Yesterday, after I dropped the girls off to school, I sat in the car praying for each one of them and assuring those nervous, to be confident and go apply everything they have been learning over the years into their final high school examinations. What struck me the most, was that out of our 14 girls sitting for the Malawi National exam, only one was so scared. Since I knew what she has been battling during the year, I sat a while with her affirming her and assuring her that she has put in the work needed for preparation and the God we serve will honor her effort, as well as her story. She left looking and feeling much better than she came and I watched as a police officer brought the highly regarded and protected exam and the rest of us were asked to leave the premises. Passing this exam means transitioning to college, we have all been waiting for this. The girls, teachers, mentors waiting for this moment. Even though we don’t write the exam with them, we study with them, we provide all the support we believe they need to excel and for us, their success or failure poses a question of how well or not we did, this is a test of our work as well.
So many things have happened since I last talked to you. I got married on July 4th and I moved to live with my husband in Lilongwe which is an hour and 30 minutes away. I now drive to and from work. It has been great for me to start building a life outside Voices Awake. Before this, I was eating, breathing Voices Awake but now I am able to see Vanessa. I feel like my life is progressing, and it is actually exciting. Operating from outside is helping me to see what Voices Awake needs even better than when I was wrapped up in all of it, as such we have been able to work on what it needs for growth.
We have now hired a few more staff, and a whole different ages too. For example, we have a house mother who is 63 and I have an assistant who is 26. We still have volunteers coming in and out, not as much as we did pre-Corona but still enough. Our house mother is now referred to as granny, we have a lady working for us in our small businesses around her early 40’s who is referred to as Mommy, and my assistant, who is referred to as Aunty. These people are bringing in different kinds of expertise and experiences that is enriching our work with the girls. Because they are doing some of the work I used to do, I am now able to focus on other stuff that I overlooked when I was doing everything.
The most exciting thing for me this period as we have been recruiting new girls and bidding farewell to these about to get done with high school is seeing how different these girls are. This has reminded me of when we started with the older girls and the transformation that has taken place getting this far. While the new ones are timid, the old ones are bold, while they are reserved the old ones are forthcoming. The new ones are carrying baggage that the old ones have let go. Their character development has been very impressive. They are self-aware, their self esteem is high, they are assertive, they walk in authority, they know that they are known and loved, they are appreciative of the opportunities presented to them, and they know that they are different from who they once were. Their world has been enlarged and their dreams and aspirations have grown with them. They are not settling for less and I am excited to see how the new girls also change as time goes.
We recently had a high school graduation ceremony and our girls got excellence awards in their academic work but also for their good character at school. Victoria, one of our girls was chosen to give a speech in representation of the graduating class. This was her speech:
Respect to the guest of honor, the school management, my fellow students and all esteemed guests. I am grateful for this opportunity to share how I have learnt, grown and excelled as a Cornerstone student. I am speaking on behalf of out going students because our story is the same. I have learnt to put God first just because without God I can do nothing. The other thing is that, I should never be discouraged in chasing my dreams. In addition to this, I have learnt to understand myself, more especially being a girl. I am not supposed to look down on myself. I should have courage and be brave. It’s been a great pleasure being a part of a girls empowerment called Voices Awake on Campus. As a girl, I have benefitted a lot, as I have learnt that I have equal rights as everyone. I can do anything I set my mind on. Voices Awake has empowered me to build self confidence, whether I am in class or not. I have grown in many ways, spiritually, emotionally and physically. Spiritually we have devotions at school and at Voices Awake. Emotionally, I am not easily shaken especially for being a girl. Standing up and addressing you is proof of that. Also, I was the headgirl here at school, that is proof of my leadership. The world we are living in considers girls as inferior, I stand here to challenge you that I am not inferior. Just imagine the Voices Awake organization is run by a woman, this has encouraged me to build more confidence than I had before. I know I can also do great things. We believe in transformation. As a butterfly starts as a caterpillar and then transforms into a butterfly, it’s the same with me as well as my fellow graduating students. I am no longer who I was. Being at Cornerstone has changed me. I know my goals will be achieved, as well as my friends. I want to be a teacher. From here I will go to Mzuzu university and then travel the world. Finally, before I take my sit, I would like to thank you all for paying attention. God bless you.”
This from a girl who two years ago, didn’t have an idea of what she would do with her life. A girl who 4 years ago we were teaching how to make an English sentence, on this day she stood before community leaders, church leaders, political leaders, parents , teachers and her fellow students saying all this confidently. If this is not transformation, then I don’ t know what is.
The beautiful thing about stories like this, is that they are happening because of your support, I am so grateful.
May the good Lord give you joy and peace,
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