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West Coast MCC worker shares her immigration story with African churches

Cathryn Clinton
January 3, 2008

AKRON, Pa. — When Mukarabe Makinto-Inandava talks about leaving her country because of war, being a refugee, and having family members die of AIDS, everyone listens. And then they begin to speak.

As a West Coast MCC immigration worker, Makinto-Inandava finds her own story deepens her ties with other African immigrants and inspires them to open up to her.

Makinto-Inandava was born in Burundi, the youngest of seven children. Even though she was told she couldn’t do it, she refused to give up on her dream of finishing school and went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in English Languages and Literature. She worked as a language specialist until 1993 when war broke out in Burundi, and she went to Kenya.

As she had no legal basis to stay in Kenya, she was told she could join a refugee camp, but Makinto-Inandava was determined to work, and she found a job with U.N. World Food Program (WFP) officials in exile from Rwanda. She eventually went to Rwanda to help reopen the U.N. WFP Agency’s office.

In 1995, she became a U.N. volunteer to Madagascar, and from there she went to Portland State University where she earned a double Masters in Public Health and Public Health Administration.

Makinto-Inandava married George Makinto in 1999, and they later moved to New York where she did advocacy work for developing countries concerning the issues of poverty, war and AIDS. Three of Makinto-Inandava’s sisters and two of her brothers-in-law have died of AIDS.

While they were in New York, Makinto-Inandava and her husband became Christians. They moved to the west coast in 2004. Makinto-Inandava and her husband joined the Mennonite Church in the same year.

Makinto-Inandava, who speaks four languages, has worked as an interpreter in the Immigration courts until recently. In this position she has had the opportunity to hear the stories of many African immigrants.

Makinto-Inandava brings her background and knowledge to her work as an advocate for the African immigrant communities. In September, 2007 she became a Community Church Worker with MCC in southern California where she serves through education, advocacy and documentation and partnership formation. West Coast MCC is partnering with Shalom Ministries of the Pacific and Southwest Mennonite Conference to support her.

In the work of documentation, she refers families to those who can help them with legal advice, fill out forms and give them information about programs.

When she tells her story in the churches it builds trust, because so many can identify with it. This creates a safe environment where immigrant families feel free to ask questions and get help with the issues they face.

When it comes to the work of education, sharing stories of injustice and fostering peace-building, Makinto-Inandava says, “God has anointed us to truthfully share and bring people to reconciliation.”