Helping those in need

Wright State MPA student makes an impact in the community in Dayton and Burundi

Angela Bingaya, a Master of Public Administration student at Wright State, helps people in need in Burundi and Dayton through her family’s nonprofit organization.

Can one person make a difference in the world? Angela Bingaya has an answer: Yes. Actually, three individuals: her mother, her sister and herself.

Bingaya is pursuing her second degree from Wright State University to help even more people than she is now through her family-run organization operating out of their homeland of Burundi and in Dayton.

Bingaya, who was born and raised in Columbus, is on track to graduate in the spring of 2024 with a Master of Public Administration from Wright State’s School of Social Sciences and International Studies. It builds on the bachelor’s degree in political science that she earned from Wright State in 2021.

She has lived in Dayton since her sister, Bembeleza, moved to the area to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, which she earned in 2017. Bembeleza is now a student in Wright State’s Master of Public Health program.

Angela Bingaya said she moved because of health reasons and to be with her sister in case of emergency. She stayed for her master’s program because Wright State felt comfortable. That comfort extends to her course of study for the MPA.

“I naturally like government, public policy and law. This major seemed to fit me the most,” she said.

Where those three likes converge is helping those in need. Bingaya helps with her sister and her mother, Pauline Bankesha, who in 2019 returned to her native Burundi to start the nonprofit organization Zion Highway Mission. The name describes a city, Zion, and represents people who take the path on the highway, the highest way being love for others, Bingaya said. It expresses its mission to help those needing food and assistance, especially children.

Pauline Bankesha, an ordained minister, a nurse and a nutritionist, one day decided it was time to act on her call to help others, starting with the children in her home country.

“Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. A lot of children don’t have enough food, and their parents can’t feed them,” Bingaya said.

So Bankesha flew to Burundi, got situated in a house and on Saturdays and Sundays started helping children in villages she was familiar with, providing food, clothing and school supplies.

Often Bingaya and her sister have accompanied their mother with work on the ground and brought supplies. They are also the primary fundraisers, keeping the effort going.

At the same time, the three started a smaller unit of the organization in Dayton focusing on providing a safe haven for teenagers and young adults in need of guidance in life.

“We’re trying to help direct them back into school or back on track with their lives, whether that means helping them get into school or find a job so they can continue to grow stably into adulthood,” Bingaya said.

So far, the family has helped two people: a young girl who was recommended to them by another ministry and a young man who was facing homelessness. The young man was of college age but because he came from the foster care system never had enough stability to think about college. Now, he is enrolled at Wright State because of the family’s assistance.

The family focuses on youths, Bingaya said, because “they’re going to turn into the adults running our society, and hopefully if we give them a good chance, they will make better choices and decisions than we are for our collective future.”

Bingaya has earned high marks as a student in the Master of Public Administration program.

“Angela is the student every professor wants,” said Daniel Warshawsky, Ph.D., associate professor of geography and director of the MPA program. “She not only thrives inside the classroom but she is engaged in every aspect of being a student at Wright State.”

For instance, Bingaya has served as the student representative on the MPA advisory board, presented at Wright State’s Celebration of Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities and volunteered at Graduate Program Open Houses.

“Most importantly, Angela is constantly pushing her professors and the program to explore new pathways to learning,” Warshawsky said. “Angela is smart, ambitious and will undoubtedly make a meaningful contribution to the field of public administration.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Bingaya wanted to go to law school, “but things didn’t work out the way I wanted. Still, it’s a goal because I love law and public service.”

Bingaya said that Zion Highway Mission is the “basis for who I am and what I want to do — social justice, public service and helping those in need. Something my mother always taught us is to give of what we have to fill a need.”

She is in the process of deciding whether she wants to pursue a career in the legal system, a government agency or the nonprofit sector.

“I have a passion to serve people in a bigger way,” she said.

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