Friday, November 30, 2012

Nine Years Ago Today...

November 30, 2004. We were expecting a pretty busy next day, watching our then 5th grader, go out and attempt to shoot 2,057 free throws to represent the number of children who would lose a parent to AIDS during his school day. But honestly, what we didn't expect, is everything that happened next.  You see, we thought Hoops of Hope was just a one day event. I honestly thought Austin would make it through probably half, or maybe a few more shots, and then we'd head out to grab a burger and congratulate him on his success. 

Well, we never did grab that burger. Instead, there were such bigger plans for Hoops of Hope. Plans that we could've never imagined. Plans that would take our family to the corners of the world. Plans that could only be designed by a God who dreams so much bigger than we do. And, here we are...nine years later...still wondering what happened. Still in awe that Hoops of Hope has spread to 27 countries and has involved more than 40,000 young people. Still in awe that a small boys' dream of raising a few thousand dollars has raised enough to help build the only high school in the Kalomo district in southern Zambia. Still in awe that there are dorms in Kenya, a school being built in India, a community center in Malawi, hope centers in Swaziland, and the list goes on. Still in awe that, per the Minister of Education, an entire generation of Zambian Children have been saved because of medical clinics Hoops of Hope funded, now in the region.

And then again, I guess that's the beauty of Hoops of Hope. There never was a "master plan". We've never spent money on marketing. Never tried to create an organization [in fact, we run Hoops of Hope with 1.5 employees].  Never really promoted Hoops of Hope. It happened simply because people cared. It happened because people saw a need, saw an easy and fun way to help, and got involved. And to all of you who have participated in an event, volunteered or donated over the past nine years, thank you. You are the heros. I've met so many of the children you've helped and they are so incredibly thankful. I hope one day, you'll get to meet them too.

As we embark on another World AIDS Day, the needs are as great as ever. We found a small village in remote southern Zambia that has no medical facilities. Literally, if you're ill, you must find a way in a world without transportation, to get approximately 50 miles to the nearest facility. We have a goal in 2013 to build a new and modern medical facility for this village.

In addition to the medical facility, we are currently feeding 1,500 children in Malawi a nutritious meal every day. And, to celebrate our 10th year, we are hoping to provide 10,000 students in Title I schools here in the US with school supplies.  

But we cannot do it without you and I'm hoping you'll join us to celebrate 10 years of changing the game. Check out our new website which was graciously donated in part by Woodward & Zwolinski.  You'll find all the information you'll need to get involved.

Thanks again for everyone who has had a part in Hoops of Hope.  Tomorrow, on World AIDS Day, will you take a moment to remember these children? In fact, head out and shoot a few hoops. I think I will.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Malawi Update

Here are a few photos showing the progress on the community center Hoops of Hope funded in Mtema, Malawi.  Thank you again for all of your help and support of Hoops of Hope. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Community Center in Mtema

In 2012, we set out on a goal to feed 550 children, drill 4 new deep boreholes and to build a community center in Mtema, Malawi. Here are few pictures of the community center which is now fully funded and under construction. The community center will be a storehouse for the food, distribution center for the food, an education building and a community meeting center. It is the first of it's kind in Mtema which is a group of small villages about 20 miles north of Lilongwe. Thank you so much for your continued support of Hoops of Hope. You are making a huge difference in the lives of children!

Hoops of Hope Team!

 This picture shows the community bringing water to the construction site to be used to mix mortar.

 Here is the community mixing the mortar.

 Another Photo of ladies bringing water to the construction site. These canisters of water can weigh up to 40 pounds.
 Here is the community center under construction

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thanks Young Life!

Just a quick note of thanks to Young Life and their amazing leaders!  Kristen, thank you especially for your blog on Live to Give and for being willing to give it out to Young Life leaders.  So thankful for you and all you do!  Please check out Kristen's blog below for a review of the book.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mtema Feeding Program

My name is Wakondiye and I am 40 years old and married to the Village Headman Mtema. I have been going to the center since 2010 learning with the women and widows and have learned bead making and soap making, but my greatest love is for the Bible. When the first center in Mtema was opened, I did what most village headman’s wives’ would never do. I began helping to prepare the porridge for the children.

Before I was ignorant to the love of God, but after being taught by the ministry I now know that I am His child and I have been given such a love for children by God. I come to class and sing and play with them. I also make sure to leave them with an inheritance of folk tales.

I hope to encourage teachers and caregivers in their work and encourage women to ensure their children come and get a healthy meal each day, as well as participate in development in the community. During the community meetings I try to makes sure I speak to the local chiefs so that they will involve their wives in development because many of the chiefs’ wives are never in the forefront as they are not looked at contributors to progress in their culture.

Wakondiye leads her community by ownership and participation and by example and because of people like her in during the first 6 months of 2012 over 500 children and pregnant mothers have been enjoying a nutritious meal 5 times a week. The feeding program operates out of two locations – one in a very small church building with dirt floors and the other one literally under trees and tobacco sheds.  The community is looking forward to the new community center which will begin construction soon.

One of the other benefits of the OVC Feeding Program is that youth in the community are able to contribute.  This year they made 20 straw mats for the children to sit on while they ate and listened to Bible stories.  This gave the youth an opportunity to make some money to help support their families.  In addition, 6 teachers and 12 caregivers received incentives each month for teaching the children Bible stories and good health and hygiene practices.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Boreholes Open in Malawi!

Mtema borehole:  Mtema is composed of 56 villages.  About 22,000 people live in this community and are subsistence farmers.  There are over 550 orphans and vulnerable children. Prior to this borehole the community fetched their water from a nearby river which is unsafe for drinking, consequently they opened themselves up to many waterborne diseases.  When they pumped their borehole for the first time, the people were amazed and celebrated in song, laughing and dancing.  The hope in the eyes of the women and children, the possibilities of better health, and sanitation was evident as they put their hands in the cool refreshing water for the first time.  It was clear to this humble community that God had provided His living water to them.


Mtema Nkhalapadzuwa borehole: Similar to Mtema, this community’s children were most amazed as the water began to flow.  After generations of spending hours to get water from a river close by it didn’t seem possible that water could flow so easily from this faucet in the center of their community.  With trepidation, they put their hands under the water and smiled. Like the majority of people living in Mtema, this village is home primarily to subsistance farmers.  Because of this borehole, the women will be able to spend more time learning new skills to earn wages for their families.  The children will have more time to learn and become educated, and they will be able to easily bring water to their crops and small gardens so they can sustain feeding their families through the year.  Water is life; a new life, full of possibilities for a bright future.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thomas Nelson Author Blog

Featured Authors

Nice blog from the Thomas Nelson website.  Thanks...

Austin Gutwein

Austin Gutwein was just 9 years old when watched a video that showed children who had lost their parents to AIDS. After watching the video, he realized these kids weren’t any different from him except they were suffering. Austin felt called to do something to help them. He took his love of basketball and decided to shoot free throws. On World AIDS Day, 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Friends and family sponsored Austin and he was able to raise almost $3,000. That year, the money was used to provide hope to 8 orphan children.
Over the past eight years, Austin’s effort has turned into the largest free throw marathon in the world with an estimated 40,000 people in more than 25 countries participating in Hoops of Hope. Together, Hoops of Hope participants have raised more than $2.5 million. The efforts have led to the construction of the only high school in a rural region in Southern Zambia, four dormitories, two medical clinics, a computer laboratory, multiple water projects as well as the funding of a dormitory at an orphanage in Kenya and a school in India.
Austin has been featured on the 700 Club, Hour of Power, NBC Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, CBS NCAA Pregame Show, Time Magazine, Christianity Today and many others.  He has had the opportunity to share his story of hope to more than 500,000 people on four continents.
In 2009, Austin was selected as one of the Top 10 Most Caring Americans by the Caring Institute in Washington, DC.  That same year, Thomas Nelson released his first book, “Take Your Best Shot.” Austin’s second book, “Live to Give,” is scheduled to be released in August 2012.
In February 2012, Austin was recognized as one of ESPN’s 18 under 18, and he graduated from high school. He currently co-chairs Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s Youth Commission and will be attending Anderson University in the fall.
Learn more about Austin and Hoops of Hope at