Educating Africa: An Alumna’s Pursuit of Education against the Odds
Mariwyn Light ’09
Born in the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), the journey of Marie Patfoort ’67 (second from the left) to higher education began at the Assembly of God mission where her father, a Belgian officer assigned to the Congo, left her in the care of missionary Nellie Meloon.
Patfoort spent her teen years helping educate younger children of the mission while continuing her own studies in Latin, math and history under tutor Dr. Winifred Currie ’45. But her studies came to an abrupt halt when the Congo fell into a bloody revolution in 1960.
Because of mixed parentage, Patfoort was in danger. With the help of Dr. Currie she was smuggled out of the Congo, eventually arriving in the United States. With Dr. Currie’s continued aid she finished basic studies at a Bible institute in Rhode Island and in the early ’60’s came to Gordon, where Dr. Currie was a professor.
She wanted to be an educator, so Patfoort pursued a degree in education at Gordon through scholarships and anonymous donations. She says she never would have made it without the help of professor Dr. Royce Miller and his family, who supported her through college. After graduating she found a job as a fifth-grade teacher in Whitefield, Maine. “To this day I still consider the Millers my family,” says Patfoort.
In 1969 the government of Zaire proposed she return to Africa to teach. The country was much different from the Belgian Congo she had left in 1960. Devastated by the revolution, its need for educators was severe, and Patfoort, being the first Congolese woman to receive a college degree in education, was the right candidate for the job. She stayed for two years but returned to the U.S. before her window of opportunity to become a citizen closed. “I wish I could have helped the Congo more,” she says. “But there was no law, and it was extremely dangerous.”
Patfoort eventually found her way back to teaching in Maine. Her dedication to educating future generations she attributes to her childhood years at the mission, where education became such an important part of her life.
“It wasn’t just the classroom that made an impact on me. It was professors, activities, friends, opportunities to fail and try again. The most rewarding part of my job is raising orphaned children who transform nations. I’m part of a movement not interested in fortune, fame or glory—something bigger than myself; a story God’s been writing for a long time.”
—Jeff Lander ’95, Venture Teams Manager, Children of the Nations
Taking the Nation by Storm
Bait and Tackle started casting for clients in 2002 in America’s oldest fishing port—Gloucester, Massachusetts—and now operates nationally. “Big time advertising for a small business world,” defines their work in advertising, branding, copywriting and commercials.
Cofounded by Chad Carlberg ’95 and Pablo Bressnan ’95, the agency has received many awards for its stellar work, most recently Best Directing and Best Music Score for Daughters of Dogtown from the 2008 National Film Challenge.
“This company is part of a paradigm shift in the media world—a kid with a camera can get more attention on YouTube than a giant ad agency with all the resources on the planet,” says Carlberg. “So we ask ‘Is there a cheaper, more-streamlined way of doing this?’ Our company has positions that require varied capabilities: a photography director is an editor and producer. This allows people to focus more on doing their work—it’s all kinetic here.”
Its quality work has opened doors to larger clients like Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Sony Music | BMG. Carlberg has kept one foot in the documentary world, forming Production Blue with other filmmakers and commercial directors, catering to big agencies, corporations and documentary clients.
Read More... RAPIDS
Once you’ve tasted the waters of Africa you’re sure to come back for another drink.
This African proverb is true for Bruce ’77 and Linda (Cheever) ’78 Wilkinson, who went to Ghana after graduating. Their passion and care for orphans and victims of HIV/AIDS has led them to extraordinary depths of service for which Gordon awarded them the 2008 Alumni of the Year Award.
Bruce, who majored in economics, says of the award, “It’s a little look in the rearview mirror and reminds me of my friends.” Linda, who studied history and education, says, “Gordon was a fabulous school for me. I grew a lot as a woman and a Christian. I’m not sure I would have been challenged the same way at another college.”
“We’ve been commissioned to help widows and orphans by Jesus himself,” says Linda. “I went to Zambia with Bruce knowing I could use my gifts to help others.” Bruce began working for World Vision in 1988 and now heads the RAPIDS (Reaching HIV/AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support) coalition, supporting those affected by AIDS. Linda founded and directs the Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project in Lusaka, a community center for women and children affected by AIDS, offering medical help, education, skill training and provisions.
RAPIDS cares for 250,000 children weekly; it trains, equips and employs 18,500 caregivers, supplying them with 23,000 bikes and care kits; it sends children to school and to clinics, and builds up livelihoods. The Chikumbuso Center supports 60 widows with a microenterprise program; 35 single moms with tailoring and soy production; 300 orphans at the K–5 school; and sponsors 24 grandmothers a month. The work seems overwhelming, but for this couple it’s a special calling. “If you want boring or routine, don’t take our jobs,” says Bruce about their monumental tasks. “But it’s all in a day’s work.”