Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Nine Strong Women of Newark

Nine Strong Women Reach their First Milestone
By Dave Kerr

Who would think that the Bloods and the Crips could ever be friends? In fact they are and they are working together as part of a new gang called ‘The Council’ to help other gang affiliated individuals return home from prison in a safe way. Two members of The Council, Jessica (Jayda) a Blood gang leader, and the man she loves, Creep, a Crip gang leader have become partners in their street work. Love not only produced a baby between them but created the strength and compassion to begin a challenging gang prevention program with nine young high school women from the Newark Schools. Notwithstanding the reports to the contrary from the school, Jessica sees the strength, intelligence, creativity and beauty in these nine young women. They have responded to her leadership and high expectations for them and have changed their focus and their lives to see the importance of graduating high school and even going on to college.

Traditional counseling has not worked for these young women for many reasons but Jessica has a way of showing her commitment to each of these ladies and they trust and listen to her. Jessica encourages the ladies to think for themselves and to grow strong as independent young women in spite of the negative lure of the streets, drugs and gangs. Now word has spread and there are nine more waiting to be part of Jessica’s new family.

Tanya Bennett has worked with many of her colleagues from Drew, including Michael Christensen, National Director of the Shalom Resource Center. Through Michael’s help, $6,500 was raised for the new project, 9 Strong Women. Tanya and Michael are members of a group called the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Hope, a group dedicated to working with grass roots community leaders on ways to reduce the violence in Newark. As a result of the success of 9 Strong Women, we hope to bring in greater local and federal dollars so that more women will be helped through this remarkably creative project.

For more information on shalom work in Newark, see

For video previews of September 21 premiere of Brick City, see

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oprah Winfrey and Shalom?

Dr. J-P Duncan, one of our national trainers, alerted me to the Oprah Winfrey/Crow Creek Nation connection to Wodakota Shalom Community--our newest shalom site.

Oprah's group "Angel Network" support's the organization and their work on the Crow Creek Reservation with Tree of Life ministry and Wodakota Shalom, led by site coordinator Peter Lengkee.

Peter made a video about the plight of the Crow Creek reservation about a year ago (before the shalomzone training began) and sent it to Can Do , and they responded with volunteer support to help build a community center.

Here are two video clips about the Crow Creek reservation and the work of Peter Lengkeek of Wadokota Shalom:'s assessment and call to action Oprah's connection

I plan to visit Peter and Wadokata Community of Shalom next weekend.

Michelle Obama and Shalom

What is the connection between Michele Obama and Shalom?

Well, its indirect. Both Communities of Shalom and the First Lady share the same approach to community development work: ABCD

In a recent speech, she refers to Public Allies and the principles and practices developed by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at Northwestern University as a shaping influence on her view of community building. McKnight and Kretzmann and the Institute are also the source of our ShalomZone Training units on ABCD. Here are some excerpts from her speech:

Office of the First Lady

For Immediate Release June 16, 2009

Renaissance Hotel, Washington, D.C.

My time at Public Allies also gave me the opportunity to work with John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann, who developed the Asset-Based Community Development approach to neighborhood development, and that really influenced how we worked with communities. Some of you may be familiar with this approach, but the approach acknowledges that all of us, every single one of us breathing in this community, in this planet, those of us serving and those of us who are being served, that we're all both half-full and half-empty. We all have skills and talents that make us good friends, family members, workers, and leaders, and we also have needs and shortcomings that come along with those strengths. We can't do well serving these communities, I learned with Public Allies, if we believe that we, the givers, are the only ones that are half-full, and that everybody we're serving is half-empty. That has been the theme of my work in community for my entire life -- that there are assets and gifts out there in communities, and that our job as good servants and as good leaders is not only just being humble, but it's having the ability to recognize those gifts in others, and help them put those gifts into action. Communities are filled with assets that we need to better recognize and mobilize if we're really going to make a difference, and Public Allies helped me see that.

At Public Allies, we endeavored to do this also by bringing these young people together from diverse backgrounds. We worked with African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, white, gay, straight, you name it, college graduates, ex-felons, we brought them all together every week to work in a group. And truly, that's where the magic happened, when you saw those kids from all those different backgrounds really tussling it out and trying to figure out their philosophies in the world in relationship to their beliefs and stereotypes. The law school graduates realized they had a lot to learn about how communities really work and how to engage people. There's nothing funnier than to watch a kid who believes they know it all -- (laughter) -- actually come across some real tough problems in communities that test every fiber of what they believe.

And then you see the young person with a GED realize that they could go to college because they're working with kids who are just as smart or not smart as them who are going, and they gain a sense of the possibilities that they have. They know that their ideas are just as good, sometimes even better. That's when those lights go off. That's what we think about when we think of Asset-Based Community Development -- that a kid from Harvard and a kid with a GED are both full of promise. Everyone learned to build authentic relationships with one another where they could recognize each other's strengths and provide honest feedback on their challenges. They gained a blend of confidence and humility that prepared them to be able to lead from the streets to the executive suites. You could take any one of those Allies -- and it's not just Allies, there are kids like this all over the country, and you could plop them down in any community, and they would know how to build relationships. You know, that's not just important in non-profit, that's important in life. These are the kind of gifts that we can give people through service.

And as we move forward to implement the Serve America Act, my hope is that the Office of Social Innovation that's going to do some of this funding will help us identify the wonderful concepts out there like Asset-Based Community Development. There are other wonderful approaches out there that are working in communities all over this country. This office hopefully will identify more of them and help them grow and develop the best solutions, and replicate those ideas throughout the country. I also hope that these efforts will help us encourage philanthropy that is more responsive to the needs of the organizations. I was fortunate at Public Allies Chicago to have some pretty significant major investors -- multi-year grants, as we called them back then. I guess they still exist. (Laughter). But when you have that kind of long-term investment from foundations and corporations, that allowed me to do things like hire a development staff, or an office manager, to pay for technology that would help support this work. And you know, again, this work doesn't happen by itself. You need staff and resources to do it.

Village Well Project and Shalom

What is the connection between WorldHope Corps, Drew University and Shalom?

Photo-journalist turned lawyer, Robert Schwaneberg’s article on WorldHope Corps Village Well project in Malawi is linked to Drew University’s website from HEALTH REFORM WATCH--A Web Log of the Seton Hall University School of Law under the title:

“Well Worth the Wait”
NGO led by Drew prof. brings clean water to rural Africa

WorldHope Corps, Inc. is the NGO I started and volunteer for in Malawi. Its local ministry partner is the Mzuzu Circuit of the United Methodist Church which is starting a new ShalomZone focused on orphan care and village wells.

Drew student interns, Claire Colcord and Christian Ciabonu, are currently in Malawi assisting the Shalom team start the new Community of Shalom.

Zowe and Euthini villages are part of the Mzuzu circuit of the UMC.

Mike Bond, one of the team members on a recent WorldHope Corps mission trip to Malawi, is funding a new village well and is profiled and photographed breaking ground with villagers.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Speech Heard ‘Round the World'

"Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action -- whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster....If we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world." -Barack Obama, Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009.

Early in his speech, Barack Hussein Obama clearly identified himself as a Christian, while also acknowledging his Muslim family heritage. Embodied in his personal story is a path of reconciliation of apparent opposites. Boldly and brilliantly, he spoke the truth in love about Jewish suffering and Israel's right to a secure homeland, as well as Muslim oppression and the Palestinian and right to an independent state, and the need for mutual understanding, compromise and reconciliation. In the spirit of shalom, the President showed himself to be a true peacemaker, and time will tell how his speech 'heard around the world' will play out in the lives of Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Communities of Shalom is involved in interfaith peace justice work in Newark. What follows is a sampling of affirmations to President Obama’s speech in Cairo from members of our Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace:

I found President Obama's address at Cairo University remarkable on many fronts-its frankness about American foreign policy, its honoring of Islam, but most especially for his call not only for interfaith dialogue and understanding, but joint action. This is surely the way forward in a world of so many perils and challenges, and a wonderful endorsement of efforts such as the ones we are involved in.
Rev. Robert Morris, Executive Director, Interweave

It is my sincere belief that G-d has provided the world a sincere friend who because of his purity of spirit and profound clarity of intellect is and will continue to be instrumental in reminding us of who we are and what we are suppose to represent. President Obama’s speech was balanced and uncomplicated. He delivered enriching words that can reach the hearts and minds of all people who are sincere about wanting to see the world a better place for all of us. May the Creator and Sustainer give us the best intentions and guide our actions to please Him. Wahy-ud Deen Shareef, Imam

…what I can say passionately is that I feel extremely hopeful that as American people we are headed for a wiser, more compassionate, more visionary time in our history...and I will be extremely grateful to the Holy One if our humble efforts can help to make a change! Peace to all.

–Rev. Tanya Bennett, Director of Religious Life, Drew University

…the President’s address was thoughtful, visionary and inspiring. To make this new vision a reality, it will require all of us individually and collectively to act… It is hard work and will require vigilance. We are so blessed to have President Obama to guide and to lead the world in new ways of knowing/being. Barbara Bell Coleman

I watched the speech on the computer throughout the day. And I reflected on our work together while watching.
I felt proud to be American, and also honored to be connected to the Interfaith Coalition. With Peace and Hope,
Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz

Obama is reframing the conversation. I believe that that is what we are trying to do in Newark.
Mark Beckwith, Bishop of Newark

Wow, Thank you, Bob, Matthew, Michael and everybody for also articulating what's in my heart concerning our President. Can you believe that a son of a slave, now speaking to our world about God's love for everybody. I am so proud to be a part of our interfaith group. Love you all.
Rev. Reggie Osborne

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Many people ask what they can do to make a difference in Malawi. Here is a menu of some of the ways Friends of Mzuzu can support WorldHope Corps' mission in Malawi:

Provide five Singer sewing machines for Dress-making business at UMC $500

Provide 50 chickens for egg and meat micro-business $250

Provide a Hope Scholarships for Malawian youth in HopeHome program $500

Dig another community well in remote village without clean water source $10,000

Sponsor a child in the HopeHome program $100/month

Contribute to the Village Well Fund any amount will help

Contribute to the HopeHome Fund any amount will help

Contributions can be made online at

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Elaine's Reflections

Words cannot express the look of thankfulness in the eyes of an African woman, a child strapped around her back, or a wide-eyed running and grinning child , or the gracious and proud manner of the tribal chiefs as they willing show you the 100 meter deep bore-holed well, which in just one year has saved 300 lives in Magalasi,(meaning “smooth glass), a village of 700 people located in an area known as Kamphenda.

As we visited 2 other wells in this same area, the second being Sinjiliheni,(1100 people), and Bululuji the home of 1100, the emotion of hope filled my soul and a smile crossed my heart as each time people living in extreme poverty were so grateful for the gift of cool, disease free, drinking water from a bore-hole commissioned well.

Each village presented an unique characteristic of its people. Magalasi presented a woman as one of their chiefs! This was a never-before experience for all, especially for Dr. Christensen. Sinjiliheni, with its beautifully well kept gardens, through the use of its well had formed a monetary business, a Co-op, by growing mustard not only for their own consumption, but selling it with the proceeds labeled for well repair! Bululuji, in gratitude to Dr. Christensen, presented a program of ceremonial dance and a play showing equal rights for all including an orphan who wished to attend school. I shall never forget the respect I felt for 6 tribal chiefs as they watched with pride their people giving us thanks for a bore-holed well!

As I accompanied Community Development Organizer, Charles Luhanga, I gained even more knowledge about the commonalty of all people desiring the above basic human right, clean potable water. Through the efforts of their Village Chiefs, their Community Base Educators(CBE’s), and the efforts of Church and Society ,people of Camphenda brought their request of clean water to Mr. Luhanga.

With God’s help and through Christ’s example in serving “the least of these”, monies will be donated to Worldhope Corps to construct another bore-hole commissioned well for each of these villages in Campphenda, I pray that it may be so.


From the First Presbyterian Church of Pitman, NJ:
$536 for Village Well Fund
$415 for Orphan Care Program
$115 misc checks for Village Well Fund

From team members: $800 for
400 Toothpaste for prisoners
400 tooth brushes
400 bars of soap

Clare, Elaine, and Helen donated large collection of school supplies (pencils, paper, crayons, books, highlighters, construction paper, colored pencils, sharpeners, chalk, scissors, notebooks, flashcards, and markers) ($300; 9 Calculators - 4 prisoners, 5 to HopeHome children) ($95), and 11 soccer balls with pumps ($55).

Handed out over 250 greeting cards made by American children
Handed out small toys (plastic balls, harmonicas, balloons, bubbles = $50)
Handed out 25lbs of chocolate candies (approximately $150-$200)
Donated 20 hand-made baby blankets to Ministry of Hope (approximately $200-250)
Donated 10 sets of stationery paper to various churches ($50)
Donated 26 hygiene/make-up kits x $10 = $260
Donated over-the-counter medical supplies to Zowe ($100)
14 Blankets x $17/per = $238

Gifts to individuals/hosts/staff: $400
- 3 Ministry Robes
- 3 Books
- 2 “Oxford 2nd Presbyterian Aprons ($30) to Tandy Munthali & Jane Nkhata

- $50 from Stacy Radmore to Ribia Phelps from HopeHomes (sponsored by Sarah Harrington) to purchase new clothing for school

MC donated IBM Notebook computer to Pastor Copeland of the UMC ($300)
Sarah Harrington donated new, high quality, digital camera to Pastor Copeland of the UMC ($125)

Stacy Radmore donated a lap-top battery ($138.00) and two 1-gig lap-top memory chips ($80) to CitiHope International Malawi (TTL $218)

Elaine donated $205 for Hope Scholarship for Dorcas Tabita Mkandawire, daughter of Steven, at Ekwendeni Girls School. Her rank is 7/68 with a strong B average.

Total donations including Gifts-in-Kind: $4,762