Blog: May 2014

Thursday, May 15

Support a summer intern
 If you bumped into Ernesto Shakazulu 7 years ago, he might have tried to pick your pocket or hustle a dollar or two from you.

Back then, you would have found 13-year-old Ernesto sleeping in a cardboard box under a disabled bus in Lilongwe in Malawi, a small sub-Saharan country of 14 million people. He would have bathed in a sewage deposit and scoured the reeking trash heaps for discarded scraps. He was an orphan with no future other than prison or an early grave.

And then an UrbanPromise worker found Ernesto and offered him a place to stay in one of our clean and healthy orphanages, The SafeHaven Home for Boys, located on the outskirts of Lilongwe. (Yes, UrbanPromise has programs all over the world!) SafeHaven enrolled Ernesto in school and nourished him with three healthy meals a day. Ernesto flourished.

“I would have died in the streets,” he recently told me, “but the SafeHaven Home saved me.” Over the next 4 years, Ernesto became an excellent student and, by his senior year in high school, his grades suggested that he would be able to attend college.

“There were a few books donated to the orphanage,” he recalled not long ago, “I stumbled on one called Gift Hands. It was a book about a kid who grew up in the inner city of Baltimore and became the first African-American neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins. That story inspired me. So I decided I wanted to become a doctor.”

I encouraged Ernesto to apply to my alma mater, which is located in southern California. I still had a few contacts on campus and believed it would be a great place for him to study. A few miracles, some scholarships from the University, and a couple of generous benefactors later, Ernesto enrolled as a freshman in 2013. He now studies Economics, hoping to return to his country and make a difference as a political leader. “I want to return to Malawi,” he confides. “I want to help my people.”

A world of difference in 7 years. And now Ernesto wants to give the 7 weeks of his summer break to make a difference in Camden, NJ.

This June, Ernesto will arrive at UrbanPromise in Camden, NJ, to serve as a summer intern for 7 weeks. “I need to give back to the place that was responsible for changing my life,” he said. 

He will not be alone in his mission. Ernesto will be joined by 40 other college students from across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. These college “missionaries” will volunteer in UrbanPromise’s day camps, reaching over 500 children by building relationships with local teens, living in our Camden neighborhoods, and learning about urban youth ministry. You can be assured they will make a real difference!

However, Ernesto and his friends need your help. In exchange for their service, I have promised  to house and feed those eager and energetic young adults for the summer. It will cost UrbanPromise approximately $100/week for each missionary, $700 for an entire summer.

My hope is that you will help by underwriting housing and food for one of our volunteer missionaries for a week ($100), a month ($400), or a whole summer ($700).

Donate now 

I look forward to your reply and to sharing with you the transforming stories of what Ernesto, the other interns, and you will accomplish in Camden this summer.


Dr. Bruce Main

P.S. If you want to learn more about what UrbanPromise is doing internationally, please visit our website at

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