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Careers: Recent Graduates

Pellagia Muliba-Geston '05

Pellagia Muliba in Uganda

What degree did you graduate Calvin with?

Economics major and IDS minor

What's your official position where you are working now? What does this position entail?

Africa Region Project Manager for Opportunity International

See the job description for this position »

Please describe briefly the path you've followed since graduation that led you to this position?

I interned with Partners Worldwide; a business development agency in Grand Rapids, MI, affiliated with the CRC.  My internship started straight after graduation—from Career Services office (wonderful ladies!)—in May 2005 to October 2005.  Then, until February 1, 2008, I was the Partnership Facilitator, facilitating their Africa partnerships in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania.

How does your faith influence the work that you do?

My faith is why I do what I do. 

The missions of both Partners Worldwide and Opportunity International are to work with micro, and small sized business people through helping them access capital, business training and mentoring and giving “the poor a working chance” (OI TAGLINE) to get out of the poverty cycle through utilization of their own skills and intelligence.  I see myself, as well as all those I SERVE with (in the US and in Africa) as living sacrifices.  I feel called to this—this is my holy burden.

This is an excerpt from a devotion that keeps me going:

''Are you ready to be poured out as an offering?'' Philippians 2:17

"It is one thing to follow God's way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a 'doormat' under other people's feet. God's purpose maybe to teach you to say, 'I know how to be abased,' (Phil. 4:12). are you ready to be sacrificed like that? Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket—to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted—not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work while maintaining a saintly attitude, because they feel such service is below their dignity.”

What motivates me is NOT that God requires me to save the world but that all God requires of me is to be on His team; the saving of the world I leave to the Trinity.  I just put on my spiritual armor and go out to battle.

What is your best advice for current IDS students? 

Perseverance!  It is not an easy major to graduate with and get a job where you feel you are actually effecting change; and in actuality serving the poor, the disenfranchised, the corrupt, the rich, the advantaged and the disadvantaged requires more than just the passion.  The passion keeps you going; but when the glamour of travel, the mundanity of quarterly, semi-annual, annual reports, the rigour of deadlines and the boundaries of budgets starts getting to you—you need to seek additional strength and go back to the Hoksbergen class that made you think that you COULD make a difference in changing the world… because the reality is that it IS hard to be reminded of the challenges in our world—hitting you from each corner day by day.  Idealism is a good virtue to possess; it keeps you going and when reality chips at that idealism, I am reminded that we ARE a fallen world but God is an idealist and one day—maybe not in our life times —but one day that ideal world shall come to be—in the meantime we have work to do and have NO time to be discouraged! Then once in a while—take that long 2 week vacation at the end of the year…because chances are…you are no good to the world and our fellow brothers and sisters all over the globe when you are beat down and burnt out! J

  • Talk to alumni who are doing the things you want to be doing one day—that’s why we are alumni.
  • Challenge your professors.
  • Take ANY opportunity to attend events; credit or no credit!

What is your biggest regret looking back at your time at Calvin? What do you wish you had done differently?

I can honestly say  - NOTHING!  I struggled with what kind of development I wanted to be involved in and so decided to do a semester abroad with the CRWRC.  I didn’t want a semester where I was with a bunch of other students—I wanted total isolation.  And I got it!  In 2003, I was sent to Mali, West Africa (with CRWRC) and was situated in the Eastern part in Koro where there is a big Muslim population (Mali is over 90% Muslim) and with no Dogon (local language and tribe in Koro) at all, I was asked to evaluate a microfinance program that CRWRC was helping to fund!  It made me who I am today! I talked to my profs— Hoksbergen, VanderLinde and Abadeer particularly—and they counseled  me and cheered me on.

I was a member of IHD and SJC clubs—talking and dealing with things close to my heart.

I did it all!  I can’t complain!  Sorry!

Do you have any other words of hope or wisdom to offer soon-to-be IDS graduates?

Don’t despair…yet be focused!  Know what you want to achieve and keep that at the forefront through all the opportunities that you have.  As an African with a passion for the continued development of the developing world: please don’t use this avenue JUST as a travelling opportunity but let your hearts be broken and stirred…and when you feel that you can, and you will, be a drop—big or small in that ocean of God’s warriors—no matter what it takes, keep going—because there are times you will definitely want to quit.  Jobs aren’t easy to find in this field—many positions that are of substance are held by older men (and fewer women).  Age should NEVER be a factor in knowing that you can make a difference—but that doesn’t mean that you should be arrogant about it.  READ inexhaustibly, be thirsty to know more—read from those you agree with and then challenge yourselves to read and learn from those you don’t agree with.  Do more than is expected of you in your new entry level jobs… and don’t apologize for your youth, gender, race or your idealism.  More so … remember that partnerships are the transforming agents—don’t foster donor-recipient ideologies; instead offer to walk alongside your partners in faith and in trust— ensure that EVERYONE is an equal partner—whether they are donating dollars or sweat equity… I could go on and on…

Opportunity International

POSITION DESCRIPTION

TITLE: Africa Region Project Manager

REPORTS TO: Director of Program Management, International Business Development Department (IBD)

POSITION SUMMARY: Opportunity-US raises funds from private sector donors and technical donors (government, bilateral and multilateral donors) in the Unites States to support the establishment and growth of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in developing countries. A portion of this funding raised is provided directly to these MFIs for their loan portfolios and operations and another portion is provided to the Opportunity International Network Services Organization (NSO) to underwrite their costs to support the establishment and growth of the MFIs in the Opportunity Network. The primary focus of Opportunity US’s fundraising is the Africa Region.

Opportunity-US is committed to: a) ensuring that private and technical funds raised for MFIs and the NSO are spent according to project requirements and donor regulations and requirements in a timely fashion and b) ensuring that the core outcomes related to donor gifts are met to the greatest extent possible.

The Africa Region Project Manager plays the central role at Opportunity-US in fulfilling these two commitments related to all African projects. In this role, the Project Manager provides management oversight on grants to ensure project objectives are met and accounting for funds is completed.

PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Project Set-Up. Set up new projects, including participating in development of project plan and budget, creating “project tracking sheets,” developing a memorandum of understanding, creating work orders, coordinating internal project accounting, developing a funds transfer schedule, and defining reporting requirements.
  • Program Performance. Monitor program performance, including the coordination of quarterly project management meetings, tracking for variance and intervening to address program issues. Develops expertise and stays current with changes in USAID regulations. Serves as knowledge manager for assigned projects.
  • Budget Performance and Adjustments. Monitor program budgets using tracking sheets, review accounting budget reports, report variances, negotiate budget adjustments.
  • Funds Transfer Management. Participate in annual budgeting process to determine funding to be transferred during the year. On an ongoing basis, track funding received and manage transfers against budget.
  • Project Coordination. Serve as the point person for Opportunity-US, NSO staff and MFI staff concerning program and financial matters related to private and technical projects.
  • Reporting. Provide monthly activity and progress report to IBD/Opportunity US’s management. Work closely with Resource Development team on providing information for proposal writing and prepare reporting to donors.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor degree
  • Minimum of 2 to 3 years experience in project management. Fund accounting experience, preferable
  • Strong analytical, interpersonal, written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to adapt to the culture and mission of Opportunity International and work effectively in cross-cultural contexts.
  • Bilingual (French) a big plus as Opportunity will expand its programs to Francophone countries of Africa
  • Willing to travel 25% of the time (domestic and international)
  • Experience with non-for-profit accounting software