Blog: 2013

December 16, 2013

Like many older caregivers in Malawi, Dinnah's grandmother was desperate.

Too poor to send twelve-year-old Dinnah (pictured) to school, in urgent need of cash, and entrenched in a patriarchal culture, she agreed to trade her granddaughter to an older man for a few chickens and goats, hoping that this would provide her with a better future.

It's called a dowry.

In Malawi, girls as young as 12 fetch a small monetary value (usually around 50 US dollars) if there is an older man interested in marriage. For the transaction, the family gets a little extra money and is relieved of the crushing financial burden of raising a girl. It’s tragic.

Last week National Public Radio ran a story called "Can Child Marriages Be Stopped?" To my dismay, the heart-wrenching story focused on Malawi--Malawi is one of the worst violators in the developing world for marrying off girls in their teens. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 3 girls are married off before the age of 18. In Malawi, the numbers are even more staggering.To make matters worse, after marriage these girls are often treated like second-class citizens--they have no voice, no power, no chance to finish their education, and they are often abused by their husbands. Dreams are stolen. Hopes are dashed.

I'm writing to tell you, however, that there is good news this Christmas. UrbanPromise International workers are addressing this egregious violation head on.

Five years ago, our executive director in Malawi, Za Chijere, refused to accept the status quo for Dinnah and young girls like her. When he learned of the grandmother's intent, he begged, pleaded, and promised that Dinnah would be educated and mentored. The grandmother, reluctantly, capitulated. This year Dinnah is completing her senior year of high school. She now dreams of becoming a nurse.

One girl. One life rescued.

As you can imagine, there are many other girls like her in our program. That's the reason UrbanPromise International is investing so heavily in girls through empowerment programs, a girls' orphanage, and scholarships for high school.

That's the reason we are asking Malawian families to forego a dowry for a future--the future of their daughter who has potential to do something great with her life. But in order to convince families to keep their daughters, our staff needs to promise caregivers that their girls will be educated, fed, and nurtured. This costs money. This takes commitment.

That's why I need you to give the most significant gift you'll ever give this Christmas season.

Would you contribute $50 so our team can fulfill the promise of nurturing these young ladies into educated, self-sufficient, women of God? You and I know that Dinnah and her friends are worth more than a couple of chickens and goats. Together we can help them believe it’s true.

Together let’s share the Good News!

Bruce Main
President, UrbanPromise International

P.S. Every $50 you send will go entirely to our work in Malawi, helping provide a future for a girl at risk of being traded for her dowry. And thanks to a generous donor, every dollar raised for these girls will be matched up to $25,000!

Donate now 

November 5, 2013

Jimmy McQuilkin is one of my new heroes. 

Jimmy graduated from Wake Forest University, spent a summer as an intern with UrbanPromise Honduras, taught for a few years with Teach for America, and then was hired as a middle school Spanish teacher in Charlotte, NC. 

Two years ago Jimmy shared his interest in starting an UrbanPromise in Charlotte. 

“I love teaching,” he confided, “but these kids need programs after school, during the summer months.” 

He went on to share some of the challenges facing youth growing up in the inner city of Charlotte.  Jimmy shared how there was a dire need for Christian-based programs like the UrbanPromise sites in Camden and Honduras.  “We need these kinds of programs in this city.”

So Jimmy started to talk to people in his community.  He talked to pastors, friends, parents, youth, and potential donors.  He shared his vision for an UrbanPromise.  He shared stories about what he had experienced in Honduras.    Community members got excited. 

This past August Jimmy left the security of his job as a teacher.  Gone is the regular paycheck, gone are the benefits, gone is the security.  Jimmy is now a missionary, raising his own support and raising money to underwrite program costs.  A big step of faith.

“Jim,” I shared.  “I have to be honest.  There will be no guarantees.  If you haven’t raised the money, there will be no paycheck.  Are you sure you want to move forward?”

Fortunately Jimmy said, “Yes!”  Yes to the call of God on his life.  Yes to the insecurities and the uncertainties.  Yes to a journey of faith.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that God’s work and witness is birthed in the world when ordinary people like Jimmy say “Yes” to God.  Ordinary people end up doing extraordinary things with their lives because they willingly put aside their fears, their insecurities, their egos, and their need to control.  In the act of saying “Yes!” God is given permission to move. 

I have a favorite quote.  It goes like this:  “Faith is putting ourselves in situations where, if God doesn’t show up, we’re in trouble.”  I think the quote captures the essence of the biblical story from Abraham to Moses, from Mary to the disciples.  It’s a story about ordinary people, willing to respond to God’s prompting and put themselves in situations where, if God doesn’t show up, they are in trouble.   When this happens, amazing things can happen.

November 1, 2013

I need your help to create a miracle this Thanksgiving season.

Within the next three months, economists predict a severe shortage of maize in Malawi.

Maize (corn) is the staple food in a Malawian diet. The dried kernels are ground into flour. The flour, with water, is turned into nsima, a dough-like substance providing nutrition and calories for families and children. Nsima is eaten at every meal.

A 100 lb. bag of maize feeds a family of 4 for a month—or 250 children in one of
UrbanPromise International’s AfterSchool Programs.

“It’s the only meal many of our children will eat during the course of a day,” shared Zamumtima Chijere, director of RiseMalawi. “We’re very concerned about the impending crisis.”

Prices of maize are expected to double in the coming months because of the drought. Malawi is an agrarian society that has to depend on its unpredictable weather. Plentiful rain during growing season translates into bountiful crops. When rains are scarce, crops are depleted. The basic forces of supply and demand kick in. Prices spike. Families cannot afford food. Children suffer.

But children don’t have to suffer if we act—if we participate in the miracle of maize this Thanksgiving season by purchasing bags of maize today, before there is a shortage.

Currently the cost of a 100 lb. sack of maize is $19.

To celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving, how about buying a bag of maize…or two?

By purchasing bags of maize today, you can ensure that children in our programs will eat nutritious meals in November, December, January, and February. Not only will the children in our programs get a nutritious meal, but they will continue to receive tutoring, recreation, and spiritual guidance in a loving Christian environment.

Thanksgiving for us here at home is a warm and generous time for sharing. And I know you will agree that there is no better way to share the gift of love and compassion than by feeding a hungry child.

My goal is to purchase 500 bags of maize by Thanksgiving. That translates to about 125,000 meals for children at the incredibly low cost of $9000. We can do it!

Bruce Main

PS. Double your efforts! To get us to our goal of 500 bags of maize, challenge a friend to save a $1 a day for 19 days and put it in the sack!


September 25, 2013

They needed desks. Now they have them.

On the floor no more. First week of school at RiseMalawi.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you a great need.

Our kids in Malawi were about to start a new school year, and it was our dream to have them up off of the floor and into desks where they could be comfortable. Where they could concentrate and focus on their lessons. 

Thanks to YOUR overwhelming response, we were able to lift our kids up--from dirt to desks. We are giving our kids what they deserve: a life-changing education in a top-notch environment.

Thank you, friends. We could not serve these kids without you!


Bruce Main


August 21, 2013


Twenty-five years ago UrbanPromise in Camden, NJ was started by a small group of college interns.  These young leaders, fresh out of college, were filled with idealism and energy.  They built the foundation on which the ministry now stands.  UP has always believed in the potential of young adult leaders. This summer, UrbanPromise International has helped launch an internship program in Malawi, allowing college students the opportunity to serve in practical ways in the existing affiliate ministries throughout the country.  They teach, they coach, they lead songs, they mentor, they role model...they love Malawi's most vulnerable children in the name of Jesus.  Meet Nathan and Innocent (left to right). Innocent works with ProjectTEACH, just graduated from the African Bible College (ABC), and is an avid soccer player.  At TEACH, Innocent coaches the under 14 team and teaches Bible at the day camp.  Nathan serves at Rays of Hope.  Nathan is going into his junior year at ABC and studies communications.  At Rays he teaches computers in the morning and teaches Art and Literature at the summer camp. These extraordinary young men embody the spirit of the intern program--they love children, work long hours, and see themselves as part of changing Malawi.


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