The History Behind The MAC

The 2007 St James “Scouting Team”


John and Linda Darling

In October 2006 a pastor from the KwaMhlanga Community in South Africa described how a wave of AIDS related death was wiping out a generation of fathers and mothers.  In response a Christian based group, MCDC, was operating four day centres to care for the orphans and vulnerable children left behind.   The Pastor and five others from the St James United Methodist Church in Tampa, Florida traveled in February 2007 to KwaMhlanga to see what role the congregation might play to address the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS.

This “scouting team” pictured above visited a building in the Manaleni Community designated as a fifth potential centre but one not yet operational due to lack of funding.  The decision was made to return and challenge the congregation to come up with funding to open and operate the centre for a two-year period during which time MCDC could raise the funding necessary to continue operations indefinitely.  A few months later on June 1, 2007 the Manaleni Centre opened.

Over the next few years “the plan” didn’t work out exactly as first envisioned.  Teams from St James visited at least once and often twice a year, a Team Member, Stacy Kolbe, a USF grad student returned to Manaleni as an intern the summer of 2009, returned to Tampa long enough to marry Tim Dykins and returned to KwaMhlanga for a year.  Other Teams continued to visit and kids faces became names and loving relationships developed.  The first two years ended but the support continued, financially and personally.  MCDC imploded in 2010 but St James and other committed supporters continued to care for the kids and provide necessary funding.

Around 2014 and 2015 the need to assure permanency and ongoing effective operations were addressed.  As a result two not-for-profit companies were formed under South African law.   One company holds the assets (title to the building and the computers and all personal property) and the other company is the employer of staff at The MAC and is charged with operational decisions.  Faces In Need, Inc., a U.S. based 501(c)(3) charity is the major channel for providing funding to The MAC.  The St James congregation and individual members within St James remain valuable financial partners as well as Team organizers and participants.  Paul Butler whose contact information appears at the bottom of each page has been involved from day one and serves as President of Faces In Need, Inc.

In 2014 two members from the St James congregation answered God’s call by retiring from their jobs and moving to South Africa where they serve as “Coaches” for the Staff and kids at The MAC.  John’s profession as a civil engineer serves The MAC in multiple ways when it comes to growing and maintaining the physical facilities.  Linda’s job as an accountant (the Chief Operating Officer for a Federal Credit Union when she retired) is invaluable as she oversees the accounting at The MAC along with an outside South Africa accounting firm in Pretoria.  John and Linda serve without compensation or reimbursement.

In 2015 a new vision was implemented and the Manaleni Centre was “relaunched” as The Manaleni Achievement Centre (“The MAC”).  Elements of the new vision included a resolve to ramp up efforts to supplement the education of the students in the form of a computer based Learning Centre equipped with sophisticated technology based programs such as Khan Academy.  A promise was made to all students that a lack of finances will not be the reason a student does not attend a university, college or trade school.  At a community gathering The MAC leadership pledged to the Community Chief that a prime focus of The MAC would be to live out its new tag line and “Develop Leaders For Manaleni.”

Teams have been faithful as they journey each year to The MAC.   A number of persons have made three or more visits.  Check out the “Team Visits” page to see pictures some of these folks who have visited five or more times!

From the outset this ministry has taken the position that all participants bear their own costs.  No one is reimbursed for travel or any other expense.  No one other than the local staff is paid.   Any administrative costs are covered by a single donor so that anyone contributing to The MAC can rest assured that 100 cents on their dollar goes to directly support the kids and the Centre.  Not many charities can make this claim.  Go to the “Give” page and make a difference with every penny given.