A few of our favorite things…and other random facts about our team.

A few of my favorite things…

Chocolate. My dogs. My red couch. Sunsets. The smell of dryer sheets. –Dana

Books. Greek Yogurt. A long conversation over a steaming cup of chai  (generally at Starbucks). That moment when the wheels of a plane first lift off the ground. Advocating for women and children. –Kimberly

Chocolate. The beach. Making a difference. Family. Bella (my dog). –Terri

Chockit cookies. Grey’s Anatomy. Autumn. Traveling. Fun family gatherings. –Christina

Reading. Traveling. Playing with Millie and Lucy (my dogs). Sports (particularly basketball, volleyball, and AU football). Swimming. –Katie

What story does your family always tell about you?

The one where days after I graduated from high school I flew (for the first time) to Alaska to work in a fish cannery in order to pay for college.  Of course, that happened to be the summer the fishermen decided to go on strike on our tiny Island, Uganik Bay, and only those who woke up really early were given work. I spent the summer waking up far too early to do whatever was available that day…painting the landing dock (aka airport), driving a pallet jack, etc. –Dana

When I was around 2-3 years old, my mom walked into the kitchen and found me on top of the refrigerator.  Initially, she thought that my dad had put me there as a practical joke (which she didn’t think was very funny), but quickly realized that I stood on the back of a chair, crawled into the freezer, and then pulled myself up to the top.  This, after my dad had informed me a few days before that he’d put my doll on top of the refrigerator if I didn’t behave.  I decided to do a test rescue mission.  Let’s just say that “The Strong-Willed Child” by James Dobson became one of my parents’ most referenced books. –Kimberly

About the time I ran away from summer camp with a chicken…. –Terri [note: We ALL want to hear more details on this…]

How I hated eating and found many ways to dispose of my food secretly.  You see, I thought I was smart about it, but I got caught half the time trying to shove food in my brother’s plate or simply wasting half of my meal under the table.  It took me two hours to finish my meals, and I have many childhood pictures left alone at the dining room table.  The thought shocks me now because I sure love food and my veggies!! –Christina

One time, I spent the night away with a friend.  I was in the first or second grade.  When she was busy, I snuck downstairs to use the phone to call my mom and ask “if she could bring my blanket?”  She didn’t answer, so I left it on an answering machine in a very hushed, secret voice. For some odd reason, my parents LOVE to tell this story. –Katie

If you could choose anyone, whom would you pick as your mentor?

Mother Teresa. –Dana

Christine Caine.  I love her passion for mobilizing the church to do what we are called to do, and am rarely left unchallenged by what she has to say.  She also loves Starbucks, perhaps even more than I do, so really, who could ask for more. –Kimberly

Jesus first…then Margaret Thatcher. –Terri

Anne Ledet (a member of my Church).  I have known her for 5 years and absolutely adore her. –Christina

Good question, but I feel like I have a pretty good one in my mom. –Katie

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Sing and play an instrument. –Dana

To speak French and Italian. –Kimberly

Scuba diving. –Terri

Speak three other languages, and I would love to learn how to play the guitar. –Christina [note: We thought you should know, Christina speaks Chichewa and English, and has a good understanding of French, as well as ancient and classic Latin.]

Heart surgery. –Katie

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?

Oprah. –Dana

It is a toss up between Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Beecher Stowe – both women used what was in their hand to catalyze change in their generation.  I love that. –Kimberly

Corrie Ten Boom. –Terri

Oprah Winfrey and/or Nelson Mandela. –Christina

Mother Theresa or Florence Nightingale. –Katie

When you have an hour of free time, how do you pass the time?

I read. –Dana & Terri

I love to find a comfy chair (either at home or a coffee shop), and dig in to a good book.  I almost never leave home without a book, pen and highlighter—just in case the opportunity presents itself. –Kimberly

Take a good ol nap! –Christina

Reading or sleeping. –Katie

What was the last book you read?

Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde & Have a New Teen by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman. –Dana

The Harbinger by Jonathon Cahn. –Terri

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali. –Kimberly

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba.  It is a very good book – it took me back to childhood, and really provides a good understanding of typical life in Malawi for a lot of kids. –Christina

ZOO by James Patterson. –Katie

What is one of your favorite scripture verses?      

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept.  We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?  I’m putting you on a light stand.  Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!  Keep open house; be generous with your lives.  By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16) –Dana

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.  (1 John 2:6) –Kimberly

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31) –Terri

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3:22-23) –Christina

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  (Romans 5:3-5)  –Katie

What’s the most played song on your iPod?

O Praise Him (All This For A King) by David Crowder. –Dana

It is a tie – Hands and Feet by Audio Adrenaline and Indescribable by Chris Tomlin. –Kimberly

Above All by Michael W. Smith. –Terri

I have two – Lengoma by Zahara and Beautiful by Phil Wickham. –Christina

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman. –Katie

The 100X Team

P.S. We’d love to hear your response to these questions…leave a comment here or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!

IMPACT: Stephen

As mentioned in previous posts, when Mtendere Village opened in 2005 we had 16 orphans and one housemother.  It has been my privilege to be a “proud mama” and watch these children grow up.  I have witnessed them grow physically, change emotionally, be challenged spiritually, and excel academically.  I love each and every one of them, and as the mother of Mtendere, I have been known to brag.  I simply cannot help myself!  That leads me to Stephen Makasu.

One of the first to arrive at Mtendere, Stephen was more than a little uncertain about what his new life would look like.  He had nothing to compare it to, no one to ask for advice; he was so small, and very shy.  What a difference seven years makes!  Today, Stephen has matured into one of the strongest leaders on campus.

Stephen has led by example in the classroom, as well as on the Mtendere campus, and he instills in our younger kids the drive to be better and work harder.  Always the top student in his class at Bambino (an international school right outside of Lilongwe), he is an intelligent young man who has cultivated his strengths in language and business.

All of us at 100X were exceedingly proud when, in 2010, he finished as the number one student in his German class and was given the opportunity to travel to Germany as part of an exchange program.  Because of his leadership, we flew Stephen to the US where he represented Mtendere Village at our winter benefit.    It is our hope that Stephen will be our first (but not the last) international collegiate student from Mtendere!

On their recent trip to Malawi, Dr. Rick Cook and other Auburn University faculty had the pleasure of meeting Stephen.  Afterward, they shared with me that they were beyond impressed with his confident, yet respectful demeanor.  Of course, my heart swelled with pride!

Through his hard work and commitment, Stephen has been able to participate in experiences that, prior to Mtendere Village, he could not even hope or imagine.  His life exemplifies what we want all of our kids to experience.

Stephen and I both know that much of this would not have been possible without the support of his sponsors, the Knight family.  In addition to financial sponsorship, they have encouraged Stephen through letters and have even traveled to Malawi to meet him.  Because of their dedication to our sponsorship program, the Knights have changed the life of Stephen Makasu.  I am so thankful for them, and for all of our sponsors who help our children achieve their dreams.  Without them, 100X would not be able to care for the 140 children who call Mtendere “home.”  So, we thank you!

If you’d like to join our family of sponsors, visit our Child Sponsorship page, or email Sponsor@100XDevelopment.com for more information.  We’d love to have you!

Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi       

Mama Dana

Some of you may be familiar with my title as “Mama Dana” from previous blogs or conversations, but for those who do not, I want to explain a little more about what that means to me.  It is not just a title, but more a term of endearment.

When my family, the Blanchards, started the 100X Development Foundation (then 100X Missions) so many years ago, I was simply a supportive family member of this new dream and goal to start an orphanage in Malawi, Africa.  I knew there was a need and I was excited that my family was able to develop a “program” that was undoubtedly going to save the lives of orphans. However, it was not until after my husband passed away that I really developed more than just a “supportive” role, but more of a desire to travel to Mtendere Village and see what my family was doing on the grounds in Malawi.

In February 2005, on my first trip to Mtendere Village, I fell in love.  Not so much with the country (although it is beautiful), but with the people that I met and the 16 wide-eyed orphans who were now under the care of 100X.  These 16 children were there, because they too, had suffered unimaginable loss and had no one to care for them.  I quickly realized that the number of orphans in the country was far greater than just 16 and that it was essential for us, for me, to do something.

The solution was simple: I wanted to work alongside my family—fulltime—at 100X and I had to move to Malawi! After many family conversations, and much prayer, me and my 8-year-old daughter Alley packed up and moved to Mtendere Village.

We lived there for over a year and spent our time managing, developing, constructing, and expanding Mtendere Village.  I trained the Mtendere Staff the best way I knew how and prayed that it was the right way.  I worked tirelessly to try to prepare the administration to be independent so that they could manage effectively when the time came for me to move back to the US.  We went from having a village of 16 orphans, a staff of 5, and 1 housemother to a village, rather a home of 140 orphans, a staff of 32, and 16 housemothers.

And although this was now my job and the management and administrative perspective was hard work, it was the moments with the orphans, my kids, that meant the most to me.  It was during these moments and times that I no longer was just a woman on “the job” but a mother to those who no longer had parents.  So, although I am mom to only one, I am “Mama Dana” to almost 200 people in a country that most are not even familiar with.

Alley and I no longer live in Malawi, but I do spend every summer there and whenever I have the chance, I go home—to my other children, to the place that stole my heart and instilled a passion in me nearly 8 years ago.  I have many more stories and moments to be shared, but for now, hopefully this will give you a glimpse of why the name “Mama Dana” is a such a sweet sound to my ears.

You can help 100X continue to expand and save the lives of orphans in Malawi by donating here.

Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi

The Heart of Mtendere Village

If you ever have the chance to visit Mtendere Village – you will quickly realize that our program for orphans and vulnerable children would not be possible without the dedication and care of our “housemothers.”  They are the glue that holds everything together – they are the heart of Mtendere Village.

Given the high number of orphans and the prevalence of domestic violence against women in Malawi, it is not surprising that many of our housemothers have a history that includes these elements.  The stories of neglect and abuse are devastating, but I cannot help but smile at the redemptive power of their stories.  Once broken themselves, these women understand the pain evident in the eyes of every abused child that is brought into the Mtendere family—an understanding that is critical to breaking through the protective facades and helping our children find healing. To provide insight, I’d like to introduce one of our housemothers.

Naomi was orphaned as a child, and in order to survive, she traveled from village to village to complete odd jobs in exchange for food.  When that wasn’t enough, which it rarely was, she begged others for help.  She lived on the street, had no protection from those who would take advantage, and was never quite sure where her next meal would come from.  School was never an option, and Naomi never learned to read or write.

She did eventually marry, and she and her husband had five children.  Sadly, her husband died and Naomi could no longer afford to send her children to school.  The cycle of illiteracy and poverty, it seemed, would continue indefinitely.

When Naomi heard about Mtendere Village, she came to us and asked for a job.  We quickly realized that she would be a wonderful addition to Mtendere Village, and we offered her a position as a housemother.

Because of her new job, Naomi was able to afford the school fees to send her youngest child to high school.  Now that she is a grandmother, she sends money to her children to help make certain that her grandchildren are able to attend school.  Naomi’s love and compassion for others is evident in everything that she does, and she is always the first to help others fulfill their dreams.  Witnessing this, our team at 100X could not help but want to do something to help her achieve a lifelong dream.

Each time Naomi received her paycheck, she stamped her thumbprint to acknowledge the payment.  This was not the result of some sophisticated identification technique, but was done because Naomi had never learned how to write her own name.  With the help of Phyllis Collins, a volunteer teacher from the US, we began tutoring Naomi in reading and writing.  After three months, I witnessed Naomi sign her name in my payroll book for the first time in her life!  The joy for both of us was immense!

It is beautiful to see Naomi, an orphan who spent her childhood living and begging on the streets, loving and caring for other orphaned children, and it has been a privilege to walk alongside her and see her realize a dream she had abandoned any hope of achieving.

Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi               Support Mtendere Village

Getting Creative for Education

We can all remember moments in life when we experience something that takes our breath away and leaves us speechless….for me, most of these moments happen when I am in Malawi.

Receiving new children at Mtendere Village is always bittersweet.  When they arrive, I see eyes filled with vacancy, distrust, hurt, anger, anxiety and sadness.  Their only belongings are the tattered clothes on their backs and caked mud on their feet.  Then the transition begins.  They go from having almost nothing to eating three meals a day, having a house and bed, numerous clothing options, and the opportunity to attend school.

One of the first things we do when a school-aged child arrives at Mtendere is determine their education status.  The reality is that many of the children, even those aged 10-12, do not know the alphabet, and we often need to find creative ways to help them “catch up.”  Our staff at 100X and Mtendere Village is committed to working with each child to grow in knowledge just like we hope they will grow physically.

As you can probably imagine, just like any country, there is room for improvement in the educational system in Malawi.  In a school where there are 1,973 students registered, and over 75 students per teacher, the need to produce more teachers with higher education is an immense one.  Most classes meet outside, under a tree, with the chalkboard leaning up against it as their “classroom” setting.  The sight of these classes spread all around campus can be overwhelming.  All of our children attend local school and participate in after-school tutoring at Mtendere to help them reach their education goals.

One of the fun ways we encourage our children’s progression in academics and excitement about education is through the many “teams” that visit Mtendere Village each summer.  100X is proud to partner with Ball State University and Auburn University’s education programs to help ensure that our children have extra opportunities for learning.  These teams partake in classroom teaching, teacher workshops, and one-on-one tutoring, as well as some evaluation and research of the local school systems in Malawi.  Their passion and excitement is a great way to engage our children, and their love of learning is often contagious.

At 100X, we’re excited about creating a better environment for a more productive education for the Mtendere children, as well as for all kids and teachers of Malawi, and we are constantly working to leverage our resources to benefit the children under our care.  We all know the importance of school—that education lays a foundation that an individual can build on for the rest of his or her life—and every day we see our children progressing to a more hopeful future.

If you have questions about our education program in Malawi, you can email us at Info@100XDevelopment.com, or if you’d like to donate to our education fund, please click here.

Thanks so much for your support and interest in helping improve the education of young people in Malawi!

Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi

A child’s first…

I am thankful to report that this past April – June, we were blessed to receive 17 more children at Mtendere Village.  Our staff got to experience many of the children’s “firsts”: first time to ever sleep on a mattress, first time to wear a pair of shoes, first time to see a camera, and, first time ever to meet an American.

It was our 2 year olds’ first time in life to be held. Andrew’s father disappeared before he was born and his mother died after giving birth. He was raised by his grandfather which meant staying home alone for days at a time with no food while his grandfather occupied the local beer halls. There was no stimulation or human interaction. When he was brought to us, he was not only malnourished but emotionally vacant. The love of the other children overwhelmed him. After 30 days of constant love and attention, we watched as for the first time ever, Andrew reached for a hug and for the first time since we received him, he smiled.

Jaziel is our 4 year old who lost both his mom and dad. His grandmother could not feed or clothe him. Much like all our children, Jaziel came to Mtendere with only the clothes on his back. It was his first full day and the sound of the lunch bell rang. Jaziel asked, “What does that mean?” and Michael (our 5 year old) told him, “that is the sound of lunch, lets go get our food!” Jaziel said, “You mean we get to eat again?”…. Not only was this the first time for Jaziel to wear new clothes, but it was his first time in life, to be fed twice in one day.

Fatsani (our 6 year old) after losing both his mother and father, lived with his grandmother. When his health began to suffer because she was not able to care for him, the Chief of his village brought the urgent matter to us. After a month of living at Mtendere, he looked and behaved like a new child. At this same time, his aunt came to my house and said she had just received the news that her only sisters son was taken to a place that she was told “sells children to America.”  She was in tears and demanded to see her nephew. She asked if she was too late. She wanted to know if we had sold her only connection to her late sister. As I began to explain to her that we do not “sell children to anyone” and talked with her more about our programs, she suddenly saw Fatsani running to her in the distance. She covered her eyes, rested her head on my shoulder and cried out, “Praise God for you all at this place! I’ve never known people like you who would take in orphans and treat them like kings.” For the first time in his life, Fatsani was according to her being treated like a king! Praises to the King of Kings for blessings like this!

Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi