First-year students had the opportunity to listen and ask questions to Kris Holloway about her experience writing “Monique and the Mango Rains” in an Identity, Culture and Community plenary session on Monday, Nov. 2.

Holloway, an Ohio native, is the author of “Monique and the Mango Rains,” a required text for ICC classes since 2017 that highlights the story of Monique Dembele, a midwife and healthcare worker from Mali, West Africa. Holloway tells the story of Monique after revisiting the village of Nampossela following her time as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1989.

Holloway started by challenging listeners to think about and understand the mission statement of Goshen College: “To transform local and global communities through courageous, creative and compassionate leaders.” 

She made the point that achieving this is no small task and offered advice for first steps. 

“Leaving the safety and security of belonging to one community, letting go of some part of your identity to break the bonds of city, state or country to truly belong to the world,” Holloway said. “You can’t lead the world unless you belong to it.”

Writing a book about the life of Dembele was not something Holloway had in mind during her first time in Mali.

With a background in the sciences and earning her master’s degree in public health from Michigan University, it wasn’t until after her service with the Peace Corps that Holloway decided to write this book.

And once Dembele passed away, she felt that her story needed to be told. 

“People aren’t going to care if she died if they don’t understand the value of her life,” Holloway said. “We don’t have a lot of first person stories of rural women in West Africa.”

Holloway encouraged the first-year students that there are plenty of people like herself that want to provide a voice to communities and be of service, but just need more support to keep going.

Following her introduction, she spent time answering questions from a student representative from each ICC class.

Suzanne Ehst, professor of education and director of secondary education, said Holloway’s experiences and writing fit well with the college’s mission for service.

“[Monique and the Mango Rains] is an excellent introduction to how we want our students to engage global education and global civic action,” Ehst said. “We can talk about these values in the abstract, but this narrative details the complexities, difficulties, and benefits of choosing to embed oneself in another culture for an extended period of time. The memoir does an especially good job of showing how those of us from wealthy nations might enter communities in developing countries in a way that disrupts the power imbalances in the traditional ‘service’ model.”

Holloway is currently the president and CEO of The Center for International Studies Abroad which gives the chance for students to study, work or volunteer abroad to have a similar experience as she did.