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17 June 2019 | Binfield, UK [Victor Hulbert]  

How do you instil community and joy in your children when you live in one culture, but come from another? The answer for Judith Nyirenda is simple: “Write a book.”

happy birthday vanaJudith is from Malawi but has lived in the UK since she was 19. She originally studied at Newbold College of higher education before diversifying in her career path, including being the mother of three children. Having worked in journalism and marketing, she wondered how she could show her children to be proud of their home culture; how to do something that is fun with children of other cultures; and how to share a message of goodwill.

The result is ‘Happy birthday, Vana’, a bi-lingual children’s book celebrating her daughter’s fifth birthday in both the English and Chichewa languages. The book has become popular in the local schools and libraries, where she lives in Binfield, England, and she is now getting speaking engagements in London explaining how to get the most joy out of living in two cultures.

happy birthda vana pageShe is quite amused by an English journalist who attempted to read her book to his grandchildren. “This is really the first time I’ve heard an English person trying to read the book like that,” she explained. “My children were watching the recording and said, ‘But he got that wrong! He got that wrong!’ That is part of the joy, just trying”, she pointed out, as she shared with them how the attempt, however badly pronounced, helps bring people together.

At the same time, the journalist’s grandchildren enjoyed the book so much that it became essential to sit Judith down on the same couch and discover her motivation for writing, and to sense the joy that the book has brought her and hundreds of other people.


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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