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Meet iACT Board Member Rachel Veerman

Rachel and her two sisters standing in front of a banner with the iACT logo.
Rachel and her sisters at the 2021 iACT impACT event in El Segundo, CA. (Left to Right: Rachel, Teresa, Cany)
Tell us a little bit about yourself - where you grew up and how you made your way to the LA-area.

I was born in Torrance, California, where I currently reside. I was born at Little Company of Mary, which is also where many of my nieces and nephews have been born. Although I don't have vivid memories from my early childhood here, as we moved to Connecticut and then South Carolina shortly after. However, one day my parents made the decision for us to relocate to Monterrey, Mexico, where my mom's family resides. I was eight years old when we made the move. Sadly, after we were there for about six months my dad passed away.

My mom was our rock. After my father's passing, she would wake up early in the morning, ensure all six of us went to school, then head to work. She would pick us up, feed us, and go back to work again. She worked a lot to give us the life we had. Despite not having much money, to me it felt like we had everything.

I loved my childhood in Monterrey, Mexico. When I was a kid, I lived across from a massive mountain that served as our playground. I had great adventures with my younger brothers and neighborhood friends. We didn't even realize it, but we spent so much time hiking up and down its trails. We were also avid rock climbers, even though we never labeled it as such. Those days were truly magical, cherishing the simple joys of life surrounded by that Mexican culture that makes you feel so loved. I'm blessed to have a large and close-knit family in Monterrey.

When my brothers reached an older age, my mom made the decision to relocate to San Antonio, Texas. She believed that it would provide them with greater opportunities. At that time, I remained behind with my sisters, working, and decided to move a year later. However, after some time in San Antonio, it became apparent to us that it wasn't the ideal place for our family. So we made the choice to pack our belongings once again and moved to Los Angeles. And now, here I am, back in the very place where I was born, completing a full circle.

Do you have a favorite local sports team?

Lakers. Laker fan. Yup, I’m a Laker Laker fan. Watch almost every game.

What song always makes you dance?

Happy! Cause I’m happy (*singing). That one, with the kids, yeah definitely Happy.

Do you have any pets?

I do have a pet. I have my little Pepe. He is a Xoloitzcuintli dog. A very interesting, quirky, hairless dog. He is the weirdest dog we have ever had, but we love him.

What is your first memory of becoming involved with iACT?

Gabriel Stauring. He was my brother and the founder of iACT. He had a special heart. He was the best of us. As kids, my grandmother and mom always showed us how important it was to be aware of how others lived, and to help others. So, Gabriel really always kept that at heart. Anyway, out of the blue he decides he wants to run the LA Marathon and he asked me if I wanted to join him. I said sure, not knowing what I was getting into. So, we started taking these practice runs and Gabriel would converse with me the entire time to take my mind off of running. He started telling me about the genocide that was happening in Darfur and he felt an intense need to do something. I felt so bad because I didn’t even know where Darfur was. We started talking about how we could get involved.

Gabriel did a lot of research and educated himself about everything that was happening in Darfur and he would continue to share with me, and we were determined to share with others. We decided to just step out and start knocking on any door where people would listen. At the beginning we started at churches and schools, and we had a candlelight vigil and demonstrations where we invited speakers from other communities who were also feeling the need to help Darfur. We also had postcard and letter campaigns.

Gabriel made a heartfelt decision to travel to Chad with the intention of observing and listening. From his very first trip, he felt an undeniable and profound connection with the people there. It was a connection that resonated deep within his heart, and he often described it as feeling like being part of a family. This sense of kinship he experienced during his time in Chad extended beyond his personal journey and became something he shared with us back home. As a result, our entire family became actively engaged and supportive. Whenever Gabriel embarked on a new endeavor, it became a collective effort for our family, reinforcing the bond we felt with one another.

iACT's original logo with an eye as the dot over the "i"
iACT's original logo.

So my brother was my first connection to iACT. In the corner of my kitchen, I was there to put the “i” on iACT.

When you think about iACT where it is today, what gets you fired up about it? What sparks your passion?

I am truly amazed by the impact it has, and it never fails to ignite my passion as it continuously attracts more and more compassionate individuals eager to contribute. When you engage in these causes, you have the opportunity to connect with remarkable like-minded individuals, forming meaningful associations. Along this journey, I have encountered countless volunteers, supportive staff members, and witnessed tremendous growth. Each person along the way has played a significant role, offering their time and assistance to further the cause. It is an inspiring network of caring individuals that continues to expand.

Three people standing on a stage with one speaking into a microphone
Rachel, iACT's Project Coordinator in Chad Oumda, and Javi at the 2022 impACT event.

I am astonished when I reflect on the humble beginnings that focused solely on listening and informing people about the situation, and contrast it with the present, where we have created these wonderful spaces for people to play, learn, and feel safe. The transformation is truly awe-inspiring. Witnessing the growth of iACT and hearing the stories of families who have been touched by our work, and knowing that they now feel like an integral part of our community, fills me with deep gratitude. iACT has not only achieved this connection, but has also sustained it and continues to do so. It is a testament to the incredible power of love that surrounds every aspect of our mission.

In your experience of being able to travel with iACT, is there anything that has really stood out to you or anything that was memorable or impactful to you?

You know, I had initially planned to join Gabriel on one of his second or third trips to Chad, but unfortunately, a family emergency arose. However, I have been actively involved in organizing and participating in the trips from afar, in numerous Camp Darfur exhibits, and more recently, I traveled to Mexico to explore the possibility of expanding RUSA to the border. The fact that it has become a reality is truly astounding. This is a realization of a long-held dream cherished by Gabriel and Katie-Jay.

A group of women standing in a classroom talking.
Rachel speaking with teachers from Save the Children in Mexicali, Mexico.

What resonates deeply with me is the overwhelming happiness and gratitude expressed by the people we interact with. They appreciate that there are individuals who genuinely care about them, who are interested in their stories and experiences, because they often feel overlooked and unheard. It is remarkable to witness their joy simply from having someone listen. By truly listening and understanding their needs, iACT aims to convey their desires and emotions to others. Through iACT’s programs, we hope to touch their lives in a meaningful and positive way.

When you talk to people about iACT, what do you think are the words that you use most to describe it?

The first word that comes to mind is LOVE. It’s the work that you do with a lot of love. Other words are kindness, empathy, hardworking, and caring people. And I always mention Gabriel and Katie-Jay. They embody strength and serve as a constant reminder of the importance of being attentive listeners. iACT’s emphasis on listening, caring, and fostering a loving environment sets this organization apart and makes iACT truly special and distinct from others.

You are joining the board in the midst of Mother’s Day. I am curious what it means to you as a mother to take on this role as a board member at iACT?

Well, I take it very seriously. I was skeptical and hesitant to become a board member, believing that someone more experienced and well-connected in that sphere would be better suited for the position. I envisioned someone more entrenched in that world, with extensive board membership and established connections. However, I feel incredibly honored and privileged that despite my reservations, I was still approached and asked to consider joining the board. It makes me feel truly special.

As a mother, this work holds immeasurable significance to me. I view every action through the lens of being a mother and a grandmother. For me, engaging in this work is driven by the belief that every child and every family should have the same fundamental necessities and privileges that my own children enjoy. It is about ensuring that everyone has access to a nurturing environment. My perspective as a mother compels me to advocate for basic rights, to ensure that no one feels vulnerable or targeted for harm.

What are you most excited about with the role of being a board member?

I’m excited that I will get to know first-hand what’s happening at and around iACT. I think I’m mostly excited because I feel Gabriel and Katie-Jay’s energy in my heart. We were so close. I want to be able to keep a bit of them at the table. And also being able to keep my family connected because iACT is and was a big part of my family. We used to sit down with Gabriel and Katie-Jay three or four times a week and iACT was always a big part of our conversation. So I hope that will continue in a certain way. I mean it won’t be the same, but I hope that I can bring a little bit of that to my family’s table as well.

The Stauring family posing together at an iACT event.
The Stauring Family at an iACT event. (Left to Right: Javi, Gabriel, Juan Carlos, Consuelo, Rachel, Teresa, Cany)

What is your hope for the future of iACT?

My utmost hope is that iACT continues to flourish, attracting kind-hearted individuals and substantial financial support. With these resources, we can extend our reach to areas in need around the world and offer assistance to those who welcome us into their lives. It is vital that we have the means necessary to support others effectively.

Additionally, I long for the ongoing growth and presence of the remarkable people who have always surrounded iACT. Our staff, despite being small in number, performs their roles with exceptional dedication and efficiency, giving the impression of a much larger team. It would be truly wonderful if they could receive more support, particularly in administrative areas and other essential aspects. However, above all, my desire is for iACT to maintain its core values. We have always been an organization that listens attentively to others, understanding that their needs and aspirations mirror our own. I am thrilled to contribute my ideas, and I hope to bring something valuable to the table. As we move forward, I eagerly anticipate witnessing the continued growth and success of iACT, guided by the principles that have shaped us since our inception.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the iACT community?

I just want to say to all the iACT community, I love you. You are my family as well. Thank you so much for all the love, support, and generosity. I hope that you continue to be a part of this family, where we can share ideas. Let's keep the love, support, and kindness flowing.


Help iACT continue to do what it does best:

Support refugees in the forgotten corners of the world through soccer and preschool.

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