TEAM MEMBER HIGHLIGHT:
Tina was part of a group that helped found Sozo International in 2002. Her skills at vision casting, structural organization, and development widened the scope of Sozo’s service to the Afghan people until 2008. After using her talents to work with other international humanitarian organizations, Tina returned to Sozo in 2014, and now leads the organization as Executive Director. Tina has developed many friendships and lasting relationships among the Afghan people. Helping to affect positive transformation is something she believes she was "born" to do.
Q: Tina, how long have you been involved with Sozo International?
Tina: I feel so fortunate to have been involved with Sozo since the beginning. I was working with an organization that saw the great need and opportunity in Afghanistan and wanted to commit to being part of a better future there. They launched Sozo in 2003. I stayed connected until 2008 and then came on staff in 2014
Q. What drew you to Sozo’s work/mission? What need do you see that existed then or now that Sozo met and/or continues to fulfill?
T: The beauty of the Afghan people is so dynamic. They are resilient, creative and show such great love toward their guests. I was so struck by the physical reality (war torn, no access to food/water, etc) and the contrast of the people who live in this reality. There is such a strong sense of partnership in everything Sozo does. We are not doing “for” them, but very much "with" them. They see their role in the betterment of life and welcome those that want to come alongside. I see Sozo partnering through equipping Afghans to take steps toward self-reliance. I think we also bring a sense of community and encouragement that helps our friends there see they are not alone and there is hope.
Q. Has your involvement with Sozo impacted you in a way you never expected?
T: I have learned so much from the Afghan people. I have seen strength and courage exhibited in so many difficult circumstances. I think that has, in turn, made me stronger. It has strengthened my relationship with God, deepened my faith and my prayer life.
Q. What is the biggest challenge Sozo faces?
T: The work we do is in such a difficult environment. The people we serve are fighting for the betterment of their families and their country. They are looking for hope. We want to be part of real change in their lives. We are hopeful that the expansion of our work in NYC will expose more people to the needs and opportunities among Afghans and they can be trained in NYC for fruitful service in the country.
Q. What do you wish people knew about Afghanistan or Afghans?
T: They are incredibly strong, gracious and beautiful people. The hospitality you experience with them is so humbling. As a follower of Jesus, myself, I see so many similarities to stories in our book about how the people in those times welcomed strangers, gave sacrificially to their guests, etc. So this is a constant example and encouragement to me to live likewise.
Q. What would you tell a potential supporter about WHY this cause is so important?
T: I believe to whom much is given, much is required. So, when I look around at the tremendous opportunities we have here in the US, I can’t imagine it is not what God intended, that we share. I have also seen firsthand how a little goes such a long way toward changing someone’s future. It reminds me of the story in the book of John where a boy offered his small lunch and Jesus used it to feed thousands. I see that multiplication in our programs. We give a little and God multiplies its impact.
Q. What is your biggest goal for Sozo in the coming year?
T: That we raise up more workers for the programs in Afghanistan. A week, a month, or years – we need people. I am also super excited for the expansion into NYC. Queens hasmore than 35,000 Afghans living there and I believe God has big plans for how we can serve them, learn from them, and experience community in new ways.
Q. Tell us about yourself!
T: I never dreamed that God would give me the opportunities He has. I grew up in the south end of Louisville, KY and remember thinking that one day maybe I would go on a trip to California. God has allowed me to see Him at work in so many countries and have deep friendships with people around the world. I love to hang out with my nieces and nephews, spending time with friends and Rockies baseball. I am in a season of transition as I move from Lafayette, CO to Queens, NY.
Q. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want to have with you and why?
T: My ipod full of podcasts and music, my kindle and a friend. That would look a lot like my vacations.
Q. Who has inspired you in your life and why?
T: This is hard. Lots of people are inspiring. My mom, Russ and Jane Summay, Florence Muindi… but as I reflect on where I am right this minute – I have to say that those young adults in Sozo's diploma of business education program inspire me. They are the hope of their country. They are the bridge between the past and the future. The responsibilities they hold in their families while trying to create a path that was not available to past generations is amazing. They forge ahead despite daunting obstacles. One young woman said that when she leaves for the training program classes at Sozo, she is sure to tell each family member goodbye and she loves them. She is then so thankful at the end of the day when each of them arrives safely back at home. Such courage and determination is inspiring.