President Chris introduced Jireh Mabamba, who attends UMD, started the UMD Rotaract club, and has worked with President Chris to facilitate RYLA programs. ​
Jireh said he would start by telling us about his background. He was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a French speaking country in central Africa. His father is a Pentecostal pastor and Geography teacher, who spoke out in his community against child soldier recruitment. This put his life in jeopardy, so he and his family fled immediately and ended up in Durban, South Africa, where they took refuge at a church. Their family of 8 had to start over by finding menial jobs to survive. The children, 3 girls and 3 boys, attended a government school for foreigners, where he excelled at basketball. He wanted to attend high school, but you need to apply and few are accepted. He applied anyway to Durban High School, a boys' school of top notch quality. Very elite. He was not accepted. Then a basketball scholarship became available, so he tried out and got it. He was the first student from his government school to attend Durban High School. He attended for 5 years and became very involved, especially with foreign exchange students, where he learned about Rotary Youth Exchange. He was elected Vice President of the student government, graduated, and was offered a Rotary Youth Exchange scholarship to America to study one year at Duluth East High School, hosted by Duluth Club 25. It was different with snow outside and girls in school, but fun and a good experience. Rotarians helped him apply for college at UMD, where he is now a student and staying with a host family. He feels that his whole life is made up of little miracles and wanted to give back, so he started a Rotaract Club at UMD. The club has grown and successfully raised $14,000 for CHUM, Life House, and other Duluth charities. Jireh told how his family in South Africa is now in danger again because of the xenophobia which recently is causing violence against foreigners. Two of his sisters are in America, one in Virginia and one in Connecticut, and the rest of  his family is seeking refuge in a safe country. He ended by saying, "That is my story". Everyone was moved and thought indeed that his story was one of great miracles.
Excerpts taken from the Cloquet Rotary log, edited by Rachel Martin.