Blog: 2013

August 14, 2013

"What kinds of things do boys say to have sex with you?" asked former UPI fellow, Doreen Kaphalanya.  There was an immediate burst of laughter from the standing-room only crowd--about 100 girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

"You're the only," shouted one girl.

"I'll marry you," called another.

At this point Doreen got serious.  She cautioned the girls about some of the dangers of sexual activity and how they have the power to say, "No!"

Last September, UPI funded Doreen to return to Malawi to begin a girls' empowerment program with ChristCares Ministries.  For the past year, three days a week, Doreen talks candidly with young women about self-esteem, education, faith

The girls sit in rapt attention as they listen to this poised, educated, college graduate.  More than the lessons she teaches, Doreen's effectiveness is the life she leads.  A college graduate, committed in her faith, who has returned to the village.  That speaks volumes to these young learners. --Bruce Main



Doreen, inspiring young girls to expect great futures.

July 11, 2013

This month UrbanPromise International launched its newest program, Ambassadors of Promise. UP Camden and UP Wilmington each sent a student to UP Miami, where they will be helping to lead their newest camp, meeting with executive leadership, and developing legacy projects to be implemented upon their return home. We asked our very first ambassadors to capture their initial thoughts. Their words follow.

Pedro Martinez, July 9, 2013

This year UrbanPromise decided to send a StreetLeader to Miami to be a mentor. UrbanPromise wanted StreetLeaders to be mentors to other StreetLeaders who don’t have much experience. My dedication has given me the chance to be the StreetLeader chosen to fly out from Camden, NJ to Miami, Florida. I have had many new experiences so far.

When I got to Miami I had to live with a host parent for the first time in my life, I thought it was going to be very strange. At first it was, but my host family made it very comfortable for me. My host mom Gloria is an amazing person, she is very caring and respectful. She looks after me every day and she makes sure that I am safe at all times. She treats me like I’m her real son. She really made me feel like I was at home.

Gloria has children that have also played a big part so far in my visit. They have welcomed me into their home and greeted me like if I was a close friend.  They showed me around their neighborhood and how to get to the beach and took me out to ride go karts. They invited me to meet their friends and play basketball with them. Michael, the oldest son, took time out of his day to actually talk to me and help me understand what happened to Adam and Eve. Carlos, the second oldest, played basketball with me mostly every single day we can, and went down to the beach whenever I asked him to. Jayden, the youngest son, made me realize how much I miss my little baby brother back at home. Every time me and the older guys would want to go out or go to the park, Jayden would want to go. Just like my little brother back at home.

At the camp site I have met a lot of new StreetLeaders. And became close to many, but one of them really became a close friend. So close that I chose to call him brother, his name is Steven. He was the StreetLeader that flew here with me to Miami, Florida, he is from Wilmington, Delaware. We have shared a lot of different skills we learned from our background site, and became a team and helped a lot of the StreetLeaders that didn’t have much experience unlike me and him. All StreetLeaders here respect me and Steven because of our experiences. Also at the camp site I have gotten the chance to unite with my best buddy Kyle, he used to be my intern back when I was a camp kid. Also I have united back with Will and Derrick. Will was an intern at the same site as me when I was working at Camp Saved in Camden.  Derrick was a friend and fellow StreetLeader from back at UrbanPromise in NJ, we didn’t work together but we were close friends.

So far I love it here so much that I’m thinking about moving down here when I graduate high school, and becoming an intern. Everyone has made it a great visit and I am very THANKFUL!

Steven Ortiz, July 9, 2013

UrbanPromise Miami is way different than UrbanPromise Wilmington. My first day at camp was kind of rough, when none of the kids know exactly who you are, they don’t listen or respect you like they do other staff. As the week went on and the kids started to know me I gained their respect and they started to listen to me. Talking to the StreetLeaders about their mistakes was kind of hard for me, I don’t want to come in acting like I know it all, and acting bossy. I’m starting to learn how to deal with that.
When I first found out I would be living with interns I didn’t like the idea, praying all the time, going to church all the time, well at least that’s how I thought it would be like. Now that I witnessed what its like, I like it a lot. The interns are all cool, funny, and down to earth. They don’t go to church everyday, or pray all throughout there free time. They do pray and go to church like twice a week, but besides that they like to have fun, play sports, and do fun things. I’d never thought I’d like living in an intern house.

In Miami there is so much to do, so I like the fact that in Miami we actually go places like the beach, pool, and movies with the kids. The StreetLeaders also have activities on the weekends that are a lot of fun. I like that the other ambassador’s host mom is really cool. She allows me to come over and stay the night, which is convenient because she lives a couple minutes away from the beach. She also has two sons around my age that are really cool and fun to be around.

I like it down here in Miami, I am glad I was one of the few chosen to come and make an impact.

July 8, 2013

This past weekend, I caught a glimpse of the promise that lies within our youth.

UrbanPromise International has just launched our newest program, Ambassadors of Promise, which provides the opportunity for youth from UrbanPromise sites to spend their summer working at another UPI affiliate. This year, Camden and Wilmington each sent a student to UrbanPromise Miami, where they will be helping to lead their newest camp, meeting with executive leadership, and developing legacy projects to be implemented upon their return home.

As I sat in the airport with Pedro and Steven, waiting with them for their flight to Miami, I reflected on all of the time and effort it has taken to get here, the hours spent coordinating housing and transport, and the daunting process of launching a brand new program.

Steven and Pedro, about to take flight

Steven and Pedro, our first Ambassadors of Promise

It has not been easy, but after meeting Steven and Pedro, I am sure that it has all been worth it.

It takes a certain amount of bravery to be the first to do anything, and these two are our pioneers, choosing to spend a summer in a different city, far away from family and friends. I met with them last Friday for a brief orientation prior to their departure, and as we discussed summer schedules, flight details, and expectations for the trip, I was deeply impressed by both their passion and commitment.

Pedro started at UrbanPromise as a camper, and then later was employed as a StreetLeader. Steven’s family has been a part of UP Wilmington for years, and three years ago, he started as a StreetLeader. After displaying exemplary leadership skills, he was promoted to the position of TeamLeader, where he now oversees other employed teens. Both speak with such pride when asked about their sites and their roles within the UrbanPromise family.

During a break, the boys were swapping stories of past AllCamp days, of favorite interns and memorable campers and it reaffirmed my love for the vision behind UrbanPromise International: to pour into young leaders so that they themselves can embody change. I came to Camden because I liked the ideas of sustainable development and empowerment. In my year here, I’ve met incredible men and women with big dreams and the passion to call them into being.

However, it was through these two teenage boys that I was struck by the power of what we do.  I saw in them the future of UrbanPromise, the next interns, camp directors, and project leaders. I have no doubt that these two will lead lives of passionate purpose and I am honored to get to be a small part of their journey. --Margaret Wooten

February 4, 2013

It is said that education is a human right and a key to success in every country.  I choose to agree with this school of thought, although in Malawi education still remains a privilege, not a right, for the majority children. The need for quality education cannot be expressed in words.  However, the reasons that make one drop out of school are self explanatory.

You cannot concentrate when you have gone to class without a breakfast and you don’t even know when you will eat your next meal after classes. It doesn’t make sense to be told that you will pass examinations to go to college when everyone around you in your community will not study beyond elementary school let alone secondary and tertiary education, due to either financial barriers, broken family relationships, orphanhood, or poor access to social services.

This is the sole reason why ChristCares Ministries--an affiliate of UrbanPromise International--exists.  To help instill in the children hope for future, to evangelize, disciple and empower the children through education, so that they can realize their potential and achieve their goals.  ChristCares Ministries partners with donors, well-wishers, and other organizations to sponsor children’s activities with regard to their well-being and education.

Inspired by what the ministry is doing, the 2012 winner of “Women of Distinction Award” in Malawi, Miss Thembi Thadzi, decided to donate half of her award winnings to ChristCares Ministries and its Girls Empowerment Program, which promotes girls' education.  Thembi, 27 years old, served as Chair of the Malawi National Youth Council and as National Advisor to the President on matters of youth development until 2012. Her life story and the exemplary gesture inspired many children in our ministry. Thembi’s donation of $300 will make an enormous difference by covering part of the tuition for one girl to study in college. Thank you, Thembi!  --John Jimu, ChristCares Ministries


Thembi (left) surrounded by CCM girls, presents Doreen Kaphalanya, Director of the Girls Empowerment Program (right) with her generous contribution. Thembi (left) surrounded by CCM girls, presents Doreen Kaphalanya, Director of the Girls Empowerment Program (right), with her generous contribution.


January 15, 2013

"I sometimes want to quit my job and start an NGO," confided the head of the Department of Development Studies at Uganda Christian University.  "I just want to hire all my students because I know that many of our graduates will never find work in their area of training and gifting."

That's the message I kept hearing from students and faculty today.

With close to 80% unemployment in the country and little capital for entrepreneurial startups, talented graduates are stuck.  Many move home to their villages after graduation, never maximizing the full impact of their training.  Some take lower-level jobs in sectors in which they have no interest or passion.  Many never have the opportunity to actualize their vision and dreams.

I leave Uganda more convinced than ever that the vision of UrbanPromise International--to provide a year-long training fellowship for college graduates in developing countries, teaching the skills necessary for creating youth-serving NGOs--is a vision that is unique and desperately needed in countries like Uganda.

Meeting with the heads of the Department of Child Development, Public Administration, and Social Sciences affirmed the significance of a fellowship experience in the United States.

"We have this incredibly talented pool of students," shared Fredrick Mukhwana, program coordinator for Child Development, "but it sits dormant after graduation.  It dies. I can't tell you how important it is for our students to go away for training and experience.  And to have them come back with capital to start projects is incredible."

So today I listened to students share dreams about starting schools, starting youth programs, working with wayward teens, and becoming legal advocates for children's rights.  Their energy was contagious.  Their visions infectious.  All they need is opportunity.  A chance to take the next step.

Leaders change neighborhoods.  Leaders change organizations.  Leaders change countries.  Having the opportunity to play a small role in shaping the next generation of leaders in Uganda is humbling and inspiring.  --Bruce Main


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