Why I Volunteer: Global Health
Hannah Blinn is a member of East Union Presbyterian Church in Cheswick, PA. Hannah serves on the Living Waters for the World (LWW) Haiti Network Coordinating Team (NCT).
Hannah and her dad, Doug, at Caramel Beach near Bas Limbe, Haiti
Q: How did you first get involved with LWW?
When I was in middle school, my dad had the opportunity to go down and help build homes in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. At the time, I was too young to participate in a mission trip of that type, but knew that kind of work was something I really wanted to participate in. As the years went by, my minister approached me my junior year of high school with an opportunity to be a part of a team that would travel to Haiti to install a clean water system. I immediately said yes. I was sent to Clean Water U (CWU) to be trained as a 102 health educator. Since then, my church has done two installations in Northern Haiti, one in Limbe and one in Bas Limbe.
Q: Why have you stayed involved?
My last trip to Haiti was in 2015 for our second installation. After that, members from the team continued to visit the sites for a few years after, but I was in the thick of college and was not able to attend those visits. In 2018/2019 my dad (who was part of the original team as well) and I had an opportunity to help another church in the Pittsburgh area prepare to install a system in Haiti. I consulted with their 102 and helped her design her lesson plans and schedule for their trip. I enjoyed this opportunity because I've always had a passion for curriculum writing and education and since I'd already worked with two sites in Haiti, this was a chance for me to help a new team really hone in their lesson plans and add some new ideas. It was last year that my dad received an email from the Haiti NCT looking for volunteers and he said "Hannah, I think this is for you!" Given my experiences with LWW, and my studies in environmental science and global health, I felt like I could bring fresh ideas to the Network so I decided to reach out and volunteer to be on the Haiti NCT. Overall, my strong interest in global health and projects that bring about better health opportunities in communities is why I have continued to stay involved with LWW and the Haiti Network.
Q: In what roles do you volunteer and why did you choose to take on these responsibilities?
My role on the Haiti NCT is still growing and shaping with every team call. My primary responsibilities are to update and maintain the content of the Haiti Network Guidebook, but I have also assisted in the creation of the LWW Haiti YouTube channel and brainstorming new ways to share information with our partners.
East Union Presbyterian Church mission team with members of the in-country Haiti team in front of Bas Limbe installation
Q: How has your involvement with LWW impacted your life?
My first trip to Haiti, back in high school, was actually a major influence in the path I took for my undergraduate studies. Seeing both the environmental and health conditions in Haiti prompted me to pursue these topics at Allegheny College, a school that would offer me many opportunities to explore the intersections between health and our environment. I was inspired to help communities find solutions that promoted living in clean, healthy environments. I even spent a summer in India working at a public health nonprofit and learning about a new culture and place that also faced unique environmental and health challenges. I have also been involved in projects that promote health here in western Pennsylvania that have covered topics of food and health insecurities. My continued interest and passion for environmental health has kept me looking for ways to continue this work alongside my day job. I believe my early work with LWW is what sparked a journey and exploration into these topics at a young age.
Q: What’s an experience or story from your time with LWW that stands out as one of the more meaningful?
One of the most meaningful parts of working within LWW has been that I've gotten to do it alongside my dad. My parents were both involved in mission activities at their church and at a young age I couldn't wait for my chance to be a part of a team that would have a positive impact on a community. When my minister approached me that first time, I of course was like "dad you should totally come!" and just like that he also received training and became our team's 101 water project management lead. Traveling to a new country, meeting new people, immersing in a new culture can all be scary things at first. I was happy to have him by my side as we navigated all of these new situations together, tackling new obstacles and setbacks that came up. One of our favorite but simple memories is looking back on the long lines that formed outside the water buildings our team helped set up, knowing that the community now had a clean and affordable water source to drink from.
Q: When you’re not volunteering for LWW, where are we likely to find you and what would we find you doing?
I currently work from home, so you'll find me there with my dog Dany, probably taking her for a walk or playing in the yard. I'm very crafty so you may also find me knitting, sewing, or fixing up an old piece of furniture.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
Fun fact, I celebrated my 18th birthday in Haiti and our hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Moises, bought me a cake and threw a little party for me. We loved spending the evenings sitting out on their rooftop.
East Union Presbyterian Church mission team plus hosts Mr. and Mrs. Moises outside their home in Cap Haitien, Haiti