Mary Ogalo Graduated from AIU in 2010 with a Masters of Arts in Mission Studies. Currently she is Kenya’s Project Manager for the Global Bag Project and a volunteer at the Centre for World Christianity as an administrative officer.
Why did you decide to take Masters of Arts in Mission Studies?
I had keen interests on issues related to the reality of poverty in Africa. I wanted to have a broad understanding of God’s mission and how it relates to that reality of poverty. Courses such as ‘social anthropology, biblical theology of missions, contextualization, theology and poverty, and others helped me a lot in this regard. In addition, I did an enlightening research in Kibera slums on ‘Investigation into the poverty mitigation efforts used by NGOs in Kibera and their effects on the resident’s quality of life’. This opened my eyes to the challenges and opportunities of work and ministry among vulnerable communities.
Mary, what is Global Bag Project all about?
Global Bag Project is a social enterprise. We target vulnerable women who are mainly drawn from among widows, single mothers and those living with HIV/AIDS. Global Bag Project integrates two strategic concerns into a sustainable model of poverty mitigation; women empowerment and environmental conservation. Firstly, we recognize that although, the role of women in development has been applauded for years, women continue to suffer and face vulnerabilities which sink them deeper into poverty. GBP focuses on women as their key beneficiaries because we are well aware of the fact that income earned by women is more likely to trickle down for the benefit of the family. We also utilize the culture of communal synergy in which we bring women to work together as a community with common purpose. The other concern of GBP is environmental conservation. The menace of environmental degradation in Kenya and all over the world cannot be ignored. In Nairobi, Kenya, for example, plastic refuse blocks city sewages causing a plethora of problems in the city’s drainage system. Few people are aware of the dangers or the impact of the use of non-biodegradable materials for packaging. Global Bag Project does not merely advocate for recyclable cloth bags, but offers them as part of the solution to the environmental degradation. For more about GBP see http://globalbagproject.org/ or like our facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/globalbagproject. to see some of our products go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/globalbagproject/
How do you juggle between being the Kenya Project Manager for Global Bag Project and being the administrator for the Centre for World Christianity program?
I volunteer administrative services to Centre for World Christianity (CWC), AIU 10 hours a week. The rest of the time is spent with Global Bag Project. The rigorous student life at AIU taught me lessons in time management and these have come in handy in my juggling act. I try my best to keep my evenings and weekends free from CWC or GBP to create time for my family. I would love my children to remember me as a mom who was available for them at the time they needed me most. The balance is tricky but I try one day at a time.
What are some of the challenges you face in your day to day work?
Working with vulnerable communities is emotionally draining. I get involved in situations that require me to listen to stories of women and what they go through in their families. This can be a bit depressing (sometimes) especially when I realize there are no quick solutions to some problems. God has brought friends along the way who understand the nature of my work and who pray with me often. Priscilla Adoyo is one such friend.
In what way can AIU partner with you in the projects you are undertaking?
AIU community and guests can visit the GBP’s on-campus sewing workshop to sample and purchase some of the products women design. As is AIU tradition, to foster connectedness with God’s world, this can also be AIU’s sense of community engagement and outreach. We are involved in informal and non-formal training of upcoming women entrepreneurs (most of whom are illiterate or semi-illiterate) so GBP would be willing to open its doors to student interns who can offer trainings to these women as part of their ‘field work’ course requirements. We’ve already had some student volunteers to lead bible study meetings at GBP. We would like to partner with business studies department in areas such as developing business plans, marketing strategies, growing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) etc
What is your parting shot for the AIU family?
The Christian community cannot ignore the reality of poverty (with its many manifestations) in our communities. Christ’s example compels us to listen and to engage with the vulnerable communities. It is through this that we can make Christ’s good news to be REALLY good news!