Women of the world unite

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IWL scholarship recipients Naomi Mbise and Julia Raszka had a profound influence on the Cal Lutheran community.

Photo: Obinna Anyanwu

Under normal circumstances, recipients of Evangelical Lutheran Church scholarships in America for International Women meet once a year in Chicago to network and exchange ideas. Everyone has a plan to help their home countries, said Naomi Mbise, a third-year student at Cal Lutheran in Tanzania.

The cancellation of recent meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic has not prevented the international women’s leaders ELCA (IWL) from building bonds. Mbise, for example, is working with two 2021 graduates to help low-income girls in Cameroon and Tanzania finish high school and fulfill their dreams.

“I don’t know how we made the connection, but we still did,” Mbise said, referring to her “sisters” from Cameroon, who attended St. Petersburg Colleges as part of a scholarship program. Olaf and Concordia. Although their home country and Tanzania are thousands of miles apart, she said: “We all share a passion that we want women in our societies to have access to formal education and opportunities for international education, as we have.

For the past four years, Cal Lutheran has welcomed young women from Palestine, Tanzania and Poland through the IWL program, one of the benefits of the university’s association with ELCA. The Chicago-based group identifies scholarship candidates through Lutheran churches in low-income countries. Following the competitive ELCA application process, it contributes $ 20,000 per student each year, plus some expenses for books, visas and home tickets.

Despite the considerable balance remaining for students, including food and lodging, said Dane Rowley, Cal Lutheran’s director of international admissions, the university’s investment is growing.

The IWL program offers “a layer of student support that no other scholarship program provides,” Rowley said.

Tamar Haddad ’21, The first IWL scholar at Cal Lutheran is a Palestinian from Jerusalem who studied music. With her dexterity and entrepreneurial spirit, she modeled in many ways what the IWL program is about.

Haddad wrote and published a book as a student, The future of Palestine: How discrimination hinders change. She participated in the UN Model and appeared on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. In collaboration with Cal Lutheran’s Hub101, she launched a leadership training program for Palestinian young people.

She now works in Ferndale, Washington as Lutheran Youth Minister and Children’s Choir Director. She travels each year to teach high school leadership skills in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Haddad and Mbise became fast friends and then roommates in 2019. Mibse studied political science and theology and Christian leadership and co-founded the African Students’ Association on campus. The third scholarship holder Julia Raszka from Poland is a first-year student in theater and psychology. The university plans to bring in an IWL specialist every two years to continue mentoring.

From childhood, Raszka longed to be an artist on stage. In southern Poland, she sang with the gospel choir and played the piano and clarinet until she discovered the community in musical theater. Through her Lutheran Church, she learned about the opportunity to attend ELCA in the United States on a full scholarship. It was exciting news, although the name of the program made her wonder if it was appropriate.

Eventually, she realized that she was beginning to develop leadership skills as a theater manager and performer, and the Young Life Club asked her to lead a Bible study. He hopes to use his musical theatrical skills on his return to Poland, perhaps by training young performers and creating his own plays.

Interim Pastor Cal Lutheran, Rev. Mark Holmerud, said Mbise and Raszka had a profound influence.

“They make contacts with people who have no idea what life is like outside of California and even less in the United States,” he said.

Visit elca.org/Our-Work/Global-Mission/International-Leaders IWL program information. Details on the international entrance to Cal Lutheran can be found at CallLutheran.edu/admission/international.html.

Kevin Matthews is a former editor of CLU Magazine.

Ferdinand Medina

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