Featured: To Be United Methodist: Warren McGuffin
To Be United Methodist: Warren McGuffin
San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church, Alamo, Calif.
Warren McGuffin's mission work has always been faith building, but at some point, he realized something was missing: meeting the people he was helping.
In numerous United Methodist Volunteers in Mission trips to reconstruct after hurricanes Ike and Katrina, McGuffin noticed that while he was rebuilding houses, the homeowners had to be back at their jobs. He missed the interaction of working beside those affected.
That all changed in 2010 on a trip to Thomas, Haiti. McGuffin's team – assigned to build a school – was quickly confronted with children so hungry they were eating mud pies.
"We gathered our funds and fed these children, but we knew the children would still be hungry when we got home," McGuffin said.
When he returned in June 2011, he brought a master gardener and funds to start a kitchen, which grew into a meal program that now provides 200 meals a day at two schools.
McGuffin's team decided to move beyond the food program and set up an educational component to affect the children past mealtime. They wired the entire school campus to run on solar power, set up a computer lab and trained teachers in basic curriculum. Today, the Thomas Food Project has a salaried teaching and cooking staff and a project manager with a computer-science background. The project has grown to help four schools and has three mobile, solar-powered carts that can travel throughout the community to charge laptops and mobile phones and run water purifiers for cooking and drinking.
McGuffin, a retired Silicon Valley entrepreneur, said, "The ability to apply one's God-given talents in mission is a blessing. That's what you know best, and if you can share with someone, all the better."
The food program satisfies an immediate need, but using technology for development in Thomas will help community members develop skills to improve their long-term situation.
"The path out of poverty is education," McGuffin said. "There is business in Haiti, and high-tech is beginning to move in. They have computers at hardware stores, banks. If you've got the skill to use a keyboard, you can get a job."
McGuffin sees unlimited benefit in the growing information and communications technology movement.
"As businessmen and scientists," he said, "we feel we can place technology in the community to benefit and be sustainable. There's always going to be a need for mission there, but I equate what we're doing with giving away fishing poles."
Joey Butler is a multimedia producer/editor for United Methodist Communications.