Iowa Resource for International Service is deeply saddened to announce the death of one of our beloved Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study alumni. Elia Peter Homange died October 30, 2011 in Arusha from malaria and typhoid fever at the age of seventeen. As a part of the KL-YES program from 2009-2010, Elia was hosted by Marsha and Mark Witte from DeWitt, Iowa and attended Central Clinton High School.

In a poem Elia wrote, he described his loving host family as, “a perfect fit for me.” As a matter of fact, Elia fit right in everywhere he went. While many knew him for being quiet, his life was anything but. Elia made the most of his days in America by participating in basketball, cross-country and soccer. He volunteered regularly in his host community by educating others about Tanzania and the Maasai culture, working at the Fall Children’s Fair in DeWitt, packaging Thanksgiving meals for the less fortunate and visiting the local nursing home.

Elia and his teammates before a Central Lincoln Sabers basketball game

When Elia wasn’t volunteering and helping others around the community, he spent much of his time at his host family’s church where he was very popular with the youth group. Elia was also an excellent student, making the honor roll several times. His host mother, Marsha, said, “We are amazed at how much time he can spend poring over a physics textbook just for fun.” Elia even attended a few classes when it was no longer required. In his free time he enjoyed shooting baskets, helping around the house, and got the opportunity to attend school dances, a University of Iowa football game and boat on the Mississippi River.

Host parents, Marsha and Mark, celebrating Elia's graduation

We offer our sincere condolences to Elia’s family and many friends for the tragic loss of such a young and promising life. YES alumni students in Tanzania have traveled to offer their personal condolences to the family and messages from Central Clinton High School students and others are pouring in to Elia’s Facebook page. Elia Homange’s dedication to the community, desire to learn and compassion for others sets an example for not just KL-YES students, but the world. In his short time with us, Elia proved the importance of living each day like it’s your last.

11 Responses

  1. It breaks my heart when a young man of overwhelming talent and humility is unable to fulfil his potential….when its all preventable…

  2. Im deeply grieved about the passing of my dear friend! A true and serene friend that i always enjoyed conversing with,and indeed playing soccer. Elia will be dearly missed! May He rest in peace

  3. What a sad moment! Elia:is really a great, fabulous, awesome and wonderful brother. May your gentle soul rest in peace. Hahh! a great lost…

    1. It was interesting to have these comments in our in-box this afternoon. Recently we received a call from IRIS about hosting a student or suggesting a host family. Thoughts of Elia come often. We will never forget the young man from Tanzania who spent a year in DeWitt enriching our lives. Elia made an impression on everyone he met. We are still able to correspond with Elia’s family through e-mails with their neighbor in Arusha. We send occasional cards and gifts. It is not the same as following Elia’s progress in school and continuing to dream of a better future for him.

      It also made us realize that we have never reported to IRIS the gifts given to fight malaria in honor of Elia. His high school classmates at Central conducted a fund drive during their senior year by selling wristbands with the motto inspired by Elia’s poem: “Then the day came and I saw. . . the end of malaria.” The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had launched a Malaria Campaign with a goal of raising $15 million by 2015. Our congregation, Faith Lutheran in Calamus, made the ELCA Malaria Campaign a focus of extra giving in 2012 in honor of Elia. Projects by the women of the church, offerings at Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, monthly “noisy offerings” at worship, and proceeds from Lenten and Advent meals brought in over $5,000 to fight malaria. Immediately following Elia’s death, our daughters set up a team on the “Nothing But Nets” site. Gifts to “Nothing But Nets” in memory of Elia totaled nearly $2,500. It is some comfort to know that Elia’s death brought attention to this deadly disease and provided funding for bed nets, malaria treatment, and education.

      May God continue to bless the mission of IRIS. The world needs more positive interaction between cultures. We believe it is a good way to work at establishing world peace. Mark & Marsha Witte

      1. Mark & Marsha,
        When we touch someone’s life and they touch ours, we never know how we or they will continue to be in our lives. Elia was an amazing young man and his memory and thanks to you and others, his legacy will live on through the Malaria Campaign. Thank you for caring and inspiring him during his brief time in Iowa and for continuing to think of him through your contact and caring for his family back in Tanzania.
        Thank you for your kind words for IRIS and sharing with others the importance of international programs such as ours. One of the most important ingredients of this cross-cultural potion we call citizen diplomacy are the warm and caring families like your own who show our international guests that Iowa hospitality is what dreams are made of.
        Bless you!

  4. We were shocked and saddened by Elia’s death. He had so much potential. Our time with Elia was very special. We thank IRIS for making the experience possible.

  5. Indeed…this is a great loss, indeed.
    Who would have ever thought that you’d be gone this soon. Rest in Peace, dude.

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