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Jane Strachan '91, Emergency Relief

When Jane Strachan ’91 graduated from college in 1995, she wasn’t completely sure about her career direction. What she did know was that she wanted to help people.
At the suggestion of her sister, Strachan applied to the Peace Corps and signed up to spend two years living in Guatemala. During her stay, South America was hit by Hurricane Mitch, a monstrous storm that killed more than 11,000 people and caused more than $6 billion in damage. As she assisted with relief work, Strachan began to realize where her strongest interest lay: in how relief money is spent and how we help different communities – “‘we’ being either local groups or international groups or governments,” Strachan explains. At the end of her Peace Corps assignment, Strachan took a job with an NGO based in Baltimore, and she’s never looked back.

Through her work with USAID, Strachan has helped to coordinate and provide relief in dozens of countries. The work is difficult and sometimes dangerous, but Strachan says that the people she has encountered keep her motivated to continue. “One of the things that is so inspiring is that communities are usually extremely welcoming,” Strachan says. “They’re so grateful that somebody is there to hear their story, that somebody is interested in helping them. And then the kids – they seem to bounce back and have this spark of energy that’s really motivating. You want make a better place for those kids to live and to thrive.”

Strachan credits her Bryn Mawr education with providing many of the foundational skills that she uses in her work every day. “Bryn Mawr taught me to focus, and taught me basic writing and cognitive skills,” Strachan notes. She also vividly remembers the process of preparing for her senior convocation. “Those public speaking skills have really stayed with me. I am definitely not afraid to speak my mind [even with] high-level government officials. I’ve been in meetings at the White House, and if I have something valuable to say, I’m not afraid to say it. Part of that is the confidence in my own public speaking abilities that Bryn Mawr fostered, which I really don’t think I would have gotten had I gone anywhere else.”

Strachan has recently taken a new job as the emergency chief for UNICEF, and will soon be moving to Myanmar. She looks forward to continuing the aid work that is her passion. One of her favorite memories is of her time in Iraq, when she was able to work with two other agencies to get winter clothing to 500,000 kids. “It’s great to know that I was part of that machine that got so many people something just to make things a little bit better,” Strachan says. “That feeling helps keep me going.”