By Doug Erdmann, President & CEO
REI staff work in some very hard places around the world. These are developing countries with significant needs. As we wrap up one year and look forward to a new one, it’s good for us to celebrate milestones while we anticipate future needs.
In Djibouti we said goodbye to long-time country leaders, Tom and Rachel Jones, who wrapped up their 20+ years of service in July 2023 with the high school graduation of their youngest, Lucy (who was born 18 years ago in Djibouti City!). Kirk and Krystal Galster, who have lived and worked in Djibouti more than five years, stepped in as the country leaders with the significant task of helping to find a new school director for the International School of Djibouti (started by Tom and Rachel) to begin the 2024-25 academic year.
REI continues to expand our work in Cairo, Egypt, making progress with promoting natural childbirth and training doulas. This past summer country leader Karen Flowers hosted Susanna Gray who made a vision trip to explore opportunities for working in Cairo. Susanna has decided to join our staff and will return to Cairo full-time in the spring of 2024.
In Malang, Indonesia, REI’s country leaders for 20+ years, Chuck and Katie Nicholson, retired this summer, and Jake and Amber Fettig stepped in to take over leading the work there. Apprentices Caleb Walton and Seth Vidrio finished up their two-year apprenticeships and left Indonesia this past summer. Shanika Musser is in her second year of her master’s degree program, studying at a university there in Indonesian. She anticipates completing her master’s degree and wrapping up her two-year apprenticeship this coming year. We cap off 2023 with the news that REI now has a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia’s Institute for Agricultural Instrument Standardization.
Our work in Almaty, Kazakhstan continues as Randy Bruins partners with ENACTUS, an organization that teaches social entrepreneurship to young people. Ron and Jeanine Wiley have wide open doors to train trainers for the When Cultures Meet seminar (which helps people navigate the challenges when two cultures meet) at schools and universities throughout Kazakhstan.
In Vientiane, Laos, REI continues teaching English and hosting interns and short-term professionals. Country leaders Bill and Ann Munson anticipate wrapping up their commitment in 2024 and REI is looking for a single or couple to take over leading REI’s work in Laos for 2025.
Gary and Scarlett Patton in Darkhan, Mongolia continued teaching English to up-and-coming medical professionals, and REI sent their first Exchange Fellow from Mongolia to the U.S. for professional training and cultural exchange. We are planning to have many more Exchange Fellows come from Mongolia in the years to come.
A boom has been happening this year in Samarkand, Uzbekistan as Randy and Jill Vernon agreed to become country leaders and arrived there in March 2023. New apprentices, Zab Tan and Titus Dallmann, joined the Vernons in August, along with Seth Vidrio, who arrived in September. Since then, Ron and Jeanine Wiley (REI’s Central Asia regional leaders) continue to serve with the Samarkand International University of Technology (SIUT) while also spending part of their time in Kazakhstan.
In Vietnam, resident staff Chris Sayles continued work in English testing and Alyssa Lai pursued additional training to enhance her professional contribution. County leader James Kang and office administrator Lien hosted 16 short-term professional teams, interns and potential future staff, and sent four Exchange Fellows to the U.S.
Last, but certainly not least, our REI Singapore office. In May, James Ong agreed to join us as REI’s director for our new Singapore office, created to mobilize Singaporeans to work as REI staff and volunteers around the world. The Singapore office was officially incorporated in November and volunteers from Singapore have already made trips to Central Asia and Laos, exploring opportunities to serve with REI.
Currently we have 29 open positions around the world. It seems clear that there’s momentum for growth with REI. We look forward to adding a second recruiter to REI staff in 2024 to help us fill these 29 open positions.