Hannah Munson: Teacher and student

Summer Hoagland-Abernathy, Editor-in-Chief

IVCC Learning Commons employee Hannah Munson may have tutored you on your ENG-1002 midterm paper, but she has also tutored Middle Eastern children and prostitutes from Thailand.

Munson knew a childhood akin to many other Illinois Valley residents, but she always knew that she wanted to see the world and help people.

For this reason, when a family friend helped to found the Christian group Youth With a Mission (YWAM), Munson, at age 18, packed her bags and charged into the unknown.

When she first started with the mission group, Munson found while working with prostitutes in Thailand that not only did she want to help people, she wanted to help the people that society looked down upon.

Said Munson, “Women don’t really have a voice in the Middle East, and so I wanted to bring a voice to those women and to tell them that they are valuable… I worked with prostitutes—which, I’m not a prostitute—but I worked with them, helping them leave prostitution and find jobs and get educated.”

The goal of YWAM’s work with Thai prostitutes was to get them out of the profession and to educate them, to help them realize that with help, there were safer ways to make a living.

Munson explained, “We were able to help one of the prostitutes successfully leave prostitution, and now I think she might be in the US, going to school somewhere.”

But because of the self-discovery what Munson made in Thailand, at 21 years old, she made the switch to the Middle East, where she found yet another piece of herself. And this rumination actually led her back to IVCC after years away from home.

With a team of eight, Munson helped take over an entire school in Lebanon after learning that the children within were not receiving all the education that they should have been.

Assisted by translators and older students, Munson taught art and the building blocks of the English language to a class of 24 five-to-seven-year old, Arabic-speaking children.

Of course, a task like this did not come without trials, but the trials did not come without reward.

“In Lebanon… we had all different sects of Islam, and we also had different family lines, and there was a lot of bitterness between them, and, actually, I got very good at wrestling little children down to the ground because they tried to beat each other… We had to make sure the children didn’t bring knives or weapons,” said Munson.

“[But] we were with them until 7:00 p.m. at night because we would also be with them to drop them off at home, and then we would go home—we’d eat a quick dinner—and then we’d go out and just walk around the village and all the children would be like, ‘Miss Hannah, Miss Hannah!’

“And so we’d sit in their house until midnight drinking coffee and just talking with them and being with them. And of course it was a missions-based thing, and so we had lots of opportunities to just really instill value into who they are and let them know that they are valuable and loved.”

Now equipped with these experiences and a lifetime of travel in a few short years, Munson is back in the Illinois Valley at IVCC, preparing herself for a career of teaching English to children who have been trodden on by the dangers of third-world nations.

“I really do love IVCC. I feel like it was such a good way to step back into this world and reintegrate myself into this culture and just getting back into the swing of school.”

But reintegration seems to be a skill that comes naturally to Munson with a nearly year-long barista position at local cafe Jeremiah Joe Coffee and an ever-growing artistic reach in the community.

“We love having Hannah here because she does a lot of our signs, and we love her genius. We’re so glad we get to showcase that… And it’s really fun to watch her work and create,” said Jeremiah Joe manager Karole Wilson.

And although Munson currently designs the welcome board art at Jeremiah Joe, her talents have been known in the area long before this position.

A year before she left with YWAM, Munson won her district’s first prize in the Congressional Art Competition with her drawing “A Hero’s Stolen Heart” (2013).

Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who announced the winner of the competition, commented in a press release, “I was amazed by the emotion and playfulness captured in Hannah’s work.”

Although moving from country to country is never a simple task, with this growing list of qualifications, Munson hopes to make the transition from the Illinois Valley back to her mission work as effortless as possible.

As a degree will aid immensely in the Visa process and in bringing worldly knowledge to the children of third-world nations, IVCC is the first step in an international teaching career for Munson.

Submitted Photo
Hannah Munson plays with Thai children on a makeshift soccer field where YWAM bonds with locals.