How did you first learn of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)? Why did it matter to you?
Peder [Garnaas-Halvorson, a college friend] invited me to an adult forum at our church back in March 2014 where I heard Kubisa [Muzenende] and Edwige [Mubonzi] speak. In high school, we learned a bit about the Rwandan genocide and the terrible details from those wars, but never anything about the DRC, so this was my first time ever hearing this story. I couldn't believe that something like this was never known to me. Here were two people who were working to better this situation, and all they needed were people to listen and hear their story. Because Kubisa and Edwige are both such influential and inspirational people, Mwendo Congo is now a reality.
Why did you choose to join the Mwendo Congo board of directors?
I had gone to several Mwendo Congo events and had met both Kubisa and Edwige on several occasions. Kubisa invited me to consider becoming part of Mwendo Congo in May 2015 and in June I was elected to the board, taking the treasurer role.
What do you do professionally? Is there any connection with the Mwendo Congo work?
I work for Best Buy at the corporate headquarters working in channel operations for our Exclusive Brands businesses like Insignia. Our Mwendo Congo work is not related [much] to Best Buy. But I do know that our Best Buy corporate social responsibility team ensures Exclusive Brands products are all sourced with 99% conflict-free minerals. [Conflict minerals are at the core of much of the on-going violent conflict in eastern Congo.] I am working on building a relationship with the director of this area and hope that I can learn of ways our company can make an [even greater] impact.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time when not at work or doing treasurer duties for Mwendo Congo?
I play soccer in co-ed rec leagues 3-5 times per week depending on the time of year. It's a great way for me to meet friends outside work, church and college connections. I also have played piano for 20 years and enjoy spending free time learning new pieces or improvising and figuring out songs by ear.
What is your vision for Mwendo Congo going forward?
I hope that we continue to be able to help our partners in the DRC fulfill the dreams and plans they have to ensure lasting, sustainable progress and development. I want to be able to hear in the news about how successful the DRC is as an economy in the coming years. Even though I don't expect Mwendo Congo would be central to that success, knowing that the work of our partners is contributing to bettering people’s lives is very important to me. Every little thing really does count.
What would you say to others considering joining the Mwendo Congo board?
Come with an open mind that is willing to listen to stories, to ideas and to learn about what is actually happening in the DRC. Relationships and people are at the center of this work. Realizing how Mwendo Congo is built around relationships and also is totally volunteer is very important. New energy is welcomed and because we are still so new, different perspectives are always something that can bring benefit.