1,790 mothers and children, and providing 494 patients with regular medical dressings and injections. This span of time included a three-month national nurse strike, meaning the clinic’s staff received an increased flow of patients, but still upheld their high standard of care with the extra work.

One of the nurses reported that she recently had the chance to care for an elderly patient who needed counseling and treatment after the amputation of her left leg. The nurse stated, “We have been able to monitor her blood sugar and blood pressure with much success, she has greatly improved. She happens to be a widow with no children of her own thus was very depressed, she is a very happy person today.”

In situations like this, Irene says she “thanks God so much for enabling us to serve his people.” In return, join us in saying thanks to Irene for her humble service to an overlooked community for the past six years, especially for a very busy - yet very successful - 2013!

If medical needs are an area you’re interested in supporting, we currently have a unique opportunity to do so here.


[1] Homeless International, available

Making a Career in the Hard Places

Let’s face it. Most people who grow up in poverty want to get far away from it as quickly as they can. Not Everton Kamangire of Malawi. He grew up with a different aspiration: make a difference in the lives of those immersed in deep poverty.

Everton began by doing what he could, providing a blanket or meal here or there. He pursued a degree and was driven by mentors who challenged him to dig deeper. After graduating, Everton began teaching at a local school and then launched the Lizulu Orphan Care Project.

Lizulu is a rural Malawian community that is no stranger to HIV/AIDS or generational poverty. Consequently, it is no stranger to orphans. The average Lizulu family lives on less than $0.75 a day, making the ability to support orphans seem far from possible. Yet, about 3,000 orphans call Lizulu home. Many call Everton their role model.

The impact of Everton’s aspiration has been colossal. Nearly 500 children in Lizulu have completed secondary school, a feat that without the support of a family would typically be impossible for an orphan. His holistic approach, built on the concept of community-based care, allows children to live in the comfort of a real home with a real community – a built-in family - surrounding them. Five community centers in the village provide meals, and local leaders offer tutoring and counseling to ensure school is more than just going through the motions and life is more than just getting by. Blankets, clothing, medical services – all provided.

Everton has turned a community previously defined by poverty into a community defined by God. It’s an environment that doesn’t allow feelings of abandonment or worthlessness to stand a chance. It’s clear in the children’s excitement as they share their dreams – dreams very much alive despite tragic circumstances. Take for example Joy*. At 16, after losing both of her parents, Joy moved in with her grandmother. Two weeks later, she lost her grandmother. But Joy sits with confidence as she tells her story. Instead of speaking of sorrow, she speaks of her aspirations to become a midwife.

This is the story of a leader who matters in the hard places – a leader who dared to step into the stories of those around him and embrace them where they are. A leader who changed both the perception of the orphan and of the orphan’s community, enabling each to confidently see themselves the way God sees them. And every day, it grows a little more into the story of future leaders that matter in the hard places.

*Name changed for confidentiality.

M.D. Malawi

“I woke up in the middle of the night in a lot of pain. It was dark and hard to focus, but I will always remember the sight of this tiny Malawian nurse. Her hands were folded. Her eyes were closed. She was praying for me.” – Dr. Phil Renicks

Have you ever wondered what it is like to live in a place where getting emergency medical treatment is a challenge? Phil Renicks, Ed.D, known to our African Leadership staff as “Dr. Phil,” found this out the hard way. Our Chief Education Officer, Dr. Phil was in Malawi in early October leading a retreat for the teachers, administrators, and board members at The Adziwa Christian Primary School.

As his time there was drawing to a close, Dr. Phil began suffering severe abdominal pains. Having spent nearly a half-century traveling internationally to support Christian education, he was experienced enough to know something was very wrong. After being turned away from two clinics, staff from the school got him to a local hospital. He was put in a small room with two beds - a single mattress between them – and a bare bulb dangling from the ceiling, providing only faint, flickering light. This room… was the emergency room.

His pain was acute. An EKG showed his heart was not the culprit, but the ultimate diagnosis took days. When it did come, the doctors were able to prescribe the right course of medicine to relieve the pain and address the medical condition, and after several very difficult days for Phil and his family, he returned home.

Every year, a generous partner of African Leadership provides much needed medical supplies and equipment for these sparse, front-line hospitals. This year’s container includes x-ray machines, lab equipment, disposable supplies like needles and surgery equipment, and a generator to provide consistent power. The shipment has been designated for three hospitals in Malawi, just like the one that cared for Dr. Phil.

That shipping container, holding over $400,000 worth of supplies and equipment, may be ready to go…but unless it is actually shipped, it’s not very effective. The cost of shipping, $32,000, is all that is left to secure. It will cover the purchase of a few extra pieces of equipment and then get the container from the United States to Malawi. It comes down to this: we can deliver $400,000 worth of life-saving tools for only $32,000. We can serve the medical leaders that matter in hard places like Africa’s hospitals by shipping a container.

Before you think we forgot to tell the rest of the story, Phil’s time with the teachers was remarkable. After a week spent exploring what living out of a Biblical worldview really means, five of the fourteen teachers, all graduates of a Christian college, realized they needed to follow Christ and made a public profession of faith.  Another three recommitted their lives and their service to Christ.

Already we are seeing change in the classroom from all fourteen teachers. Around 500 children were in that school each and every day before Phil arrived; now 500 children are in that school each and every day learning from teachers who first love God their Father so that they can then love, serve, and teach their students in word, in action, and in truth.

This is the African Leadership Network – leaders who matter in the hard places. Won’t you help us make sure that healing medicine can be delivered alongside the Bible’s healing words?

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The Secret to Living Well

There’s an old quote attributed to Alexander the Great that so often resonates with the news and updates we receive from project partners in Africa:

I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.

African Leadership’s Community Investment program is broken down into five main project areas: Clean Water, Economic Freedom, Education, Health Care, and Orphan Care. But the more we communicate with partners on the ground and the more we witness initiatives firsthand, it becomes clear that whether labeled an education project or not, education is something that is woven into the fabric of every Community Investment project. It may not always look like brick-and-mortar primary schools or classrooms full of students, but the importance of teachers cannot be understated.

A report recently received from one of our projects in Malawi is a powerful testament to this. Emma*, a 14-year-old orphan living with her grandmother, shares her story with us:

We have new teachers at our school. They are really my parents. They listen to my problems and they help me to overcome obstacles I meet every day. Above all, I thank God for Mr. Chete who is our Head Master. I wish he was my father. I feel so safe and loved every day I see him. I am sure that he is sent by God to me to be my father. Since he came, we have been eating sweet porridge and sometimes we drink tea at school. He loves everybody as his own child. My teacher, Mr. Chirwa, is a wonderful man. I can now speak and write English. Mr. Chirwa encourages us to study hard. He always reads a Bible before us before we start learning. I like this because ever since I started learning from the Bible, I feel secured and happy with my life. Mr. Chete taught me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I now know that God loves me.

Teachers like Mr. Chirwa impart much more than just knowledge. We see it in a Kenyan Kiswahili and Music teacher at New Dawn who says part of her teaching strategy is “inculcating a feeling of equality among all students regardless of their tribe, social background, or standing.” We see it in the Lizulu Orphan Care Project when ex-orphans served by the program return to serve current children in the program.

This is the kind of education we aim for in African Leadership Community Investment programs, for it is the only kind of education that can handle the hard topics and hard places present in Africa. It is teachers, both those inside and outside the classroom, that ultimately ensure that Africa’s next generation is living well.

*Name changed for confidentiality.


I Need Africa

 “I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me” has become more than just a saying at African Leadership. It’s a phrase that embodies the philosophy we’ve come to believe: It’s not that Africa does not need our efforts. It absolutely does need our partnership. But for me, I’ve come to understand that I need Africa more than Africa needs me. Why? Because it is Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart. It’s brought up an issue we’ve wrestled to the ground here at African Leadership. Do we operate in the mindset of training African leaders, or is it more about serving African leaders? Is it simply the education that they need so much or is it that we need to figure out how to better serve them?

In twelve years of experience with our leaders on the ground, we’ve concluded that it’s most often the latter. It’s shown in leaders like Irene Tongoi, the head of New Dawn Educational Centre in Kenya, with her “indomitable spirit.” Leaders like Cherry Friedmeyer, founder of Women at Risk, whose “relationships and faith provide joy.” Leaders like Peter and Monica Odero, directors of HEKO, exuding a “love is sovereign” mentality.

“I Need Africa” is the outpouring of James 2:5, “Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?” It’s the reason African Leadership maintains an African-led approach, and it’s the foundation of our relationships and partnerships with our African counterparts. For we’ve discovered the greatest rewards come from serving leaders who matter in the hard places.

Read the full “I Need Africa” text and see the video here, courtesy of Mocha Club, African Leadership's monthly giving campaign.

It's too hard to make a difference, right?

"At 15, I ran away from home after all of my siblings died from chickenpox and my mother committed suicide. Life was unbearable. I tried to support myself as a housemaid but was unable. Feeling left with no choice, I went with someone, who was a sex worker, to a club where I was put up for auction, and the highest bidder raped me. That was the moment I became trapped in the sex industry. When I heard about Women at Risk, I immediately joined the program."  Fekerete's tragic story is, disturbingly, a common one in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – one in nine women here are in the sex industry due to a lack of economic opportunity. These women are sisters, mothers, and often young girls, forced to make a difficult decision simply for the survival of themselves and their families. It takes courage to make such a decision. It also takes courage to make the decision to leave this life and enter rehabilitation programs like Women at Risk.

How can we, an ocean away, help? After hearing this story last summer, Blair, an African Leadership supporter, wondered just that. How can she stand beside the brave women who choose to begin the process of holistic rehabilitation? Such bravery struck a chord with Blair, who had always wanted a pixie haircut but lacked the motivation and commitment to go through with it. So she made a decision: if she could raise $1,200 in one month to support Women at Risk, she’d follow through with the drastic haircut. She called it her “Pixie Project.” One month later, Blair had raised double the amount of her goal and was sitting in a hair salon making good on her promise.

Purpose Projects, like Blair’s Pixie Project, provide a way for us to make a personal connection and be involved, from helping women rediscover their dignity through a new identity in Christ to supporting education fees for orphans. They are also a way for us to find some common ground, challenging our communities to raise funds for something we care about by committing to do something ourselves when the goal is reached – something we’ve always wanted to do but felt fearful, hesitant, or in need of a little push to get started. We’ve seen someone commit to dye their hair pink if they raised enough money to support four women at Women at Risk, someone commit to get a large tattoo if they raised enough money to support four orphans, and a group commit to living on $1.50 a day, the poverty line, for a week if they raised enough money to support the education of four students. While Purpose Projects empower individuals in the States to take a step towards things they’ve always wanted to do, it similarly empowers Africans like Fekerete to begin living the life they always wanted. For Fekerete, that includes opening her own small restaurant, a longtime goal she previously never had a way to put into motion.

"I am so excited to graduate from the Women at Risk program and food preparation training. My dream is to open my own cafe. My son has been so happy during his time in the program, and he is in much better health. God willing, he will begin a new nursery class after I graduate.  I give thanks to God for blessing me and giving me new vision for my own cafe."

 To put a purpose behind your goal, check out for ideas, support, and more information on getting started.

Rosslyne Rising

If you are lucky enough to have shoes on your feet in the slums of Nairobi, they are most likely ridden with holes. They are hardly adequate to navigate the winding dirt roads rife with open sewer lines and lined by miles of rusting shacks made from sharp corrugated sheet metal. Yet, compared to the lack of opportunity that chains people to a cycle of generational poverty, this picture represents only a mild danger.

 What would you do to rise out of these conditions for the chance of better life?

 Meet Rosslyne, one of many students in Kenya who have had to make such a choice. She is a 12th grader at the New Dawn Educational Centre, a school that provides the opportunity of secondary education to the under-privileged and orphaned in the slum communities surrounding Nairobi. Rosslyne recently submitted an entry into a nationwide essay writing competition. The reward was a scholarship to attend a four-day conference for young leaders hosted by one of the most prestigious schools in Kenya. Rosslyne’s essay was exceptional, and she was awarded the chance to participate in the conference. She was truly overwhelmed by her win and came back from the conference full of new ideas and eager to share with her community:

 “Attending the conference motivated me to realize that I can do things I otherwise thought impossible. It also developed in me a keen sense of community responsibility and engaging in various ways to make a difference. I felt empowered. I need to be idealistic and have a passion for what I hope to achieve in life,” said Rosslyne after returning to New Dawn.

 Investing in Africa’s youth makes it possible for students like Rosslyne to not only have access to education, but to excel and reinvest in hard places such as Kenyan slums.

Engaging with the project funders of a new generation

Mocha Club, a division of African Leadership, is an online community of young people giving up “a few mochas a month" to support our BUILDdeep community development projects. Mocha Club was created in 2005 as a way to give people who don’t have thousands of dollars the chance to make a real difference in Africa through small sacrifices such as giving up the cost of a few cups of coffee a month. Members support a variety of projects, from providing hope through rehabilitation at Women at Risk in Ethiopia to offering a world-class education to the emerging generation at New Dawn School in Kenya. Mocha Club empowers young people to make a big impact.

One such outstanding young person is Ellie Ambrose. Ellie’s Run for Africa, an annual partner of African Leadership and Mocha Club, just wrapped up another successful 5K in downtown Nashville to benefit the New Dawn School. On May 18th, the winning runner crossed the finish line with a time of 17 minutes and 49 seconds. He led a pack of 255 runners in this local opportunity to walk alongside African children, raise funds for their education, and give them hope to get out of the slums.

In 2004, an African missionary spoke at Ellie Ambrose's church, and she immediately knew she wanted to help in some tangible way. “I had just been to another race and had lots of fun,” Ellie says. “So I naturally thought it would be a great way to raise money. For several months, my mom kind of blew me off and expected me to forget about it.” However, after persisting, “She finally said, ‘Okay, Ellie, if you still want to do this after Christmas this year, we’ll talk about it.’ She told me later that she thought that I’d get so excited with presents that I’d forget the whole thing. But I approached her again after Christmas, and she knew then that I was really serious.”

Because of the partnership between Ellie's Run, African Leadership, and Mocha Club, the New Dawn School has changed dramatically. Before Ellie’s Run, all of the students were confined to the same room throughout most of the day. The number of textbooks available to them and the school community was limited. Within the past year, the New Dawn School has opened a new resource center equipped with a library, a computer lab, a science lab, a 200-seat assembly hall, and a teachers workroom.

Mocha Club allows its members to choose which area of BUILDdeep community development to support. Its hope is that this is just the first of many choices the Mocha Club community will make to take advantage of opportunities to support needs in Africa.

Margaret: New Dawn Librarian and Encourager of Excellence

The emerging generation of leaders at New Dawn Education Center are being guided by a staff committed to investing deep in their community through education.

Margaret Chao, school librarian, spends her day encouraging the educational excellence of New Dawn students. She shares with us a little bit about herself and the impact of New Dawn Education Center.
“I really want to pass my sincere gratitude to African Leadership, together with the other donors, for helping me achieve my dreams. I am a 32 years old single mother, a mother of one daughter called Charity who is now 10 years old.

It was my dream for the past eleven years ago for me to further my studies but due to the circumstances at that time it was really hard for me to join a college since I had a child who had joined school, I had to pay my house rent every month, provide basic necessities to my child and many other responsibilities which truly were justifiable for me not to further my studies but I thank the Almighty for enabling me to keep my dream a reality in me and to keep on trusting on Him. I have finished my diploma course in Library and Information Science which lasted for 3 years and my girl is now in grade 5. Through the help of Mocha Club/African Leadership, Ellie’s Run for Africa and other organizations who have shown me God’s love and provision through their sacrificial love and kind giving I was able to join and finished my diploma course.

I truly want to thank you so much for enabling my dreams become a reality. Yes as much as I am grateful for what you have done for me I would like kindly request you guys to continue with the same effort since most of our graduating students are qualified to join in our local colleges and universities but due to lack of financial support from their parents and guardians they return to the same old ways of living and some become even worse by indulging themselves into drugs and prostitution in order to provide for themselves.

I must admit that my dreams became a reality by the support I received from you guys. Thank you so much. Also it is not that I have achieved it all, I am dreaming to further my dreams to the masters level and achieve much more in this world. THANK YOU.”

original interview from partner,