In 2013 when we opened the doors of our After-school program (ASP) to kids of Salima, we did not anticipate the overwhelming number of kids that we have today.
But on that mild afternoon, a small 8 year old Padana Nkorongo was one of the kids who courageously pioneered the Cornerstone ASP. In our maiden newsletter in our maiden newsletter in July 2016 there was a story of Padana graduating from the ASP in anticipation of secondary school.
To us at Cornerstone, Padana’s completion of primary school meant we had finished our role in her life and she would now fly away to pursue secondary education elsewhere, but God had anointed Cornerstone to be a blessing to Padana’s life.
Last September she wrote entrance examinations at the Cornerstone Christian High School (CCHS) and was successfully admitted to be part of our second intake.
But what’s the amazing story about Padana?
For the two terms that she has been part of the ‘butterflies’, her colors have shone brighter than all the girls in her class.
And for Padana’s success in the first term, Urban Promise International awarded her a school bag and some school supplies. Then to her surprise, Pastor Laura Colee who is her sponsor also brought her gifts in appreciation of her academic exploits.
Padana’s success is an indication of the benefit that kids can reap once given a good start at early education.
We believe there are many Padana’s in the streets and villages in Salima. All they need is God’s grace to be washed from the dirt where the gold within them has been covered by mud.
As Padana progresses to Form 2 once the school opens in September, we pray that the Lord gives us grace to reach out to as many Padana’s as possible.
At times, it is hard to appreciate the grace and love of God when all things seem to be in place. When one’s dreams and visions seem to fall in place, many forget the tough rides that were taken and God’s grace and intervention.
Hence, months since the inception of our Cornerstone Christian High School, we are appreciating God’s provision towards the running of the institution.
In its two years of operation, our school has set a model for education in Salima district: a beautiful school campus, well-behaved students, inspiring teachers, daily Bible devotions and many other admirable aspects that make CCHS outstanding.
What’s so special about our high school?
Many institutions are providing education in Salima district, but our school is taking the top spot because of its holistic approach to education. As the school Principal Chikondi Elvis Chabakha points out:
“It is a great to be a part of movement that is flowing in the blessings of God. For example just the ability to see transformation in the lives of a few of our students is always inspiring. I believe, education should always be holistic.”
Form two (10th grade) student Vellina Kamtsokwe says she loves Cornerstone because of its Christian stand:
“I underwent the Cornerstone After-school program when I was in primary school, and when I heard that Cornerstone has opened a secondary school, I knew that the quality education and Christian standards that were at the ASP would also be found at CCHS, so I did not hesitate to enroll as a student”, says Vellina, “and true to my thoughts, “CCHS has helped me build my identity and purpose in Christ”.
Come September 2018, our high school will be enrolling its third cohort of students. This is great news as it means preaching the love of Christ and providing better education to an increased number of youths.
But we have a challenge…
Our school needs a Science laboratory and library. Our Science teachers are hard-working and always improvising when in need of some apparatuses, the need for a laboratory cannot be improvised.
Currently, our students use the second block as a library but since in September another group is coming, it means the improvised ‘library’ will be occupied by the students.
We believe that in line with quality education there is a need for a good laboratory and library.
Our students are excited about their school campus, it is certain that they will be more excited with a beautiful science laboratory which will enable them have a practical feel of the theories they learn in class.
*You can help grow our school by following this link:
Yohane usually knocks off from school at around 1pm. On his was home he used to be doubtful whether he would find food or not, thinking about the homework that awaits him. Hungry, tired, he is not sure whether he will manage to finish his homework.
This was his story a year ago before he joined the Cornerstone After-school program.
“Since my coming to the After-school program I am always excited whenever I am knocking off from school” says the 9 year old Yohane, “I know that my delicious meal awaits me at the camp” he boasts.
Yohane is not a lone case.
For Comfort Gunduze, Cornerstone is more than a meal.
“I love the food at Cornerstone because the teachers are always excited to serve us. I always know that at the feeding program teachers’ love seeing us. Whenever I am there, I feel the love of God” testifies 8 year old Comfort.
Currently, the feeding program is catering for over 15o kids from seven public primary schools that surround Cornerstone Ministries’ Malawi’s catchment area
More than his first job, working as a police officer in Malawi was the birth of a vision which would manifest eight years later in Danneck’s life.
Danneck Falinya, Cornerstone’s executive Director graduated from the Malawi Police Training School in 2002 and was posted to work in the law enforcement agency in Salima, a lakeshore district in Malawi.
While working, Danneck noticed that most of the offenders brought into police were youths aged between 14 and 24. For him, this was a sign of moral decadence in his community and someone needed to stand up and take an action.
After working for five years, he quit his job in the Malawi Government and enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts at African Bible College, a response to a call into ministry.
Four years later, Danneck graduated from African Bible College in 2010 and together with three friends, Enettie Malangano, Leonard Chanza and Alinane Asefa there were selected for the prestigious Urban Promise International (UPI) Leadership training and they travelled to New Jersey, United States of America.
While there, inspired by the events he witnessed while working as a police officer in Salima, Danneck teamed up with his two friends, Leonard and Enettie and proposed to the UPI board that they had a dream to establish a UPI satellite in Salima, Malawi.
That was the conception of Cornerstone Ministries Malawi, with an aim to transform and empower children and youth with the knowledge and skills for enhancement of academic excellence, life skills, spiritual growth and leadership development.
The ministry would ensure that their mission is achieved in order to enhance academic achievements of children and youth, provide job skills and leadership training to secondary school students and secondary school leavers in preparation for job acquisition.
Additionally, the organization also aimed to teach the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ to children, youth and the surrounding community, provide a safe and controlled environment where young people can discuss, learn and carefully handle issues that affect them and to help in curbing the effects and impact of HIV/AIDS, an epidemic racking havoc in many African countries
In 2011, the trio returned home and immediately settled in Salima, a district that was to be the home of Cornerstone Ministries Malawi.
January 2013, Cornerstone opened doors of its After-school program (ASP), an afternoon primary school tutoring haven, modeled after UPI’s structure.
Since then, Cornerstone Ministries Malawi has grown from an After-school program to an organization that now has its own secondary school, a farm animal rearing project and runs youths and girl’s empowerment programs.
For Danneck, Cornerstone Ministries Malawi is a manifestation of God’s faithfulness and providence unto those who trust Him.
Currently, the organization even helps pay tuition fees to students in secondary schools and universities. From three staff members and three volunteers in 2013, Cornerstone has a combined staff of 32 including camp leaders who are mentored in the youth empowerment program.
According to Danneck, “our existence in Salima is to help build a good foundation for a better Malawi. Because we realized that if the foundation be broken, there is no hope for the future” he says.
As 1 Peter 2:6 from which the name Cornerstone was derived says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Salima has hope in Cornerstone Ministries Malawi.
At only 8, Michael was one of the notorious street kids in Lilongwe, Malawi. Having been abandoned by parents at a tender age, growing in a family of six, Michael’s life was all about survival.
“When I was growing up, things like school or the future never made sense. Life was all about searching for the day’s meal, using any other means, including violence and robbing people at times” confesses Michael.
It was in 2004 that his redemption came close.
A relative took him off the streets and there he started his primary education and five years later was selected to Chipoka Secondary school where he finished his secondary school in 2012. After secondary education, there was no possibility of a tertiary education since he had no family or friends to help him.
Michael says his secondary school education had opened his eyes to the future: “After my secondary school, I had developed a passion for electronics; nevertheless, I knew that though I had good grades, I couldn’t go to college because I had no family to support me”
It was until 2014 that abundant grace shone on his life.
“I had heard that there is a new organization in town helping young people realizes their dreams. That how I came to Cornerstone”, he says. “I started helping in the After-school program and while there I also attended the weekly Youth Empowerment sessions where we were drilled with basic skills of life. Those lessons have been very valuable to the person I am today”, testifies Michael.
Today, the once upon a time street boy is now a fourth-year student at Blantyre International University (BIU) completing his Bachelor of Science in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) degree.
“While at Cornerstone, I met friends from the US who were ready to sponsor me further my education. With my passion for electronics, it’s when I chose to study ICT at BIU” he concludes.
Just like Michael, there are many students who have undergone the Cornerstone Youth Empowerment Program and are now on the path to their bright future.
Michael had a dream, all it needed was a safe haven where his dream could be nurtured, and Cornerstone became that place. Beyond, he needed someone who could believe in his ability, Kristen Walker and her family took the challenge, you can also reach out and help a struggling camp leader at Cornerstone Youth Empowerment program access tertiary education and curve a beautiful future like Michael’s for them.
It was a year of death, where the clouds were still being white. Many people were worried because of this. There was no food; no rain and there was no hope for the people. I too was worried that I will not enjoy my Christmas and the New Year. This unforgettable year was 2015, granaries had no maize.
In the previous year’s many people had cut down trees for useless things like charcoal and to make curios for sale to tourists. As a result, we had famine. This was a sign that God the creator was not happy with what we did. Yes, we suffered. Many people lost their lives. In our village, almost five hundred people died, leaving us hopeless, distressed and hunger. 2015, was indeed an unforgettable year.
The loss of lives, to me, meant that God was angry and He decided to let the year go without any rains. Clothes were dirty and stinking; houses were dirty, and everything was dirty. It was until 2016 that our village received rains.
After the 2015 experience, I realized that it is my duty to report people who cut down trees carelessly to the authorities. I do this because I am afraid that God; the creator May punish us again with drought if we continue destroying his creation. From that year I learned, that people are punished because of the bad things they do.
In telling my incredible story of success, I cannot tell it exclusive of Cornerstone Ministries Malawi. I knew Cornerstone in 2016 when I was on the verge of dropping out of school due to lack of school fees at Salima secondary school. At such a time when I was in need, Cornerstone came and rescued me.
After writing my secondary school examinations, I had no hope of going into university as my parents could not manage to pay my tuition fees on their own. This is when Cornerstone, again, came to save me.
I am now a freshman at African Bible College, and this is my story:
The first semester at African Bible College (ABC) has been a combination of happiness and stress. The happiness comes because ABC has changed my social status from a mere Form four school leaver to that of a university student. It is also deepening my Christian life as I am going through the book of Genesis. My performance has been encouraging to me, my family, ABC, and Cornerstone. For example, I felt on top of the world when I scored 91% in a module. I thank God for what He is doing for me.
The highlight of my life at ABC was the day I was given a chance to share my testimony at the ABC Morning chapel service. I narrated my life story which in some way related to the stories of most students on campus. My story is a demonstration of how, like many students, Christ has picked us from our poverty stricken backgrounds and exalted us for His glory. After my testimony, I felt encouraged as brothers and sisters hugged me. At that moment, I wished my parents were there to witness see how their daughter was hailed and celebrated.
Nevertheless, my first-semester experience has not been stress-free. For example, so many questions raced through my mind-what if my parents do not raise the required amount? How long shall I be eating out due to failure to meet the required percentage of tuition? What if I don’t find accommodation on the campus? At times I am on my knees praying and tears wash my face. Despite my fears, my first semester has been wonderful and full of success stories which inspire me to thirst for God more.
As a student, the hardest experience at African Bible College is how to raise school fees. To those with prospects of going into university, I would like to encourage them to trust in God more than their own ability as Proverb 3:5-6 says; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
My vision is to change the world especially working to improve the lives of young people. I would like to preach to them and direct them to the right path in life. Not only that but also help to pay school fees for needy students in the same way Cornerstone is helping shape my story. I am certain that will that, I will take my part in shaping a generation of Malawians who are ready to take up challenges and develop themselves and those around them.
My name is Annie Milanzi, and this is my story!
Annie is one of the four students being sponsored by Cornerstone Ministries Malawi at African Bible College.