By Deyanira Romo Rossell
For Marthe Curry ’07 Ph.D., completing doctoral research at the University of the Incarnate Word meant a 30-hour trip to Uganda, lodging in a hut without electricity or running water, with the occasional goat roaming around. The San Antonio native felt right at home.
A requirement for completing her doctorate in International Education and Entrepreneurship from UIW was a six-month internship in an international setting.
“I asked to go to Uganda, and they were happy with me doing that,” said Curry, who had already visited the country three times and had cultivated friendships there.
The knowledge she gleaned from her Ugandan experiences inspired her to follow a career path in global outreach that has spanned eight years and taken her to 13 nations.
“When you get your feet on the ground, that is when you begin to understand what the lectures and texts are all about,” she said from her office as the World Mission development director for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.
Still, she is most comfortable living among the locals, even if it means no electricity or running water, to fulfill her mission of researching and serving emerging nations.
Curry also prefers taking a nontraditional approach to assisting people in these countries where many aid efforts have failed.
“Our goal is not a hand out but a hand up,” Curry said. “We help them see the assets they have and help them develop them, whether it is rain forests, rivers, carving or talent with pottery.”
She is as adept at finding treasure in these countries as she is at finding talent in her volunteers. With a twinkle in her bright blue eyes, she tells the story of her friend Sherry, an interior decorator who thought she had nothing to offer. Curry took her along on a trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where Sherry was immediately put to work refurbishing the parish hall and diocesan offices upon the request of the bishop.
“We challenge people to take their gifts and do extraordinary things to change their world,” said Curry, who is always recruiting volunteers who otherwise wouldn’t consider lending a hand.
Today her office is filled with three large photo boards for an upcoming presentation, specifically highlighting the invaluable contributions of three extraordinary women.
Curry’s face lights up in admiration and fondness as she tells the story of Lyudmila, Kristin and Sr. Kim. Sr. Kim is a Korean-born woman who runs the health clinic in Uganda, hosts religious meetings in neighboring towns and works in the prison holding Bible studies.
Lyudmila’s child was born with disabilities 22 years ago in Belarus. She created two centers for children with disabilities, fighting against the stigma placed on these children in the Soviet Union.
Kristin, a teacher from Tennessee, opened a dental clinic in Liberia with her husband who is a dentist. “She has a heart for street children and orphans. She even adopted an African child to join her two daughters.” Curry said.
This approach of working hand-in-hand with people in these emerging nations has had an immeasurable impact on the people who live there. Yet Curry believes the experience has changed the volunteers in even more profound ways.
In 2009, 548 people participated in short-term missions and 12 people represented the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas as long-term missionaries in six countries.
Curry made her first trip to Uganda in 2002, taking the place of the bishop from the Episcopal Diocese. She had just lost her husband unexpectedly. Her life had changed in an instant, and her decision to take the bishop’s place led her down a path that continues to change the lives of countless people in emerging nations and scores of missionaries who put aside all worldly things to give all they have to make the world a better place.