Cornerstone; a Team That Inspires

by Samuel Malasa Banda

It is said; every successful startup is built on four pillars, team, idea, passion and presentation, at Cornerstone Ministries Malawi, we have all the four in abundance. The unique team comprising 14 people makes things happen.

But what makes working at Cornerstone Malawi a great experience?

For Joyce Pande, Cornerstone’s Administrative Assistant, Cornerstone is more than just an office, it is a haven and play center.

“At Cornerstone you meet the most amazing people with most remarkable stories that will stick with you forever. And I am not just talking about the kids. I am talking about the staff and camp leaders. You wonder and are surprised at how God led a group of amazing people to meet here.” adds Joyce.

To achieve success, the organization has members of staff with different backgrounds. Boasting a combination of graduates of different professions ranging from Biblical studies, Mass Communication, Education studies, Journalism and Administration.

Then the question might be, what is the motive behind such a diverse workforce?

“The initial idea was to have a mixture of youths who would be able to inspire and motivate other young people to work hard in their studies and achieve more. And to accomplish this, there was a need for diversity.” says Danneck Falinya, Cornerstone’s Executive Director.

The grouping started its operations in Salima in 2013, and since then it has been recruiting young people to be trained in its Youth Empowerment Program.

Three years down the line, has Cornerstone managed to inspire the youth in Salima?

According to the Youth Empowerment Program director, Leonard Chanza, the organization has managed to reach out and touch the lives of young people in Salima. For him, this is evident by the increased number of boys and girls who are always at their offices seeking advice on academics, career and life skills.

Furthermore, some of the youth empowerment program alumni are now in universities which is a clear manifestation of the program’s impact in the community.

“We have an alumni at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with another studying Information Technology at Blantyre International University while other two have just graduated from the Malawi Polytechnic and Kasungu Teachers Training College respectively.” said Chanza.

With such youths, the Youth Empowerment Director is proud that the organization has managed to have a positive impact in society.

All the success that hangs on the walls of Cornerstone cannot be attributed to a single person, they are fruits of working together as a team.

At Cornerstone, there is an unwritten law derived from the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

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The ORU- Cornerstone Experience

By Samuel Malasa Banda

Their motto screamed; “Make No Little Plans here”, their theme questioned: “What could be?” while their kindness and attitude towards work summarized it so lightly; It would be so easy to touch lives across the world with the message of Christ if we all strived to make bigger plans in life. That’s the best way to describe the Oral Roberts University missionary (ORU) team that visited Cornerstone Ministries Malawi.

The thirteen member missionary’s team comprising nine girls and three boys arrived in Salima, Malawi on Thursday 19th May and spent two days.

The team spent their Friday at the Cornerstone Christian High School construction site handing bricks to the builders and clearing the bush on the 6 acre land that is to be the new home of Cornerstone.

Though the bush clearing is an intense task, especially to someone who has never undertaken it before, the team showed its commitment by tirelessly giving all their energy to the work.

Team Leader for the ORU missionary group, Benjamin Sherrill hailed the vision of Cornerstone saying he is thrilled by the great plan that this ministry has. “Together with my team, I am glad that we have taken part in clearing the future of a Malawian child”, he said.

During the stay, their involvement in the after school program also brought overwhelming excitement to kids in the program as one standard five learner exclaimed; “Today I have been taught Math by a white person”. (Referring to one of the missionaries who taught in the after-school program classes)

Commenting on her experience at Cornerstone, Mia Flores, a 19 year Theology student at ORU, said she was delighted by how staff at Cornerstone operate to change student’s lives, “The connection that teachers have with their students show how much the teachers care about their learners and it’s a beautiful thing to see”.

Grateful for the team’s Great Spirit, Cornerstone’s Executive Director Danneck Falinya, hailed ORU for the continued trust in the ministry by sending their teams to Malawi.

“Since 2013 we have been receiving missionary teams from the Oral Roberts University and their presence continues to be a motivation to us, he applauded. “Furthermore, we have been inspired by their hardworking spirit and kindness.” Danneck concluded.

Before departing for Lilongwe, the team spent Saturday morning at the magnificent Lake Malawi enjoying the scenic beauty.
Imagine, what could be if we all strive not to make little plans in life?

A PENCIL, A BOOK, AND A HANDFUL OF SNACKS

For Chrispin Bisalom, friendly teachers and a supportive environment are the recipe for academic success. In Salima, Malawi, a lakeshore district where most boys drop out of school in pursuit of becoming wealthy fishermen, Chrispin’s story demonstrates how a local organization can transform one’s outlook on life. As we commemorate Cornerstone Ministries’ third year of existence, we wanted to give Chrispin an opportunity to tell his story:

“Thanks to the physical and moral support I received from the mentors at Cornerstone Ministries Malawi, I am about to sit for my primary school final exams. I am not only ready to face them, but my life has been transformed spiritually, and I am an agent of change in my community.”

Chrispin is a tall boy, and his height has been a burden. Ridiculed by others for seeming too old for primary school, Chrispin was on track to drop out. Though he was not actually old, he had resorted to quitting school in search of any other opportunities.

“I was tired of the scorn I was receiving from younger classmates, as I was considered to be big for my class,” recalls 12-year-old Chrispin.

His fortunes turned around in 2013, the year that Cornerstone Ministries, a ministry of UrbanPromise International, was founded by three African Bible College graduates.

“In 2013, I was in standard four, and that’s when I heard that there was a certain Christian organization that conducts after-school programs for primary school learners,” says Chrispin. “I knew that was the perfect place for me because I would receive additional lessons.”

According to Chrispin, Cornerstone’s after-school program was ideal because it provides the lessons free of charge.

“In my area, there are a lot of after-school classes offered by our teachers, but there is a fee attached which I can’t manage to pay because my mother is unemployed. In order for our family of six to eat she does manual labor when it is available.”

As with the other kids who had joined the after-school program, Chrispin was amazed because the program did not only offer academic lessons. The physical part of him was also taken care of.

“I am so excited to be a kid at Cornerstone because after our classes, we receive drinks and snacks. In addition, we are also encouraged to recite Bible verses and we are taught morals of living,” he boasted.

With this being his last year at the after-school program, Chrispin envisions more involvement with the ministry that has raised his hope.

At the moment he is not only captain of the Cornerstone Ministries’s soccer team, the Eagles,  but Chrispin has also consistently maintained being position number three at Kalonga Primary school in a class of more than seventy learners.

“At the moment as I am to sit for my primary school exams, am not even sure that where I will get school fees for my secondary education. But the three years I’ve spent at Cornerstone have ignited hope inside me that everything is possible once you believe in God,” sums up Chrispin.

*Chrispin Bisalom belongs to the first cohort that Cornerstone Ministries started with in 2013. Want to support Chrispin and the other 200 students at the Cornerstone after-school program? Contacting us to learn more. 

NB: The article was first published on Urban Promise International on 23 February 2016.12650287_950552985000317_1652074686_n

 

 

From Africa, with a new perspective

On the mention of one word, ‘Africa’ what comes into your mind? Stunted malnourished children with flies all over, corrupt leaders who have ransacked their economies, maybe a begging continent holding an empty bowl. Perhaps that’s what we have been accustomed to.

For 24 year old Julie Judd it’s all different:

“People think of poverty when they think of Africa, but there is more to the continent than the stereotype.  We can help solve her problems by first understanding the people. Rather than poverty, Africa should be defined by the warmth and love of its people.”

The American missionary who is a teacher by profession observed this during her three weeks tour of Malawi where, together with her friend Holly Ann, visited two sites in Malawi operating under the umbrella body of Urban Promise International, a USA based charity organisation.

The American missionary who is a teacher by profession observed this during her three weeks tour of Malawi where, together with her friend Holly Ann Diegel, visited two sites in Malawi operating under the umbrella body of Urban Promise International (UPI), a USA based charity organisation.

Holly admired how Malawians value their interpersonal relationship in comparison to material possessions.

“Malawians are a people who demonstrate that community life is more important than material wealth. This is something long lost in the West.”

The duo first visited Rise Malawi Ministries in Madisi, Dowa, before trekking down to the lakeshore district of Salima where they spent a week working at Cornerstone Ministries Malawi.

Cornerstone Ministries Malawi Executive Director Danneck Falinya hailed the trip as very important to the ministry as it has served to strengthen the ties between UPI and its Malawi affiliates.

“As an organisation we are also grateful for the time they have spent working with our team here. Their input has been so immense and we have learnt a lot from them,” he said.

After completing their work in Malawi, the two missionaries left with a promise to fly back home with one message: ‘despite the suffering, Africa is a continent replete with hope.’

Julie and Holly
Julie and Holly