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Distinguished Alumna Award

Ida Kaastra Mutoigo graduated from Dordt College in 1982, and then took additional courses at the University of Guelph, in her home province of Ontario, to study international development with an emphasis on agriculture.

“At that time we still thought that if we looked hard enough, we’d find a solution to poverty through agriculture,” she says. In 1985, armed with what she’d learned, she moved to Uganda to work with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.

“The fit was good because agriculture is done mainly by women in Uganda,” she says. She spent nine years there, the last five as the director of CRWRC operations in Uganda. In that role, she helped CRWRC partner with other Christian organizations to better serve the area, she mentored staff members, she helped plan development activities, and she conducted community assessments.

In 1992 she married her husband, James, and after their first child was born in 1994, the Mutoigos moved to Canada.

Mutoigo thought she’d be a stay-at-home mom for a while, but soon found herself applying for a job with the Christian Reformed Church (CRCNA) in Canada. CRCNA Canada wanted to set up an organization called Servicelink, and she was hired to make the program happen. She got Servicelink off the ground and today it is a thriving program in the United States as well, connecting individuals and groups with needs across the continent and around the world.

Six years later, in 2000, after she had completed a master’s degree, CRWRC needed a team leader for Eastern and Southern Africa. Mutoigo and her family, now five members, were convicted through prayer that God was leading them back to Uganda.

Mutoigo traveled across Africa supporting CRWRC staff, evaluating what was going well and what should be improved. The HIV/AIDS crisis was exploding. Mutoigo along with African church partners and staff helped shape a vision for where the needs were greatest and how issues of justice, so obviously a factor in the crisis, could be addressed. CRWRC continues to receive and manage several large grants, including some from USAID, that address this crisis.

Mutoigo’s most significant contribution during this time, she believes, was the development of a leadership training program based at Uganda Christian University.

From her master’s program studies she learned that to be effective, organizations needed to identify the primary factor that would enable their vision to bear fruit. “Train a leader, impact a community” became their motto.

“So many leaders don’t understand their role or they’ve lost their passion,” she says. She found that some leaders couldn’t manage finances, others lacked technical skills. Today more than one hundred Africans—including one Muslim who in the process became a Christian—have completed the degree or diploma program and are at work in the churches and communities in their countries.

“We’re very concerned with communities,” says Mutoigo. Many Western NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) offering relief have lost their effectiveness because they’ve become so driven by money and the individual priorities of the people who give that money.” She believes CRWRC and Christian organizations need to be servant leaders, finding what people and communities genuinely need rather than imposing their Western cultural ideas on them.

This past December Mutoigo and her family moved back to Canada, this time for her to take on the responsibility of being CRWRC Director in Canada.

Mutoigo’s enthusiasm for the work of CRWRC is contagious. She is energized both by the communities around the world that she visits and by the volunteers and friends who generously support the work being done.

“We hear so much that is negative about our culture,” she says, “but I see many people who are selfless and committed to giving in ways that empower others. When you put your faith and trust in God and let his people work, amazing things result.” For more information visit http://www.crna.org/pages/servicelink_front.cfm