Nothing in the world terrifies her more, says Divine Muragijimana '08, than not fulfilling her destiny.
But anyone who has ever met her will quickly realize Divine has no reason for concern.
“I have always believed that “to whom much is given, much is required,” she says, without arrogance. “Not in the Spiderman [movie-quote]-sense, but in the sense we all have been blessed with talents, some more than others – and it is a shame if the one who’s bestowed with more talents does nothing with it. Of all the parables in the Bible, one of them has always stood out – the parable of the talents. I have always been scared to be that person who ends up hoarding the talents, and giving back what was given to me. I want to give double, if not more than what has been bestowed upon me.”
At soon-to-be 29, her talents are evident - and celebrated.
By day, Divine works as a consultant for a firm she started in 2011, Savoir Faire, which has become known as one of the leading and most-affordable, business-driven, and entrepreneurial-minded consulting firms for African organizations and businesses.
"We assist our clients to progress to the next level in delivering their message to their target markets, acquiring their ultimate positioning and adapting to the changes in a technologically advanced age. We do this by advising them on marketing campaigns, branding through events, and helping them develop lasting strategies on growth," she says. "I work with a diverse group of clients, but the majority of the clients are African businesses and organizations. The list of clients continues to grow, and I am currently looking to expand."
By nights, weekends, and holidays, she's the co-founder and president of The Council of Young African Leaders, an organization meant to inspire the next generation of African leaders by challenging their ideas and thoughts in appreciation of Africa's diversity.
As a result of the 1993 civil war in her native Burundi, Divine had lived in four African countries before transitioning to a life in the United States at the age of 15, first landing as a high school student in West Virginia, then coming to Malone University to major in liberal arts, choosing as her components political science, community health, and history. She also has earned a master's degree from CUNY Brooklyn College in 2012, where she studied urban policy and administration. She is fluent in English, Swahili, Kirundi, and Spanish.
The daughter of a powerful bishop (and political activist), Divine was born into the spotlight, leading worship at the age of six, and starting prayer clubs and taking leadership roles on missions trips before hitting puberty. But much of it felt like an act.
"Coming to Malone, I found myself 'alone' in the sense that no one was pressuring me to go to church every Sunday, no one was watching me read my Bible," she says. "In those years, I had to decide where I stood as far as God and I were concerned. At Malone, I grew into my faith. I was challenged to face myself in a very raw sense. Seeing faith as 'optional' made me realize just how much I depended on God, and just how much He cared for me."
Also while at Malone, Divine says she began to heal from the scars of her war-torn childhood and begin to appreciate her roots.
"After my experiences in Burundi and Kenya, I was ready to give up on all things Africa," she recalls. "I had been determined to find a new path, and forget the pain, suffering, and disappointments. As a teenager uprooted from friends and family, I had to choose to be stuck in my past or forge new paths. No one told me through that that forging new paths did not mean forgetting where I come from. With guidance from professors like Dr. Scott Waalkes, and mentors Brenda Stevens and Chris Abrams, I learned to love and accept where I came from, warts and all."
Divine is still working to balance her two worlds, striving to positively impact the land of her birth while making a life for herself in New York City.
"Until the summer of 2012, I did not realize that being in the States made a huge difference to Africa/Burundi. Being a #YALA (Young African Living Abroad) I have had a different advantage that I have learned different ways of achieving goals, different systems of governance, civic engagement, and different social values," she says. "The trick now is how to integrate these lessons without losing the essence of who and what Africa is. Nowadays, we see a rush of young Africans going back home, and they end up becoming the problem because they have not found a way to marry their education with the realities on the ground and in their communities."
When Divine was a young girl, she was a recipient of Operation Christmas Child, a gift that meant a lot to her.
"To a child who was struggling with an identity of being a refugee in a country where war followed me, OC was a blessing – simply put. To this day, I still remember how I felt opening my box and finding all these goodies – and a letter from someone who did not know me, but someone had put some thought and love in putting together these gifts," she remembers. "Years later, I still take the time to put together a couple of boxes for the program. I might have grown up, but another child somewhere can be blessed also. And hopefully someday, the child will remember to pay it forward."
Divine (right) with her mother and grandfather in Burundi during a visit in 2012.