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Student Initiative - Sophomore’s fundraiser helps UM school in Africa Joan G. LaBarr, Feb 13, 2012
PHOTO BY LUCAS ADAMS
Allie Klein hands Southwestern University President Jake Schrum and his wife, Jane, a drum from the Rev. Mande Muyombo of Kamina Methodist University.
By Joan G. La Barr Special Contributor
GEORGETOWN, Texas—Southwestern University President Jake B. Schrum once offered a young African colleague, the Rev. “Guy” Mande Muyombo, a key piece of advice: “Students are the most important people in the university.”
Mr. Muyombo, the director/president of startup Kamina Methodist University in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reflected on the importance of this thought in his remarks to a Jan. 22 fundraiser to raise money for KMU, hosted on the campus of UMC-affiliated Southwestern.
Fittingly, the event itself was the brainchild of a Southwestern sophomore, 19-year-old Allie Klein of Dallas. Ms. Klein’s home church, Highland Park UMC, raised money to provide a roof for a Kamina University dormitory then under construction.
As she learned about the new United Methodist school, which serves students living in a remote area in the southeast of the country, the mission-minded student was surprised to discover that $200 would cover a year of tuition, including dorm room. Her next thought was to hold a scholarship benefit for KMU at her own school.
Ms. Klein shared her idea with KMU supporters at Highland Park, who offered to help. The first step would be to get permission from the university.
With the optimism of youth, Ms. Klein called Mr. Schrum’s office and requested an appointment to share an idea for a fundraising event. She asked fellow church member and KMU supporter Lisa Tichenor to be part of the meeting with the university president.
As the two women began describing KMU and its engaging young president, Mande Muyombo, Mr. Schrum was a step ahead of them. Exactly one week before, the two college presidents had a chance meeting at the White House while waiting for security clearance. They struck up a relationship during the 20-to-30-minute wait and agreed to find a way to get together again.
Now, one of his students was asking to sponsor an event to support students at KMU with Mr. Muyombo as featured speaker. A donor had already agreed to pay for the meal, so all of the money raised would go to scholarships.
Ms. Klein, who had never attempted anything like organizing a benefit, got a crash course in everything from communicating with potential participants to working with a caterer.
The plan came together for Jan. 22, a time that Mr. Muyombo would be in the United States to do some of his final work toward a doctorate at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo. Ms. Klein says that she had no specific fundraising goal and that to raise awareness of KMU and its needs would make the evening a success in her eyes.
At the fundraiser, Southwestern students, UM leaders, church members and interested members of the community heard Mr. Muyombo describe his own climb out of poverty as the eldest of 16 children. Conflict and war had been his lifelong reality, and at the age of 15, young Mande found the one place where he could have peace, the church. He became a United Methodist.
After graduating from college as a civil engineer, Mr. Muyombo worked for the UMC, building churches, schools and other facilities. He did this for four years, knowing his heart and true calling were to the ministry. He enrolled in Africa University, the pan-African United Methodist school in Zimbabwe, where he received a master’s degree in Peace and Governance.
Then Mr. Muyombo, his wife, Blandine, and daughter Christiana came to Kansas City where Mr. Muyombo completed a second master’s degree in theology and began work on the doctorate that he expects to complete next year.
When Mr. Muyombo returned home in 2010 after completing Saint Paul’s Master of Theological Studies program, North Katanga Annual Conference Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Natanda asked him to direct the work of the university, which was then in its fourth year of existence. Bishop Ntambo, who is recognized as a major force for peace in his own country and all Africa, charged him to make sure the KMU staff captured the vision of education as a key element of bringing peace to the community.
Changing the culture
Mr. Muyombo shares the conviction that: “Education is key to bringing peace and development in Kamina, North Katanga and the DR Congo.” He envisions KMU as a center where emerging Congolese leaders, former child soldiers and women become part of the development process by obtaining an affordable world-class education without leaving the Congo.
He elaborated on these thoughts at the dinner as he emphasized the role of education in transforming from a violent to a peaceful culture. In his own youth, he saw boys and girls joining or being conscripted into militias, where they participated in acts of violence and brutality. When the conflict ended, the surviving child soldiers were unwanted by their families and shunned by their communities. They were essentially without hope.
One of Mr. Muyombo’s most daring dreams, and the subject of his doctoral work, is called “The Drum of Peace,” a plan to provide education and support systems to reintegrate former child soldiers back into society.
His staunch commitment to women’s education is reflected by the fact that 100 of the 540 students now at the university are female, a major advance given the longstanding tradition of marginalizing women.
At the close of the program, Mr. Muyombo presented a “drum of peace” to Mr. Schrum. In turn, Mr. Schrum had a surprise gift for his friend and colleague. It was his self-described “favorite tie,” one festooned with giraffes. Mr. Schrum explained the giraffe was his favorite animal because it is always “sticks its neck out.”
“It’s not going to be my tie after tonight. I’m giving it to Mande,” he said.
At the end of the evening, the benefit had raised some $2,500 for scholarships, with more contributions expected. In addition to the Level One $200 scholarship for tuition and dorm fees, there is a Level Two option of $300 for tuition, dorm room and books, and a Level Three of $400 for tuition, dorm room, books and computer science fees, as well as other more extensive options.
With the dorm project complete, the next KMU building need is a library. Mr. Muyombo estimates the cost to be about $25,000. The water supply to the campus is a single well, funded by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. UMCOR has also provided an $8,435 grant to build latrines, and construction is in progress. Other major needs include a second water well, which would cost $4,000, and high-speed Internet access.