The warm heart of Africa
By Hollen Wheeler; courtesy photos
Although Megan Mathis is a local, her work and passion are 9,000 miles away. She is co-founder of RiseUp Malawi (RUM), and her organization is making small but significant differences in the land-locked, southeast African country of Malawi.
The average Malawian lives on less than $2 a day. For the majority of the population, electricity is unaffordable and unreliable. The percentage of child marriages is very high, as are diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS. Mathis and her in-country director, Hudson Mwale, saw that education could be a stepping stone. In 2013, RUM built a facility for an afterschool program where elementary school children learn to use computers, improve their English, math and life skills.
As recently as 2018, secondary schools became open to all students, and because of this, the high schools were overrun with students. With the student-to-teacher ratio of 90 to 1, and some students walking many miles to school, RUM developed a scholarship program where students apply, and those selected are given school supplies and a bicycle.
“RUM’s approach comes in the form of empowerment through education, so that our community learns how to do things for themselves,” said Mathis. “The ultimate goal of our mission is long-term sustainability which can only occur when you take the time to invest in the minds and God-given talents of others.”
RUM’s third initiative is an afterschool music program where kids can discuss the challenges they face through song, dance and poetry. This program was especially beneficial during the recent pandemic, as the children visited different groups of people to educate them on the importance of washing hands and wearing masks.
One of the biggest challenges for Malawians is hunger. Seeing the need, RUM underwrites a bi-annual training class on farming. This has been beneficial to fight hunger, but some of the families take their produce to market for extra income.
“No matter what cause you give to or how much, the action of giving is what is going to make the world a better place, and I think that’s a beautiful responsibility we have to remind ourselves as we go through life.”
The history of RUM began in 2010 when Mathis lived in London working in the music industry. She was invited to a music festival in Malawi where she met Mwale who earned enough selling sodas at the 3-day festival ($100) to support his family for an entire year. They shared a strategic connection and eventually formed the nonprofit.
Mathis began her fundraising by collecting cans and bottles and then was able to commit full time to fundraising for RUM. Based on word-of-mouth, private and corporate donations and prayer, Mathis spearheads RUM from her home in Castle Pines. Mwale, plus nine other employees, support the RUM programs in Malawi.
According to Mathis, the smallest amount can help. “Even $5 goes so far in Malawi,” she says. “No matter what cause you give to or how much, the action of giving is what is going to make the world a better place, and I think that’s a beautiful responsibility we have to remind ourselves as we go through life.”