The Plan

Call it fate, providence, or just happenstance, but sometimes things have a way of coming together for the good.  So has it been for Williamsburg-based charity A Gift From Ben and their initiative to bring water to the drought stricken nation of Malawi.

In the fall of 2005, students at the College of William and Mary, led by junior heartthrob John Bell,John Bell mounted a fundraising campaign with the goal of garnering enough money to construct a water well in Malawi.  Combining proceeds from campus events and private donations, the Pump It Up! Campaign met its goal, and in so doing, caught the attention of local humanitarian Thumper Newman.  Founder and CEO of Williamsburg’s largest food charity A Gift From Ben, Newman had been looking for an opportunity to expand his charity’s global relief efforts.  Building water wells in sub-Saharan Africa was exactly the kind of tangible, international outreach project he had been seeking.

In short order, Newman partnered with the members of the Pump It Up! Campaign for a new venture.  Taking their cue from a similar relief effort for Bangladesh some thirty years prior, the team organized the Concert for Malawi, a music event whose proceeds would finance the construction of future wells.  Newman’s father Haley, a prominent local entrepreneur, offered the use of President’s Park as a venue.   Seven up-and-coming local bands and thousands of spectators converged on the outdoor museum on October 21, 2006.  The result was an unqualified success-an evening of music and fellowship which raised both money and awareness for the needs of people in rural Malawi. 

Inspired by the success of the concert and fundraising campaign, Newman decided to step up A Gift From Ben’s involvement in the cause.  Research indicated that while many charities appeared to be involved in well construction, maintenance of those facilities is inconsistent.  Newman set upon a new, bold course of action; he would organize another benefit concert and use the funds to equip a maintenance team in Malawi. 

While the goal appears ambitious,Winston Brady pieces have fallen into place quite fortuitously.   Winston Brady, A Gift from Ben volunteer and recent graduate of William and Mary, has volunteered to scout out the project in Malawi and lead the first mission.  This summer Brady will begin an internship with Newman’s uncle, C. Ray Kellogg, at his well drilling business in Smithfield, Virginia.  He will apply what he learns with Kellogg to the situations he encounters in Malawi this fall.  Brady’s training will be an asset as will his connections with the Malawian government.  The nation’s secretary of state is, coincidentally, a family friend and has proved very supportive of A Gift From Ben’s proposed project.  A Gift From Ben is hopeful that officials from the Malawian embassy in Washington will be able to attend the benefit concert scheduled for August 22.

Unlike the previous concert, the Concert for Malawi Wili (Wili meaning “two” in Chichewan, Malawi’s official language ) will be the culmination of a ten week, free concert series hosted by President’s Park.  Beginning June 20, the Park will present a free evening concert every Saturday evening.  Several  of the 2006 acts have signed on to play again as has some new talent, including Kellogg’s daughter Celeste, a rising star in the teen music scene.   The final benefit concert will feature eight acts with Chicago blues legend Nellie Tiger Travis as the headliner. 

As anticipated, local businesses have been exceedingly generous in their support of this new venture.  To date, nine have signed on as sponsors and more are anticipated.   Their generosity, along with all of the other coincidences which have fatefully intertwined with this project’s development, suggest that this venture is bound for success.



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