As Henock Banda watched the snow swirl through the windows of the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator on Thursday, he told those gathered it was one of many recent firsts ― seeing snow, visiting the United States and meeting some of the people who made the Malawi Children’s Mission possible.
“The children that you see here, they are thriving,” he said, pointing to a photo slideshow. “For the first time, these children are accessing a college education. All of this is happening because a certain group of people came to Malawi to help us.”
The mission is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating orphaned and vulnerable children and providing them with services in the areas of nutrition, healthcare and emotional support. Founded in 2007 in the southeast African country of Malawi, MCM serves 150 children in three rural communities: M’bwana, Jamali, and Mwazama.
Phoebe Kufeyani, MCM’s social services director, spoke of the change she’s seen in children in recent years.
“When we started out, a lot of children were malnourished,” she said. “We don’t see that again; we see our children are healthy enough.”
The organization guarantees at least one nutritionally balanced meal each day, and engages family members by providing monthly donations and encouraging them to ask the school for help if needed. Girls ages 13-19 can participate in MCM’s Young Women Initiative, which provides them with mentoring, life skills and character development. Recently, the young women have focused on making soap and selling it to tourists and local hotels.
Since 2016, students from Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs have visited MCM for three weeks each summer. CCPA associate professor Lisa Blitz leads the trip, and expects to bring 10 students this year.
Blitz described MCM’s children greeting Binghamton University visitors with excitement, almost immediately taking their hands and “adopting” them for the length of the visit. She said the concept of cultural humility is something she hopes all of her students take away from the trip.
“What does it mean not just to reach across cultures, but to really understand and really think within the knowledge of that community,” Blitz said. “There needs to be accountability; there needs to be a sense of humility and partnership and respect for their indigenous culture, which is so powerful.”
In February, BU students who visited MCM last summer hosted at dance marathon on campus, raising more than $500 to help supply classroom materials for the school. Currently, three students served by MCM are attending college and five are enrolled in technical school.
Steve Koffman, MCM’s co-founder and a current board member, said there are plans to construct a vocational training center on campus grounds.
“The only thing that breaks the cycle of poverty in many parts of the world is education,” Koffman said.
Another goal, Koffman said, he’d shared with just a few people.
“I’m confident that we will achieve this goal, of having one MCM student attend Binghamton University.”