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Emily Magal & Jim Greenwell, Interviewed by Robin Walden
Emily Magal was an independent Project Manager for commercial real estate in Washington, D.C. Her husband, Jim Greenwell, is an architect. They became year-round residents of Peaks Island, Maine, in 2009. They sponsor Vinaya, who graduated from high school this year.
Emily Magal and Jim Greenwell of Peaks Island, Maine, both feel strongly that education presents a unique opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. “It’s the little things that people do that really make a difference. As an individual, you can’t stop a coup, but you can help give people opportunities that make a difference in their lives and the lives of their families,” says Emily. And so, Emily and Jim began to sponsor Vinaya’s education in 2011. “Vinaya seems like such a nice girl. We have really enjoyed the letters we have received from her over the years.” For example, in this year’s letter, Vinaya shared with Emily and Jim that she loves birds! She said she loves to play and chat with them. Vinaya also told them about losing her beloved grandmother, whom she misses dearly. “We’re so pleased that in spite of the difficulties of the past year, she passed her 12th Standard exams and is now going on to college to become a teacher. When Janet contacted us about continuing to sponsor Vinaya (through the Skill Development Program), we looked at each other, and said, ‘Of course!’”
“We’re so pleased that in spite of the difficulties of the past year, Vinaya passed her 12th Standard exams and is now going on to college to become a teacher.”
The family histories of Emily Magal and Jim Greenwell certainly underscore the importance of education, and would make wonderful movie scripts, truly. Emily’s father, Ivan Magal, escaped from war-torn Eastern Europe during WWII and made his way to the United States with no money and speaking hardly any English. He had met a Mennonite peace worker in Belgium who encouraged him to go to Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It was there that he met Leah Kennel, who had broken with traditional expectations of Mennonite women and left her family’s Pennsylvania farm to study chemistry at EMU. Leah and Ivan married in 1947. Ivan went on to medical school and became a prominent and well-regarded physician in Washington, DC. Over the course of their marriage, Leah and Ivan raised 4 children and traveled widely throughout the world.
Jim’s parents were both from a rural part of Kentucky, near Louisville. His father had an 8th grade education. He worked in a tobacco factory and then a paint factory. Later, he became an entrepreneur, opening a number of grocery stores and a laundromat, and selling cars that he bought at auction in Indianapolis. On his mother’s side, Jim’s aunt was a schoolteacher who started her career in a one-room school while she was still in high school. By taking night school and summer courses, she earned a teaching degree, and eventually a graduate degree. After Jim’s grandfather died suddenly, his grandmother and aunt bought a house right next to the house that Jim and his family lived in. Jim remembers vividly what an influence his grandmother, aunt, mother and older sister had on him growing up. These four women made it clear there was no question about the importance of education. In fact, Jim’s sister got a degree in social work and went on to become a ground-breaking and innovative warden for the largest women’s prison in Kentucky. Jim studied architecture and co-founded an 80+ person architectural firm in Washington, DC.
“As an individual, you can’t stop a coup, but you can help to give people opportunities that make a difference in their lives and the lives of their families”
For Emily, there is another aspect to being a sponsor that stems from her own mother’s struggle to get an education. In Emily’s career and her mother’s life, they both encountered beliefs that womens’ capabilities were inherently limited. They both rejected that concept. Jim and Emily hope that an education will give Vinaya the opportunity to reach her full potential.
Experience first-hand the joy of sponsoring a child in need.
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