Chasing Dreams Across Borders

Written by Mckenzie Gibel, Staff Writer

Thandizo Mercy Chawinga is a 20-year-old woman with a dream to travel to the United States to earn her master’s degree and better her community. Thandizo, or Thandi as she is known to friends and family, is from a small country in East Africa called Malawi. “It is a poor country which really needs a lot of help,” Thandi says, “I really want to have a ministry or an organization that creates jobs for the people and helps those in need. I want to work with the youth as they are the leaders of tomorrow, and I want to have a lot of programs for women and children too. I really want to help more people, that’s my passion.” Thandi lives with her three siblings, her parents, and her extended family under a single roof. Thandi’s father is a pastor, but this title doesn’t mean he owns his own ministry. In Malawi, a pastor is simply a teacher within the church. Along with the expenses of living, Thandi’s father has to pay for her three siblings to finish high school. Although free primary school was introduced in Malawi in 1994, secondary education is still expensive for such a poor community. Despite these barriers, however, Thandi has worked hard to take advantage of every educational opportunity available to her from primary school to college. She has a bachelor’s degree in Christian Leadership and Community Development from African Bible College and certificates in evangelism, permaculture and natural medicine, but she still needs a master’s degree in human services or youth ministries to achieve her goals.

When asked how people would describe her, Thandi simply said that she is hardworking; she is definitely that. She has done volunteer work serving ministries like Live Love, H2O, Operation SAVE, and has worked with orphans through Crisis Nursery. Although, I never got the chance to meet her in person, I spoke with Keylee Ray who met her on a mission trip this past summer. Ray describes Thandi as fun and kind. When Thandi described what she likes to do, she said, “I love reading, thinking of ideas, sewing, and I love the arts, [but] serving other people is my favorite.” Fittingly, her name means “helper” in their native language, Chichewa.

Her passion is inspiring and contagious. Thandi is so close to achieving her dream of creating enough jobs to support her community, but economically, she couldn’t be further away.  “I have dreams, but [in Malawi] to achieve them [is] hard,” Thandi said. Due to a lack of available jobs, her father’s meager salary is the only income their family has to support school funds and her extended family. To overcome this economic hardship, Thandi has reached out for help via a Go Fund Me page. While she works toward getting the funds to pursue her dream, she continues to help her community by teaching locals how to grow herbal goods for medicine and trade, and by continuing to volunteer with ministries. Thandi is a modern day superhero and I feel privileged to share her story. I hope she inspires you as she has inspired me to keep working toward your dreams no matter what stands in your way, whether it be oceans, economic standing, or just your own doubts. Keep working toward your goals no matter how impossible they may seem.

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