More than a dozen Africa University alumni are serving as interpreters and translators at the 2016 General Conference. It's a role they have played since the 1996 General Conference, and this year, they have added something special. For the 2016 General Conference, alumni are donating the bulk of their stipends back to the university to be used for scholarships and academic staff development — and they have recruited friends and colleagues to do the same.
Africa University's very existence, and academic accomplishments, are the product of continuous generosity from students, alumni and supporters. "The aim is to keep the momentum [going]," said Rev. Willy Banza, a trained linguist from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Scholarships helped him earn a bachelor of divinity degree from AU in 2005.
Claudine Leary graduated with a degree in business in 2001. Having fled the conflict in Rwanda, she was living in a refugee camp in Malawi when she was admitted to Africa University.
"When I arrived at Africa University, I was surprised to find that there were other students with more critical needs than mine, when as a refugee, I thought that my needs and situation were so desperate," said Leary. "There are so many genuine needs and the students need all the assistance we can possibly provide."
From the outset, leaders at the Commission on General Conference and the General Board of Global Ministries encouraged the initiative. "Everyone has something to bring to the table, that's the lesson here and I cannot think of a better example for our international work," said Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries' top executive and a member of the Africa University Board of Directors.
"We are grateful that some of the expenses of interpretation services will be reinvested by some of our interpreters in the mission of The United Methodist Church through the work of Africa University," said Rev. Gere Reist, secretary of the General Conference.
This initiative is the brainchild of Rev. Kalaba Chali, an AU graduate from Zambia who currently serves as mercy and justice coordinator in the Great Plains Conference. "Today's world requires training leaders who understand what it means to live, learn and lead in a global community, and that's what AU offers students and faculty alike," said Chali.
Corey Daniel Godbey, the coordinator of Hispanic Ministry in the Great Plains Conference, did not graduate from Africa University, but is so passionate about the initiative that he signed up to help. "Being adept in two different languages provides me an opportunity to serve as a communication-bridge, connecting groups of people," said Godbey. "On a very basic (but powerful) level, connection is about relationship. Hearing. Knowing. Honoring another child of God as an integral part of one's own story and experience."
Africa University students generally enroll speaking as many as four African languages but only one international language: English, French or Portuguese. By graduation, they are competent in at least two international languages thanks to the university's dual language policy.
Africa University Development Office website
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.