Lighting Up the World: A Family Ties Two Distant Schools Together

03/11/15

“Helping kids in Africa” might be a vague concept for most American children. But for 6-year-old Camrie Ingram and her 8-year-old sister Mattea, it’s real. Those kids in Africa are now their friends. And now, because of them, a whole school in Lake Stevens, Washington, is connected to a school in Malawi in a very unique way. 
 


                            Camrie and Mattea walk through a village in Malawi with some new friends. 
 
Last summer, the Ingrams became COTN’s first consultants to move to Malawi as a family. Although COTN doesn’t traditionally accommodate children in their year-long consultant positions, Ryan and Kelli Ingram were willing to work with what COTN could provide. They enrolled their girls in African Bible College’s Academy, got a slew of vaccinations, and prepared for life as a family in a developing country. 
 
Adjusting to life in Malawi was full of challenges, surprises, and joys. Kelli didn’t know what to do the first time she found a frog in her toaster. And the girls had to get used to constantly washing red dirt off their feet. As they began forming friendships, they fell in love with the place.
 

                     The Ingrams are the first family to serve as consultants in Malawi together.  
 
At the same time, the whole family was daily confronted with the enormous needs they saw around them. “At first, the need was overwhelming,” Kelli explains. But as they came to know and love the children they saw in need, Camrie and Mattea started to think about what they could do. “Now they are constantly looking for ways they can help meet needs,” Kelli says. “Whether that’s donating clothing to flood victims [in Southern Malawi], or reading a story to a friend.”

Kelli, Mattea, and Camrie make crafts and play with their friends at COTN’s Chitipi Farm Children’s Home every Tuesday afternoon. 
 
Kelli and Ryan are working as education consultants in the schools COTN serves, so helping there seemed natural. The whole family rallied their church to provide uniforms and shoes for the school children, and a group of their friends raised money for school furniture at COTN’s preschool in Chirombo village. Family members collected underwear and socks that they are bringing over when they visit next month. 
 
And last month, Highland Elementary in Lake Stevens, where the Ingram girls went to school and Kelli taught last year, organized a coin drive to provide skylights at one of COTN’s elementary schools, Big John’s School, in Njewa. In an area where electricity is neither reliable nor cheap, the skylights will be a huge help. “As I spent time teaching and working in the classrooms at Big John’s, the need for light became very apparent,” Kelli explains. “Even in sunny weather the blackboard is sometimes difficult to see because it is so dark in the classrooms. Esther, our headmaster, even told stories about teachers using their cell phones to light up the blackboard when the skies outside got darker.”


The classrooms at Big John’s School are only lit by small windows, making it difficult to see when there is limited sun in the evening or rainy season. Skylights will allow much more sunlight into the classroom.
 
The girls are overjoyed to see their friends and former classmates coming together to meet a need that is now so close to their hearts. “It’s funny how it’s just our family here, and people at home don’t know the kids here, but it is just so cool that the whole school is helping our friends here,” Camrie says. “It is just amazing,” Mattea adds. “They are so far away, but there is a way to help. It’s so cool how God used us and is using Highland.”
 
The joy goes both ways. Mattea has been communicating with her former teacher, Lauren Morris, and telling her class what life is like in Malawi. To get a better idea of what Mattea is experiencing this year—and what children in Malawi go through every day—Lauren’s whole class is going without electricity for a day. “The students are so motivated!” Lauren reports.

“I want them to be able to get light so that they can see in their classroom,” says one of Lauren’s students, Kayla. “I also think it’s a good lesson for us to learn so that we don’t take things for granted.”




For Mattea and Camrie, partnering with their elementary school in the US is just one of many ways they are learning to use the resources and connections God gave them to make a difference for their new friends. “I think the coolest part is it isn’t a distant ‘people we are helping,’ thing,” Kelli says. “These people are our friends, people we spend time with and love. It isn’t really “serving,” just spending time with people that we have all grown to love and care for.” 
 
 
Help a child in Africa by sponsoring a child for just $32 a month. 
 
 

Comments

So proud of our daughter, Kelli and son-in-law, Ryan for their commitment to God and serving him. Loved having a chance to visit Malawi and see the work they are doing!