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Formula For Life: Saving the Children of Mwandi

Updated on March 5, 2015
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Jules Corriere is a playwright and theater director, having written over 40 plays, one of them performing at the Kennedy Center in D.C.

Women in Mwandi can now provide formula for their chidlren


The Infant Formula Program for HIV Negative Babies in Mwandi

This year, I was asked to gather stories from the people of Aiken, SC First Presbyterian Church as a way to celebrate the work done in their congregation, and to say goodbye to their long-time pastor, David Cozad. Heading up this project was Dana Cozad, who introduced me to a remarkable woman. Already in her 80's, Catherine Vandegrift visited Mwandi on a mission trip, and what happened afterwards is nothing short of miraculous. With her idea and inspiration, Aiken First Presbyterian has raised more than $100,000 by selling necklaces made by the people of the congregation. In this way, the congregation is saving lives. All of the money raised is to buy formula for HIV negative babies, born to HIV positive mothers. One necklace at a time, one can of formula at a time. One life at a time. This is Catherine's remarkable story.

Formula For Life Program at Aiken First Presbyterian
Formula For Life Program at Aiken First Presbyterian

I was no spring chicken when I wanted to care for those children

But God isn't finished with me yet.

When I looked in the eyes of these little miracles, these HIV negative babies born to HIV positive mothers—truly miracles, I just couldn’t turn away. They are supposed to survive. They are healthy. They just need nourishment. But their mothers couldn’t provide it. Somebody else had to.

I couldn’t think, “Well, I’m old, someone else will care for them. Someone else will figure out how to feed them”. I couldn’t go home and forget what I saw. My heart was telling me, something was telling me, maybe it was God telling me, “If YOU don’t do something, they will die.” So I came back with this on my heart and I shared it. I told the congregation, "These babies need formula, and I need to help them."

They questioned me at first.

"Well, Catherine, that’s a big undertaking, and well, you’re no spring chicken."

"I am aware of that. But these babies are. They were born healthy. It is a miracle they were born healthy, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was there to see them and feel this way. I was thinking, if we did something, to maybe raise a couple of hundred dollars to buy formula for them, it would be a huge help there. "

They asked me, "Well, what did you have in mind?"

And I'd already thought about this. Something low cost, that people would want to buy. All the proceeds would go to buy infant formula for those babies. I was thinking, what if we made these necklaces my granddaughters had shown me, that they were making. Everybody likes necklaces, we can sell them for maybe five dollars or so, you know times are tough over here, too. We make it affordable, so more people can help. it takes about a dollar a day in formula to feed one infant. Every five dollar necklace feeds an infant for five days.

Then when people wear these necklaces, they know they are giving life.

People told me, "You know, I think you have something there. I bet we’ll be able to raise at least two or three hundred dollars."

The idea was to raise a couple of hundred dollars to buy infant formula. None of us ever expected the response. Our original goal was multiplied a hundred fold. We have now reached our one-hundred-thousand dollar mark. This December alone, our Formula for Life program earned fourteen thousand dollars. Our ribbon room is overflowing with orders. And live-giving formula is flowing into the Mwandi Mission Hospital in Zambia

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Catherine's Interview

This is a video interview with Catherine, who founded the Formula for Life Program at Aiken First Presbyterian Church. She tells the compelling story of how she went on her mission trip, and how a simple five dollar necklace has contributed to saving the lives of hundreds of children in Mwandi.

What do you think?

Would You Purchase or Wear One Of These Necklaces?

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    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      They really look good:)