A Letter From iACT’s New Interim Executive Director
Dear iACT Family,
As we take these first few steps together into a new chapter, the loss of Katie-Jay and Gabriel remains heavy on our hearts. Their passing has been unimaginable, and deeply affected not only the organization, but each of us individually. It can’t be said enough just how much love these two shared with every person they came into contact with. To know them, was to feel love. I hold the sadness of their loss close, but I also hold great hope as I take on the role of interim executive director. I step into this role with humility and a determination to honor their passion and their approach to creating a more mindful humanitarian system.
I worked alongside Gabriel and Katie-Jay from 2012 to the end of 2019, first as the director of international programs, and then hand-in-hand with Katie-Jay as co-executive director. Together, we developed and grew iACT’s foundational programming of Little Ripples and Refugees United Soccer Academies, as well as what we now affectionately call the “iACT Way.” My belief in the work of iACT is deeply personal, and rooted in my friendship with Katie-Jay and Gabriel. It is also rooted in my years spent walking alongside, sitting with, and listening to the stories, desires, and ideas of our friends and colleagues in refugee camps – and their vision for our work and the world. These experiences have had a profound impact on who I am and the values I hold today as a humanitarian.
Stepping into the role of interim executive director, for me, is an act of love for my friends. It is a way to honor our friendship, and to continue in our shared unwavering determination to shape a humanitarian system where the dignity, humanity, and agency of conflict-affected people are recognized, affirmed and supported. I am also here as an act of love for our iACT family. I am here for the men and women who step into the role of coordinator, coach, teacher, and cook every day and bring hope and joy to the children in their communities. I am here for the board who have done so much to hold our community together in the past few months, and for the countless volunteers who give their time, talent, and hearts to this organization. And finally, I am here for the iACT community-at-large who continue to support our work and vision.
While it is impossible to replace Katie-Jay and Gabriel, I am reminded of our board member and Chad program coordinator Oumda’s encouragement to focus on what they have left us in our hearts. Because of their leadership and approach to building an inclusive organization, we, the iACT staff in the U.S., refugee team members, board members, and volunteers are capable of bringing iACT forward toward our shared vision.
Today, there are 191 men and women advancing and leading iACT programs for children in their communities in Chad, Cameroon, Tanzania, Greece, Armenia, and the Central African Republic (CAR). They continue to show up for their communities each and every day, and we will continue to show up for them.
My hope – and commitment – is that our first steps in the days and months ahead are mindful, and joyful, and that we take them together. Let’s continue to spread the love and care Katie-Jay and Gabriel so freely gave. Let’s continue in realizing our mission to inspire a more mindful humanitarian system.
We are so excited to introduce you to all of our amazing soccer coaches in Armenia! In partnership with Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS) and the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, we hired four new soccer coaches on our trip in April to join our three...
Toward the end of January, iACT’s program associate Julia and I traveled to Chad to connect with our teammates living in the Darfuri refugee camps located in the eastern part of the country. We were there for a couple weeks, and the camps we stopped in were Am Nabak, Touloum, Iridimi, Djabal, and Goz Amer. We refer to this trip as “iACT33” because members of the iACT family, starting with our founder Gabriel Stauring, have now gone to Chad 33 times. Gabriel’s first trip was in 2005, and Katie-Jay later joined him for several visits.
By the afternoon, the consensus was encapsulated by what one humanitarian worker in Bangui told us, “This is CAR. It is always high risk.”