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Hardin Park fourth graders stand with Godfrey Masauli, a paraglider from Malawi, during a visit to the school. Photo submitted.

Originally published: 2013-09-27 12:39:59
Last modified: 2013-09-27 12:44:27

Malawian paraglider visits Hardin Park

Godfrey Masauli is the first paraglider from the small African nation of Malawi. Last week, he also became the first person from Malawi to teach kite-making in Watauga County.

Joined by Rich Campbell, director of outdoor programs at Appalachian State University, Masauli went to Hardin Park School to talk to fourth-graders about kites and realizing their dreams. 

Using old newspapers, sticks, tape, string, pieces of old plastic shopping bags (to make the tails) -- and directions from Masauli and Campbell -- the students built their own kites in school and then flew their new creations on the playground. 

Masauli's visit Sept. 18 was arranged through the ASU Office of Arts and Cultural Programs and received rave reviews from students and teachers alike.

"I love it when we have the opportunity to expose our students to different cultures and help them realize how we can all learn from each other," said Corrie Freeman, a fourth grade teacher at Hardin Park. "The film Godfrey showed, the presentation he gave and the activities we shared were wonderful ways to engage students and provided a very enriching experience for all of us." 

Among the things that Freeman and her students learned is what a remarkable chain of events lead up to this "awesome" day at Hardin Park.

Masauli, who lives in a small village outside Blantyre, Malawi, was introduced to paragliding by Canadian filmmaker and paraglider Benjamin Jordan.

Jordan was in Malawi teaching children how to make and fly kites when he met Masauli. The pair soon began to tour the country by bike, giving kite workshops at schools while Masauli trained with Jordan to become a paraglider along the way. 

Masauli's uncle was one of the first black men to fly airplanes in Malawi, and Masauli had long dreamed of becoming a pilot. When the uncle's business collapsed in the wake of the country's economic troubles in the 1990s, the uncle was forced to give up flying, and it looked as though Masauli would have to give up his dream to fly.  Masauli was working in construction and selling charcoal on the side to make ends meet when he met Jordan.

After training with Jordan during their travels, Masauli realized his dream of flight by paragliding from the highest mountain in his country. For Jordan, it was the makings of a documentary film, "The Boy Who Could Fly." That film is part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival, and the film's showing at ASU is what brought Masauli to Boone.

Masauli's new goal is to create a paragliding school in Malawi. The "School of Dreams" will be a place where he hopes students will learn not only how to fly, but how to set goals, face up to challenges and overcome fears that could hold them back. 

What he most hopes they will learn is the message he shared at Hardin Park in Chichewa and English:  "Ndizotheka. (It is possible.) If you have a dream, hold it in your heart. You can achieve it."

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