Volunteer Profile: Heading to Ethiopia

by Megan Stacey

Val and Kyle Easton

Val and Kyle Easton

Val and Kyle Easton have always been interested in dipping their toes into the waters of international development work.

Long before joining Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia, Val had dreams of living somewhere in Africa during her retirement. Kyle had always planned to spend time with his mom when she went abroad.

So when the opportunity came up to travel to Ethiopia as part of their volunteer work, it was an opportunity too good to pass up.

“I had always had it in mind that I wanted to do this. I wanted to see for myself. I just think it’s going to be really life-changing,” Val said.

When she found out Kyle was planning to go on the next Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia trip, Val made a decision almost instantly.

“I said, ‘that’s it! If Kyle’s going, I’m definitely going.’”

Kyle, a member of the board, said he jumped at the chance when it was mentioned at a meeting.

“I want to see how it all works. The systems they have, how do they put our money to use, how the projects function on the ground,” he said.

For Val, the priority is meeting and connecting with people at the core of Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia’s work. She wants to share and sing and smile with the children in our projects and the women receiving surgeries.

It’s different than a larger organization because you can really see the fruits of your labour, quickly.
— Kyle Easton

“Shelley has said several times something that really sticks with me,” Val explained. “The only difference between them and me is where we were born.”

It’s clearly been a hot topic for the Easton family.

“That’s bothered me for many, many years,” Kyle said.

“You and I have talked many times about this, and how guilty it makes you feel when you have so many advantages,” Val added.

It’s part of what drives both mother and son in their volunteer roles. Val sits on the Promotions Committee, and is a self-described “gopher” in the lead-up to Gems & Java. Kyle, a CPA, is able to offer financial and accounting expertise to the board.

“I’d been interested in charitable work overseas for a while and hadn’t had an avenue to pursue that,” Kyle said. “This was a good fit.”

They’re prepared for some of the stress and culture shock that comes with a cross-continental journey to a developing country.

“We know what we’re going to see, to some extent. Obviously the whole experience, the sounds, the sights, the smells, all of that, will make it a lot realer than just talking about it now, but I think I’m prepared for that,” Kyle added.

The Eastons feel grateful that the trip is a possibility, financially and logistically, for them this year. Val and Kyle know that it will help guide their future work with Mothers.

“It’s different than a larger organization because you can really see the fruits of your labour, quickly, and you know what’s happening. We raise money and send it directly to projects, and then get feedback to tell people about those projects,” Kyle said.

It feels good inside to know you’re doing a wee bit.
— Val Easton

For Kyle, it’s comforting to be able to tell someone exactly what their $20 will help accomplish in the lives of Ethiopian women and children.

That’s what motivates Val, too.

“It feels good inside to know you’re doing a wee bit,” she said.