Winter 2018

36 | WINTER 2018 ON A MISSION Tapiwa Gwenlisa “Gwen” Marange founded the International Albinism Awareness Initia- tive in Zimbabwe in 2015. Since then, she’s led the nation’s first International Albinism Awareness Day and organized a team to help women, teens, and children with Albinism in a country where they are misunderstood, stigma- tized and mistreated. The first time I saw Gwen in the lobby of the nursing home where I live, I felt she was both friendly and shy at the same time. She had to be the sister of our preacher Godwill. Their resemblance went far beyond their unusual skin pigmentation due to Albinism and the blind-thick glasses they wear (another one of albinism’s “gifts.”) Gwen was in America at the invitation of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Every year, a thousand of Africa’s brightest and best young minds are chosen to learn side by side with American businesses. This year, Gwen was one of twenty-five peo- ple sent to Lincoln, Nebraska. “We are the next generation of African leaders,” she said. “We want to change the way people see Afri- ca.” Looking at her radiant, confident beauty, I believe it will happen. It was Lincoln’s first year hosting the event, and media coverage was minimal. When God caused our paths to cross, I offered my writing skills to share Gwen’s story. I wanted to share this remarkable woman with as many people as possible. Only God could cause the paths of a senior citi- zen from New England and a young woman from Zimbabwe to cross in a nursing home in Oklaho- ma. Did I ever expect to write about an interna- tional difference maker? No, but God knew our paths would cross. Did Gwen wonder how to spread the word about her mission in America? God arranged our meeting, although I wouldn’t consider my- self the ideal messenger. As people say, it’s a God-thing. God’s ways and God’s thoughts direct the outcome. God called Gwen to making albinism awareness her life’s work through a mothers’ support group she joined after her divorce. People with albinism comprise almost three percent of Zimbabwe’s population of fourteen mil- lion. Albinism is a genetic condition where a per- son has a congenital absence of pigment in their skin, hairs, and eyes. Their culture in general attaches a stigma to people born with albinism. In a country with a single racial identity (over 99% African), onlookers who misunderstand the genetic origins of albinism often wonder if the WhenPathsCross by DARLENE FRANKLIN