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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Malawi native hopes to build bridges with talk about her culture

Spokane Public Library will continue its series of discussions and events in honor of Black History Month with a presentation on Malawi on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the To Be Continued library branch inside the NorthTown Mall.

“Malawi and the Warm Heart of Africa” will be presented by Malawi native Christina Kamkosi. She has lived in the Spokane area for the past 10 years, but grew up in Malawi in southeastern Africa.

Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa because of the kindness and generosity of its people, Kamkosi said.

“Malawi is an impoverished country,” she said. “The ones who don’t have a lot are the ones who are the most generous.”

Many Malawians live on $1 a day or less, she said. Her parents were both teachers and later school administrators, so the family was comfortable.

“I spent most of my time in the capital city (Lilongwe),” she said.

Unsurprisingly, her mother was a big believer in the power of education. She used to tell her daughter to get an education because no one could ever take that away from her. While she was attending college, Kamkosi met a missionary family and told them about her dream to attend graduate school. The family was from the Spokane area and suggested she apply to Whitworth University.

At first Kamkosi planned to go back to Malawi after she earned her MBA in international development from Whitworth. But she found herself staying here instead after her parents both died. “It made it hard for me to feel grounded in Malawi,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out where my home is.”

She currently works for Providence Health as the senior program manager for clinical effectiveness.

Kamkosi plans to talk about her country and her culture on Saturday as well as her struggles to fit in here.

“It’s been really hard to be in America and be black,” she said. “I’m trying to share a little bit about where I come from. I come from a place where community is important. I have found it hard to live in an individualist culture.”

She likes to talk to people about themselves as a way to break the ice when she meets new people.

“I’m really fascinated by people’s stories,” she said. “I just feel like we’re in an age where people don’t talk to each other anymore.”

She said people she meets often have misconceptions about what it’s like in Malawi.

“I’ve had people ask me if I grew up in a tree house,” she said.

Kamkosi said she believes knowledge is power and wants to educate people about her culture. “I think I’m here to teach and what a beautiful way to teach than by telling my story,” she said.

She plans to show pictures from her time in Malawi as a child and when she went back last year to visit her brother and extended family. She hopes if people learn more about her culture, they won’t fear it. She also hopes teaching others about Malawi will help her create that sense of community she’s looking for.

“I think people are afraid of what they don’t know,” she said. “I’m not a threat to anybody. If you feel like you’re not known, you don’t feel like you belong.”

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