|20 May 2021|
|Alumnus of the Year|
Matt and his family are currently living and working in Bogotá, Colombia. They founded the i58 movement with the mission to bring people face to face with the love of Jesus by demonstrating love in to individuals and communities experiencing extreme poverty and oppression.
Matthew and Paula (his wife) run a school, Faith and Hope, which is located in one of Colombia’s most violent and impoverished neighbourhoods. This neighbourhood is full of families who have been displaced by Colombia’s internal war and violence and whom have been abandoned by their government. There are no roads, no water, no hospitals and no security.
The school is an epicentre of hope that journeys alongside children and families by providing academic, material and relational support specific to their needs. The goal is to remove all obstacles preventing these individuals and families from being all God created them to be.
Matt was awarded the Alumnus of the Year award in 2019 for his Passion to Serve the people of Colombia.
We caught up with Matt early in 2021 to see how things were going for him in light of the global pandemic and to share some of his memories from his time as a student at William Clarke College.
Matt was a self-confessed ‘tough student to teach’. He recalled that once during science, the teacher put him in charge of cleaning up all the dissected sheep’s hearts after the lesson, which was the last period of the day. Instead of the sheep’s hearts making their way straight to the bin, somehow, they ended up thrown around the playground and many students going home that day with sheep heart ruminants on their school shirts.
The one subject that was a standout for Matt was Ancient History with Mrs Rolph. She bought the subject alive for Matt and was able to connect with him.
After school Matt graduated with a degree in Primary Teaching and became drawn to helping kids that were labelled as ‘the tough kid’ to teach or who’s behaviours made them difficult to connect with. Prior to going to Colombia in 2017, Matt was Director of a Youth off the Streets school for teenagers from a background of abuse, drug and alcohol addictions and violent behaviours.
When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on Colombia Matt shared:
For the past 2 years we have worn face masks and sprayed alcohol on every surface. For my youngest daughter that means she has lived this way for more than half of her life. The pandemic has only increased in numbers of cases and deaths. Right now, we are at the highest peak it has reached with no signs of change coming. Recently the country received a small number of vaccines only however within a few weeks many had been stolen or “lost”. For those lucky to receive the vaccine there have been many reports where patients have been given fake vaccines or empty needles. For us personally it has been extremely difficult, especially navigating this with 2 young daughters.
A short while into the pandemic my employment - teaching English online to students in Colombia, which financed us to be on mission here was terminated. This was a huge blow financially. We have felt extremely isolated and unsettled especially as the desperation of the people has reached the streets. Right now, Colombia is in chaos as protesters peacefully demonstrating against a corrupt government have been killed, abducted and tortured in massive numbers.
Despite these constant obstacles we have felt God remind us that “Love your neighbour” doesn’t have any fine print. It didn’t for Jesus demonstrating love toward us, nor does it for our love demonstrated to others. Therefore, our school program has continually adapted to the Government legislations, COVID protocols and social unrest. That has meant that our school has managed to remain open and provide a place of peace for our community during all this chaos.
As well as adapting our school program we took on board another project to provide food and hygiene to desperate families affected by the pandemic and on the brink of starvation. We had an original goal to provide 20 bags but so far our ‘More than a Meal’ campaign has provided bags to over 800 families across 5 communities.
If you would like to join the journey with Matt and support the work that he and his family are doing in Colombia, or if you want to find out more about i58 Movement please go to www.i58movement.com or search i58 Movement on Facebook and Instagram.
We are all necessary!
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