One year after returning to Richmond, I am thrilled to be here at Initiatives of Change as the new Development Coordinator.
From an early age, I focused on the wide world. My mother grew up overseas as the child of a Navy officer and her sister lived abroad throughout my childhood. As I grew up in Richmond’s Northside, I was captivated by stories delivered by my mother about her youth and my aunt in letters and on her occasional trips home. I filed anecdotes about the warm hospitality of families in Pakistan, coffee rituals in Ethiopia, and conflict-affected children in Bosnia-Hercegovina in an “explore this later” file in my mind. I was fortunate to attend Richmond’s Governor’s School for Government and International studies, where my interest in the world’s stories continued to grow.
Thus, after graduating from Mary Washington College in 2000, it was no surprise that I made international work the focus of my career. After working at an international development organization in Washington, DC, for seven years, I spent the next eight years living “all over,” including Kosovo, Uganda, and Egypt. As I marked my third anniversary of moving to Egypt in early 2015, I thought I was on track to become a “lifetime” expatriate.
However, as 2015 progressed, I started talking with my other expatriate friends more and more about the unsettling news coming from the US: young men dying at the hands of police; demonstrations popping up with increasing frequency; islamophobia and other vitriol splashed across our social media feeds and the television. As we watched these alarming events, we started to murmur: what’s happening in our country?
By mid-2015, I resolved that it was time to come home. While my initial decision was made for personal reasons, the shooting at Emmanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, SC, devastated me, and I became determined to change the focus of my life’s work. I wanted to combine the professional skills in non-profit fundraising and project management I had developed over 16 years in international development with my desire to better understand the racial, religious, and social dynamics currently at play here in the US.
I am inspired by IofC’s rich history of conflict transformation both here in Richmond and across the globe, and I look forward to first learning from my colleagues and then working with them to find new and lasting funding sources for IofC’s work. I also hope that I’ll hear from many of you in IofC’s vast network in the coming months, as I consider it my first and most vital job responsibility to gather and reflect on as many stories as I can so I can effectively represent our unique and important mission and values to current and future donors. I look forward to meeting many of you soon!