by Loretta Ishida, LWR’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa
Whenever I am asked to talk about my work, I think people expect me to tell stories about people in a distant country and how their lives are being changed by Lutheran World Relief’s work. But I don’t interact with community members very often in my position. My work is about designing projects, reading reports and filling staff vacancies. Not very exciting to hear about, even though my work is very important to ensure quality development work of LWR.
The story I want to tell is about my overseas colleagues. I want people to understand what it takes to be a professional development and relief worker in the field.
My colleagues in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya work ten hour days on a regular basis. This is a common scenario: Our East Africa Regional Representative, George Odhiambo, arrives at the office by 7 a.m. to avoid the insane Nairobi traffic. I meet him online at 4 p.m. his time, 8 a.m. my time. We have an hour discussion, then I say, “Goodbye, George. I hope you go home soon.” He’s still online an hour and a half later.
Our field staff travel twenty days out of the month to work face to face with our partners: planning a new project, meeting with community members to understand how a project is progressing, and shuffling through receipts to make sure financial reports are correct. Evelyn Nassuna, Uganda’s Country Director, tells me she’ll be traveling to visit a partner five hours away to collect some information we need to refine our coffee project proposal, so I don’t expect prompt responses to any emails. At 1 p.m. Baltimore time, 9 p.m. Uganda time, she’s answering emails.
I am grateful for my colleagues in East Africa and all over the world. Whether Ugandan, Nepali, or Colombian, they put in long hours of high quality work to ensure our mission to “work with Lutherans and partners around the world to end poverty, injustice and human suffering.”
“We are grounded in profound thankfulness for God’s gracious, self-giving love for all humankind, revealed in the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ. Gratitude marks the way we relate to one another and to all creation. Though our experiences vary, we view community as a gift. We give thanks for our wondrous diversity. We celebrate being alive. We abound with joy, hopefulness, hospitality and deep appreciation for the gift of one another (Psalm 136).”