Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a day full of good friends, family, and food! We have plans for a Thanksgiving celebration of our own here in Malawi, but minus the turkey.
It is really hard for me to comprehend that we are now officially in the holiday season. Temperatures hover around 90 degrees, and there is plentiful sunshine every day. I do get a few reminders here and there. From seeing snowsleds (sleds!) in the store, to hearing Christmas music playing as I walk through the isles.
I am excited to say that orientation is over, and my passport is finally stamped with the visa required to legally work in Malawi! Speaking of work, I have had some questions about the team that I am working with, and I thought it would be good to share some quick introductions to the people that I work in the office with every day.
Innocent Magambi is the founder and director of There is Hope. He is from Burundi, and spent the first 27 years of his life as a refugee. He was inspired to start There is Hope in 2006, after he was offered a scholarship to attend college here in Malawi. He is a very gifted man and when I asked him how many languages he spoke, he nonchalantly answered, "about nine or ten.”
Florissa Magambi is married to Innocent, and has been working with him and There is Hope since the beginning. She is Italian, and speaks quite a few languages as well. She works part time now, because there are three boys at home, Teo (three), and Sam and Joe (one and half year old twins!) Florissa is the communications director, and plays a big part in helping the organization communicate with supporters, as well as helping to direct the tailoring business for refugees.
Jake Tornga has been with There is Hope for close to five years, and works with the pastors and churches in the Dowa region. This area is made up of over 150 churches and includes both the Dzaleka refugee camp and the surrounding villages. Jake recently organized and taught at a two-day pastors’ conference with 50 churches represented.
Jenn Tornga coordinates the scholarship program for the refugees. This program currently supports 14 full time students here in Malawi, and has seen many others graduate. Jake and Jenn met at Michigan State, and fell in love with refugees during a 4-month trip to Egypt while they were in College. Soon after they graduated, they were on a plane to Malawi.
Steve Palmbos oversees the vocational skills training at our Ministry Center. There will soon be a graduation ceremony for about 10 students who completed our first ever carpentry course. The top students will receive some tools to begin a business of their own. Steve came to Malawi about a year ago, and is famous here for his height. (2 meters!)
April Palmbos coordinates the youth program at the camp. She spends a few days a week inside the camp, organizing and teaching Bible classes. She is mother to Jack, Casey, Charlie, and Jessie. The Palmbos family live across the street, and I can often be found over there playing basketball or Spikeball with the kids.
Moses Kayuni supervises the income generating projects in Dzaleka, and the surrounding villages. Moses is Malawian, and has an associates degree in business management. He has a dream to continue his education in the US, at Kuyper College. Moses lives in the Palmbos’ guesthouse, which makes him my neighbor as well. Moses and I do a lot together, both at work, and at home.
Charity Mungoni works with the arts program and oversees the refugee women who make a wide assortment of goods, from baby books and booties, to journals and Christmas ornaments. Charity is Malawian, and started with There is Hope in June of 2015. She has a one year old daughter named Khloe.
Thoko is the accountant for There is Hope, and she has been here for about a year. She is currently taking classes to continue her education, and become a certified accountant. She helped me to buy curtains for my house from the secondhand market, which I very much appreciated, as I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to curtains, and I would have been charged double price in the market!