Interview: Seeking to Understand Different Cultures

Amanda Geleynse is the Communications Coordinator for WOW (Working for Orphans and Widows). WOW equips the Church to care for orphans, widows and the vulnerable in sub-Saharan Africa. Her job is to tell stories of God’s work in their lives through publications, social media and speaking engagements. In her current role, Amanda is grateful that she has the opportunity to advocate on behalf of countless orphans and widows.

How did you first become involved with Working for Orphans and Widows (WOW)?

I had been overseas in northern Thailand working as a case worker, with mostly teenage girls who had been sexually exploited, sold into bars or brothels and then been rescued.
I was there for a year and then I came home for various reasons. I really had loved being able to work on the ground in the field with a non-profit (although I had experience working with non-profits before)

But after studying international development, I wanted to get an idea on what it was like to work on the other side of the fence and work with a non-profit in a more administrative role. At the time I had been working part-time at another job and looking for more work and a friend of mine actually sent me this job posting to cover someone’s maternity leave. I applied for it and got the position.

Upon first looking at the website for Working with Orphans and Widows (WOW), I found that I really liked the model of WOW, especially because it’s all about partnership.
We don’t just go over and do things, but we partner with the local church and organizations that are born out of the churches in Malawi, Zambia and Uganda. We come alongside them to provide resources and build their capacity and sustainability. The local community runs everything; they are the decision makers. It’s their community and it’s their culture.

Here at WOW, we spread the Biblical message of caring for orphans and widows, and from there local leaders catch that vision and decide how they are going to care for their community. We want to know the best way to help others that is going to be culturally relevant. And then we partner with that community and look for ways in which we can support them. This is what first drew me into the organization.

Share any lessons you may have learned from your experience in Thailand.

One of the big ones was that all the case workers were all from Australia or the United States. I was the only Canadian and none of us were Thai. We needed a translator in order to speak with the girls.

As a white Canadian living in Thailand, working with Thai people I quickly realized my own limitations—I didn’t know much about Thai culture. Of course, I can always learn, but what I found was that it proved to be much better when the case worker was a Thai person.

This was a huge lesson for us to empower people within their communities to work within their own communities. At the end of my time there we started hiring more Thai case workers, who had so many more breakthroughs with the girls over a two month period—It took me over a year.

Another experience I had

Want to know what else Amanda had to say? I bet you do!

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Speak The Words Communications

Speak The Words Communications is a faith-based media platform that features stories on social issues within the community and worldwide. Through our media, we hope to showcase how faith and justice often intersect.

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