Beautiful Woman Series – Erika K. on Relief and Development in Haiti and Her Gluten-Free Journey
I recently took on a position as a trustee/non-executive director of Acts of Mercy Relief and Development UK. My focus is on our anti-trafficking initiatives (more about what I do in a future post) although Acts of Mercy International primarily does community development after wars and natural disasters. Erika went with Acts of Mercy to Haiti after the 7.0 earthquake in 2010. She ended up being the director over the relief and development of a particularly devastated area of the country.
Tell me a little about what you do and where you live.
If you were to write an autobiography, what would you call it?
The Good Life: When Dairy Farmers Breed Queens or The Power of “Yes”: where one syllable has taken me.
If you were to list them, what are the most important moments of your life?
Spending 6 months studying worldviews and philosophy on the East Coast at 19
My family visiting Germany and Eastern Europe as a child, months after the wall fell.
Joining a volunteer relief and development team serving in Haiti following the earthquake in 2010
Saying “no” to incredible scholarships and offers to go to amazing schools on East Coast to grow our work in Haiti and recover personal strength and stamina.
What are the key concerns/events happening in your life now?
I just moved from Haiti back to a town in the middle of Texas so I could better serve our work from here – fundraise, network and train future aid workers.
I am raising a significant amount of money to continue our effort in Haiti.
I am looking for key opportunities to grow my skill set and leadership capacity in the fields of public policy & community development.
I am learning to create better rhythms in my work and personal life.
Describe a humorous event in the midst of your ‘significant event’.
In Haiti, I lived in a big concrete house with 3 other women and one married couple. One night a rat ran across the floor while watching a movie. This rat was followed by another. Of course all sorts of screaming ensued. The only man in the house had to come in and help with the situation as well as the guard from outside while of us dodged and jumped, stood on counters, and held onto banisters. There is a very ridiculous video that goes with this event that only good friends see.
Anything on health and/or transformation?
In a demanding, high high output lifestyle, caring for self and health can be easily neglected. I’ve learned over the years, that if this goes, other things do as well. I want to increase my capacity to serve by being strong, fit and healthy and not minimize it because in taking care of others I have failed to take care of myself. As I have focused on simple things like maintaining connection with my spirituality, getting good rest, good food, consistent exercise and consistent connection with good friends I am clear and more potent in my every day work.
A few things I have found really work for me:
Take moments to rest every day. Be still. Reflect.
Eat LOADS of vegetables (put them in your breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Mix up your exercise, but make a weekly plan – group activities, strength training, cardio, relaxation.
Sugar is an energy killer. Radically reducing sugar intake makes food more enjoyable and my energy more steady.
What is your journey with going gluten-free?
I hit a physical wall in August 2009, was so fatigued could hardly make it through the work day, was nauseous constantly, my heart would race, asthma would spike and I was not sleeping well. I was so non-functioning that I went to specialist after specialist for months and finally did a food elimination diet. It seems like wheat products had a negative effect so I started trying to go GF. It took me months to finally accept the reality of how much better I felt off of it…but for the last 3 years I have been GF. I feel better than ever…sleep great, less headaches, more energy, less asthma.
I have a huge passion for people recognizing their gifts and utilizing them to serve others. I love seeing people bring different skills and graces to the table to accomplish a collect dream or vision. It takes many disciplines and many different gifts to alleviate poverty, train people effectively and combat injustice. That is one of the beautiful qualities of my current work. It’s both fabulous and inspiring to watch people and talents come together to change the world. I believe we were all made with a gift for transformation, and that as people bring their gifts for something bigger than themselves, incredible darkness and evil can be deafened and destroyed by light and hope.
How would you define beautiful?
There is this wonderful verse in this book I love…”they will be radiant, never covered with shame”. Beauty is a life without shame, giving oneself free and easy, joyful and alive. The most beautiful people I know smile a lot, know a good bit about who they are, rest easy in the company of others, aren’t scraping and scrounging for something that’s not theirs, believe good things about others and make places and moments beautiful also. Beautiful is an unhindered and unashamed soul, that is free to give and be given to. A beautiful person knows they are loved. I’ve realized that people with these qualities have all sorts of uniqueness in their physical traits, but are always and often called “lovely”. It’s so little about what they put on, and more about what oozes out of them into the world.
Is there anything vulnerable you would like to share?
There are so many days I don’t FEEL beautiful or powerful…I’ve learned that it’s not how you feel, but what you believe about yourself that makes the biggest wake. At 31 I don’t regret the risks I’ve taken, places I’ve gone, or what I’ve invested in. The main things I regret in my twenties are wasting time thinking I was sidelined when I was actually just in training and working to be like people I thought were beautiful and powerful around me, rather than live fabulously out of my own uniqueness without fear.
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