By Wendy Moore, Director of Communications & Foundation Relations, REI HQ
REI staff are people who enjoy cross cultural work, which is filled with challenge and adventure. They are people with a passion for seeing individual lives and whole communities transformed and are motivated to work through some hard times to see that happen. Chuck and Katie Nicholson retired from REI last month, having worked with REI for 26 years, first in Vietnam, and then in Indonesia. One of their greatest accomplishments has been introducing the business of fruit dehydration to Java, Indonesia’s largest island.
As Chuck and Katie look back on their years serving with REI, some highlights stand out for them. For example, seeing what doors open up for relationships when we "work" together. “Whether it's rural agricultural projects in Vietnam or the mango factory and marketing in Indonesia,” Katie says, “I have been amazed at the vast relational network we have because of working together with people.”
Chuck emphasizes a growing conviction about providing genuine practical help to people. “It has been a privilege to develop authentic contributions for myself and others,” Chuck says, “and to build institutions and organizations that amplify that contribution.”
After serving for decades with REI in Indonesia, Chuck and Katie know that while the country has changed, they have also grown and changed. “Over the years, I have watched myself relax more and more into language, culture and the vast unknowns of living in a foreign land!” Katie explains. “There are so many people on the island of Java!! That means there is a lot of noise, color, smells, rich flavors in Indonesian foods. Our senses are always fully engaged as we engage in the culture and relationships. I have a much deeper appreciation for language and culture than I did at the beginning of our journey.”
Chuck and Katie have turned over the leadership of REI in Indonesia to Jake and Amber Fettig. During the last four years, the Fettigs have not only received intentional training but have also learned many lessons from simply living and working together with the Nicholsons. Both Amber and Jake are looking forward to the new opportunities they will face as they begin serving as the REI country leaders in Indonesia.
The Fettigs describe the values that are closest to the Chuck and Katie’s hearts are righteousness and justice, weaving these into the fabric of their work in Indonesia. “As we have worked alongside them we have learned much about what these mean and, more importantly, what righteousness and justice look like,” the Fettigs explain. “We have been learning how to apply these values in Indonesian contexts, how to communicate them to other people, and how the power of these values works in developing noble-hearted people.”
As they step into their new roles as country leaders for REI in Indonesia, Jake and Amber hope to continue the positive impact on the lives of poor people that has been the hallmark of REI’s work in this country under the Chuck and Katie’s leadership. “To do this, our vision is to use the skills, education, and background of REI team members to fill gaps in Indonesia’s development environment – areas such as grassroots agricultural development, training and providing resources to educators, small business development, and others,” say Jake and Amber. “We also hope to facilitate cultural and knowledge exchange through continuing to host short-term teams of students and professionals.”
“We were incredibly humbled to be asked to fill the roles as country leaders and know that we have a lot of growing to do. We are grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as we seek to see people in Indonesia filled with hope as their country develops and their lives are transformed,” Jake and Amber say as they look ahead to the future.