FROM NEWS STORIES AND PERSONAL ACCOUNTS, the ideas we have about humanitarian work or missionary service often involve providing medical care to those in need, teaching English as a second language, or providing emergency services after a natural disaster. In The Golden Triangle service trip 20 years ago, most of the team members were teachers, nurses, and social workers therefore most of the activities were healthcare related. Although the experience was certainly an eye opener and expended my perspective, I was only a runner there and thought I could serve in a tangible way.

I am a designer/artist—not a healthcare provider or a social worker, and English is not my mother-tongue—which does not fit in any typical profile of a humanitarian/missionary worker. With the heart and personality to provide services for people’s needs, over the years I have been designing pro-bono for non-profits and Christian organizations, also doing miscellaneous volunteering work. Still perplexed on how to contribute more with my creative talent, I seek directions by having plenty of soul searching, discussing with others, and praying for wisdom.

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In early March of this year, for the first-time I had the privilege of being involved in a design project with—a nonprofit formed by IDEO, a global design firm I greatly admire. Just a month ago I was also involved in a newly formed initiative called The Amplify Program, a series of ten design and innovation challenges over five years to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty worldwide. First challenge is here.

Incredibly, the first design project involves Zambia, the second Amplify Challenge is how parents in low-resource communities can give their children the best possible start in life. Even more amazing is the challenge is happening in Tanzania—Zambia’s next door neighbor—on August 18 the Monday our team is visiting the communities in Mufulira, Zambia!

By these design experience, collaborating with the people at, and learning more about their approach and method I have found the answer. Why conform/adapt to the norm of a typical humanitarian profile while I have been given my creativity talents and skills? I know I am unconventional anyway. 😉

For the Zambia trip, I am inspired to conduct co-creative activities with the children I will be spending time with. I am aware local materials is scarce yet who says we need pen and paper to draw and using computer technologies to make things with? I know I will be amazed by the kids’ imagination and their creative expression.

All of us are unique yet we are born with a set of similar basic ingredients—eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth, hands, feet, a body, a heart, a brain, and a soul. We are given our uniqueness for a purpose. Offer what we have. Be aware, be flexable, be humble, be teachable, be available, and most importantly, be present.

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Listening is more important than talking, I absolutely agree!


6 days to embarkation. 


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