We have big news to share. This fall, we will be leaving the life we love in Pittsburgh and moving to Haiti for a 5-year volunteer term with Mennonite Central Committee, an international non-profit relief, development, and peace organization.
Our new jobs in Haiti will kick our collaboration and work together into high gear as we share the joint role of Country Representatives. This means we will be responsible for supervising the national and international staff, overseeing the country program, and working with local partners to implement a wide range of projects; from tree planting to trauma recovery, housing to human rights advocacy. Here are a number of the questions we’ve been getting as we share this exciting news:
So, why are you going? (we get this one a lot)
Rebecca: When Paul and I first got to know each other in Ethiopia 10 years ago, we discovered a shared passion for working with vulnerable populations. As we talked together excitedly about our future, we shared a goal of returning to work overseas once we had more education and professional experience. So we went back to school, Paul for Masters degrees in International Development and Public Health and me for Social Work with a specialty in trauma. We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago, and as we took stock of our lives together and thought excitedly about our future, we came across the wedding vows we wrote, “we have seen suffering, and together we have been called to make the world a better place.” This move to Haiti is a fulfillment for us of this passion for service, and of our sense of calling.
What are you most excited about?
Paul: Honestly, the top of my list is getting to work with Rebecca to jointly manage a program we believe in. How many people get that chance? I am also really excited to explore Haiti. Haiti is a country with a fascinating history, rich culture (including some amazing food), and incredible natural beauty. I’ve been hearing about Haiti since I was a child (my grandparents worked there in the 50’s and 60’s, and my parents were there in the 70’s), and it’s been a major focus of my graduate studies from both economic development and public health perspectives.
What are the challenges you anticipate?
Rebecca: Personally, our biggest challenges will be living further away from our family and friends. This will be hard. Professionally, Paul and I are used to working fast, multitasking, and getting a lot done (example, Paul doing a full-time Masters, while also working full-time, while blogging). I think this equating of speed and productivity with success is pretty deeply imbedded in our culture. I anticipate a challenge will be finding acceptance when we are not able get tasks accomplished quickly (or at all), and for the times we just get stuck. I’m looking forward to becoming a more patient person, I think of it as character building!
What is happening with your life here in Pittsburgh?
Paul: It's a bittersweet time. We're saying our goodbyes to family and friends, and wrapping up a life we have loved here in Pittsburgh. We’ve put in our resignations at work, our dogs and cat have found new homes, we’re packing up all our stuff for storage, our cars will be sold, and our house is currently on the market. It the long process of goodbyes as we prepare for this next stage.
Will you keep blogging from Haiti?
Rebecca: That’s the plan! We’re excited about transitioning the blog to our new context and broadening our palates to explore the diverse flavors of Caribbean cuisine. We’ll be without a kitchen for a few months as we transition and do language study, so we’ve been working hard on recipes to share on the blog until we get fully established in our new home in Port-au-Prince. We are also hoping to incorporate pictures and stories from our travels in Haiti and the region.
How can I learn more about your work and life in Haiti?
Paul: We plan on sharing primarily through the blog. You can sign up for email updates, and check back frequently as we plan to keep sharing pictures, stories, and of course recipes. We hope to eventually create a country-based website where we can share more specifics of our work and projects.
And as always, let us know your questions by email or comment.