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John Panga in Iraq

‘ZOA is really here’

It was clear to him from an early age that he wanted to be a blessing to others. John Panga is happy to be working as a country director for ZOA. “ZOA does not just say ‘we are here’, but really is,” he states.

Country director John Panga:

‘Life happens in the field’

Growing up in India’s tribal belt, John Panga witnessed poverty up close and saw the consequence it has on people’s lives and worth. It was clear to him from an early age, that he wanted to make a difference and be a blessing to others. He prefers to be in the field with people. “That is where life happens.”

John went to study agriculture with a strong sense of purpose: helping to alleviate poverty through improving people’s livelihoods. When he heard about the country director position at ZOA, he had been working in Iraq for three years as the technical advisor for livelihoods & agriculture with an NGO. It took him some months of careful consideration before joining ZOA in May of 2022.

John Panga in Iraq

Witness of God's grace

“At the time I was working for a faith-based humanitarian organisation with a missionary goal,” John explains, “and I was not sure if ZOA, adhering to the humanitarian standard of neutrality, would match with my personal calling as a Christian.”

During his deliberations, however, John would see ZOA-employees in the local church as active members and firm believers. He discovered that ZOA upholds a strong Christian identity and that he could be a witness of God’s grace through loving deeds. 

People at the centre

What eventually won John over, was ZOA’s core value of putting people at the centre. “When we fail to keep people at the centre of all our intentions and activities, we lose our way and start to think too economically,” he states. “My purpose is to help improve people’s lives. Therefore, they must be the focal point of all we do.” 

John Panga in Iraq

Another important aspect for John to join ZOA, was the hands-on mentality and operational presence. “ZOA not just says ‘we are here’, but really is. Running our own operations, working directly together with beneficiaries and local partners, is what excites me,” he says. “I do not want to just sit in an office, but be in the field with the people. Because life happens in the field.”

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