When Lise Palamarchuk talks about her time in Africa, she lights up the room. Once you spend more time with her, you realize that her personality just does that- lights up the room, and everyone in it. It’s a special quality, but not one that is out of place with someone like Lise- she did, after all, take a year out of her life to just ‘love’ people.
So, she’s just one of those people that it’s impossible to not love in return.
As a teacher, Lise has a close bond with children and spends her days facilitating their learning and development. Lise credits a lot of her decision to go and do good works in Africa to the influence of the children she teaches. “In the classroom, I would always teach year-long projects on global citizenship, and we would look at social justice issues and children just, children are pure, children are innocent and they understand real issues in life. Whereas sometimes when we get older our minds get clouded with ourselves, and so children just see things, and call them out! So when we do projects, they would say things like ‘Well why can’t children in Africa read? Why don’t they have moms to help them?'”
The decision to go to Africa for a year still wasn’t easy, says Lise. “It was hard to make the decision, because I was four years into my career, I was making quite a bit of money for a single girl, and really, was just on the steps of buying a condo and settling down. And then I really felt God saying to me ‘Lise, you can do that. I will bless you. You can be a teacher here, you can buy a condo, and I will bless you. But do you want a higher calling, do you want to step out, do you want to take the risk?'” After a year of contemplating her options, Lise decided that she would go to Africa. “I think the children, really, spurred me on as they asked me questions and as I saw their passion, I thought, Why? Why can’t I go? If this is what I believe in, if this is what I teach children, then I need to go.”
Initially, Lise went to South Africa, but her year in Africa ended up being a trip that lead her all around the continent. Upon arrival in South Africa, she worked with an NGO called Hands at Work, which she explained to us is an organization that acts like scaffolding around the local people working so hard to build strong communities, bolstering them up and supporting their efforts.
Later, Lise had an unexpected opportunity to go to a missions training school in Mozambique, which she describes as a time of being loved, loving people, loving God, and letting God love you. “We just really run into those dark places where people may not want to go and just loving people for who they are, stopping for the one in front of you, and we got to go into many deep deep bush villages and just go and love people.” Through her missions school, she also had the opportunity to go on an outreach to Israel, which was to “bless the land, bless the people, and work along those caring for people”.
One of the greatest impacts of Lise’s trip was on the life of a young person whom she met during her home stay in South Africa. Gift is an nineteen year old young man who is part of a child-headed household about 5 hours from Johannesburg, whose greatest wish was to attend college. Seeing his dedication to his studies, Lise knew that “…Gift…was just really set apart by God. He said to me that he really wanted to go to university. And I had no idea how you apply in South Africa, or what’s going on and I said, ‘Okay, God, Gift wants to go to university.'”
That started a months long plan to get Gift into school, with one of the main concerns being money to send him there. As a child-headed household, Gift’s oldest sister takes care of the three boys younger than her, and does hairdressing to help make ends meet. Despite how hard the whole family works, sometimes, they don’t have enough money to feed the four of them. “They don’t have money, really, at all.” Despite that, Lise was determined to try to help Gift’s dream come true. “We came up with a plan and spent three months of, me driving to the country, the police station and getting the documents stamped and then waiting in the bank line. Waiting. We did that a lot. But we ended up applying to four universities.” Getting into university in South Africa is very competitive due to the number of young people wanting to enroll, and Lise was warned by Gift’s teachers that they may need to apply to many, many more schools. But they had faith- and by a miracle, Gift got in, and recieved scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition.
Today, Lise is back in Edmonton, ready to teach a new group of kids about life and learning. For now, she will be staying in Edmonton, working and saving, and sending enough money back to Gift to help make sure that he has a comfortable life while he’s in school so he can focus on his studies. “Right now, I’ve just been asking family and friends to donate. Because I haven’t worked for… I don’t know, fifteen months… My plan (for raising the money) has just been personal, family and friends, because they know our story. I have written up a little story about it, if people want to donate, but… There’s no tax receipt you know, it’s just going straight to him. Just so that people can be involved in his story.”
This isn’t the end of the road for Lise, and she will be volunteering around Edmonton and with events such as Help Portrait. “I went to Africa, yes. But I am also called here. So just because you go to Africa doesn’t mean, well, that’s where you do your work… We’re called to our communities here, and the broken and the lost here, because there’s broken and lost people here as well.” Lise hopes to volunteer around the world in the future, hopefully back in Africa and maybe one day India as well. “My whole life I’ve always had something in my heart for those that are forgotten, pushed aside, kind of the odd one out- my heart really connects with them.”
“What’s my big dream? I think, the big dream that I have, or that I feel is spoken over my life is a dream of love, and of laying down a lot of the things that I may want, or think I need, to serve and love others just so that they can come to know God and His love.”
If you would like more information about the NGO’s, charities, or fundraising opportunities mentioned in this post, please contact Game Changers directly.