Christi Huizenga '03
Christi is currently the Program Officer of Tanzania and Burundi for Plant With Purpose. Part of her job is to work with local teams to monitor and evaluate the organization’s development strategy. She helps Plant With Purpose set goals and build staff capacity.
Before joining Plant With Purpose, Christi worked as the Country Business Manager for the Tabora, Tanzania program of the Millennium Village Project. There she sought to help the program change from a system of free farm inputs to a revolving loan fund as part of a team focused on implementing sustainability plans for pieces of the project soon to be scaled down. Christi also worked for International Justice Mission as a Project Coordinator for the Investigations Team in Washington DC. Then she was invited to join a team in India to launch the new Kolkata Field Office as the Special Assistant to the Director.
In 2003 Christi graduated from Calvin College with a degree in Business Communications. A few years later she graduated from Thunderbird School of Global Management with a MBA in Global Management. Christi now has ten years of experience working with nonprofits. Four of these years she spent living abroad in Tanzania and India.
What sparked your interest in International Development?
I've always been interested in international work. I grew up living just down the street from a Navy base. It was a really diverse neighborhood where people came from and traveled to many different countries on a regular basis. That's probably where my curiosity came from. At Calvin I did the semester program in Honduras. This was my first experience spending extensive time in a developing country and trying to understand how people in another culture think and live. This was the turning point when I realized that, if possible, I'd love to make a career of International Development work. I love learning about how people and systems operate in different cultural contexts. It's exciting to have the opportunity to connect with so many different people and to be a part of community planning and improvement projects around the world.
How has your faith influenced your work in development?
My curiosity about different people is closely tied to my faith. God created a world much bigger than just the small culture and environment that I come from. He cares greatly for all of his people. I've been given incredible access to education and opportunities in my life, but am no more deserving than any other people anywhere. In some way, I realize that since I have the opportunity and some skills that can be useful to help ensure that our systems care for God's people who have had less access, then this is what I should do. Along the road, I've learned so much and my faith has been stretched. I've been able to witness God working in ways that I never would have seen at home. Honestly, it’s more accurate to say that development work has influenced my faith, but my curiosity and heart for learning about new people probably came from some nudging from God in the first place.
What is your most memorable experience in the field?
I've had some excellent opportunities. A few moments stand out more than others. I remember why I love my job each time I get the opportunity to walk through really remote fields, talking to families and hearing their stories. I've had some great adventures along the way. I spent a night sleeping on top of a land cruiser in the middle of nowhere surrounded by three prides of lions. I was able to sit at Mother Theresa's home for the dying right next to the Kali Temple in Kolkata and witness grace and love in action. I've seen really raw pieces of life and I've seen people explain excitedly about how they have hope in the future for the first time in years. God has designed a really cool world and I get to see a lot of it.
What advice would you give to current IDS students?
Be ready to grow. Development work is tremendously rewarding. But it's not always easy. It requires significant amounts of patience, humility, and persistence.