TSF Welcomes Sarah Van Vooren to The Haitian Initiative Team

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In a move to strengthen the Haitian Initiative organization, Tony Sanneh welcomes Sarah Van Vooren to the HI team.

Born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, Sarah attended Loyola University Chicago on a golf scholarship and earned both a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.  Following graduation, she moved to Italy and worked nearly four years in film production and became fluent in Italian.  Always thirsting for knowledge and new challenges, Sarah attended Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland where she received a Master of Philosophy degree in International Peace Studies in 2012.

Her attention turned to the sport for social development sector where she knew she could use her strong academic background and her passion for sports to affect social change.  For three years, she served impoverished communities starting with Yuwa-India, one of the largest girls’ fútbol programs in India, which uses soccer as a platform to combat child marriage, illiteracy and human trafficking among girls in rural India.  During her time with Yuwa-India, Sarah accompanied the girls team halfway around the planet to the USA Cup in Blaine, Minnesota.

She moved on to Cambodia to work with the SALT Academy, known for redefining what is means to be a woman in Cambodia where girls are supposed to be gentle, reserved and obedient and playing soccer is inconsistent with traditional culture.  In 2014, she made her way to the Philippine Islands where she served children through FundLife International, founded on a principle that all children should have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential.

Sarah’s international experience has prepared her well to work in Haiti where she now lives and serves the Cité Soleil community as In-Country Director for the Haitian Initiative overseeing all HI programs on the field and at Nicole’s Place, HI’s guesthouse in Port-au-Prince.

Sarah moved to Haiti on November 21, 2016.  She paints an accurate word picture of what she has encountered.  "Haiti and Cite Soleil is a truly unique place to live and work,” she comments.  “In Cite Soleil, I take in the sights, sounds, and smells daily. Tiny houses sit on top of one another, built from old port-o-potties, scrap metal, discarded wood, tarp and other seemingly worthless materials. The narrow foot lanes lead around the labyrinth of homes, which are always crowded with people selling goods, washing dishes and clothes by hand, and congregating to discuss daily gossip.  Piled up trash overruns the entire area, with sewage flowing freely down the streets.”

“While the surroundings can be hectic and overwhelming,” she concludes, “the paradise which HI provides the children of Cite Soleil brings out constant play, learning, laughter, and fun. Watching the HI children thrive in a secure and safe place provides the energy and desire to work hard to bring about sustainable development in these children's futures."

In a short time, Sarah’s presence is felt as staff and children rally behind her to move the program forward in a positive and productive way.

You are encouraged to contact her directly with questions or comments about the Haitian Initiative at:  svanvooren@thesannehfoundation.org.