Name: Rea Niessen
Title: Destinations Manager
Location: Alfter, Germany
After becoming involved with the Random Acts mission in 2011, when she fundraised for our Hope2Haiti Project, Rea eventually became our Destinations Manager and one of the people with the longest history at Random Acts. She also has been one of the most hands-on staff members with our large projects.
Rea’s introduction to Random Acts happened as part of a program that resonated with her. She explains that she enjoyed Supernatural (the show our co-founder Misha Collins is on) but had never been to a convention at that point. Says Rea, “[I was] online late on a Saturday night and there was a tweet from Misha announcing a new Random Acts project that spoke to my heart immediately. People were asked to help fundraising for a children’s center in Haiti just a year after the terrible 2010 earthquake had happened. They announced that if you would be able to raise $5000 you would get a spot to travel and join the team in Haiti in the coming June to help with your own hands. I thought that this was something you should have done at least once in your life. I thought I would never make it to $5000. I hoped that this could be my first little thing in making this world a bit better and come back more focused on what is really important in life. So I started to fundraise for the first time ever.”
To say Rea was successful would be an understatement. She was aware that even though she was new to fundraising that there was a responsibility to familiarize herself with the cause and to build trust with donors and “never betray it.” Rea was able to reach the financial goal and went to Haiti to assist in the construction of the orphanage. In fact, she continued to raise funds in the years after. With that earned trust from donors and support from people who believed in Rea and the work she was doing, she says, “I think as of today, I’ve raised about $45,000 – $50,000 for Destination Projects in the last nine years.”
Rea officially joined Random Acts in 2013 as a Regional Representative for Germany. Early in 2018 she became a Fundraising Officer, but when the Destinations Manager position had a vacancy, it was only natural that Rea take on that role. She has been in that position ever since. But what exactly does that role entail?
As Rea explains, it entails quite a lot. “The Destinations Department, which was before called the Destination Projects Department, includes our Hope2Haiti Project, the Jacmel Children’s Center. JCC is a non-adoptive orphanage we all built with our wonderful supporters between 2011 and 2013 to get kids in Jacmel off the streets and into a safe home to grow up in. The department also includes our second big project, the Dreams to Acts: Nicaragua Project, where we built a campus for an existing Free High School for students that are excluded from public school in Nicaragua. The trips to Nicaragua with our volunteers happened between November 2015 and February 2018. We all attended the Grand Opening of the beautiful campus, again only possible because of our amazing supporters. Additionally, the Change a Life Initiative is part of the Destinations Department.”
Right now, Rea’s role has taken on some new aspects. “At the moment, a big part of my work is to update our supporters on what is going on. I strongly believe that it is important to not only access people when you need their support but also to show them what happens with their donations and the love they gave us. To transfer that feeling of how big the difference is they make in supporting our Projects. And how it helps the people on site, especially right now with the difficult situation around COVID-19.”
Rea goes on to explain how COVID-19 has affected her role. “We all feel how difficult this time right now is, and the feeling of seeing so many bad things happen and being helpless to actually do something except stay at home and social distancing to practice solidarity. I want the supporters of the Hope2Haiti Project and the Dreams to Acts Project to know that the people we helped are in a much better situation right now because of that support.
“For example, in Haiti, even before COVID-19 hit, it was a tough situation. Kids were being kidnapped from the streets for money. The kids living in the JCC are safe thanks to Bonite (the wonderful lady that inspired the whole project) and the house parents that are living with the kids. Bonite goes every day to all the markets to find food for everyone and cares for the kids with all her heart.
“In Nicaragua, they just decided to postpone classes as long as it is not safe to congregate, as we all feel a high responsibility for our students, teachers, and their families. But they are not alone, and they are educated especially in the ways of preventing illness. I do not want to paint too positive of a picture, times are super rough, but I wish to express that there is hope.” (Editor’s note: since our interview, the Free High School in San Juan Del Sur has opened to teaching online, and/or under strict hygiene rules for the few physical classes.)
Rea is very earnest to give credit to the many people who worked alongside her in these projects. She explains, “During our times in Haiti we worked as well with existing orphanages. One big children’s center was the Faith & Love Orphanage, led by Marlaine and Daniel Alix. It was one place we always visited, supported with supplies, spent time with the kids, or attended a church service on Sunday morning. In the second or third year, [Marlaine] had a visit from a young man that grew up in her orphanage and later attended university. He was super kind, very well educated and it was so wonderful to see the chances at life he received because he grew up in a safe and supporting place. Places like the JCC.”
Rea continues, “While talking to Marlaine she told us that since Random Acts stepped into their life they all never feel alone or lost. We are always with them, every day in mind and soul. That was one of the big heartwarming moments. She told us we always have a home in Haiti.”
To bring hope is one of the primary objectives of Random Acts. Kindness in the face of any circumstance can be difficult, but it changes lives; it makes the world a better place. When we all work together toward a shared goal, it changes people too. “I wish to encourage everyone to go for something they believe in; if I can do it, you can do it too. It takes a dream and a decision and the willingness to work for it. For me, after being in Haiti for the first time, there was no question of wanting to help more and do more. Being with the kids, seeing how easy it is for us to help them and give a chance to a better future, I had to try to go back and do more. I will be forever grateful to the people that supported me on my journey, and made it possible for me to go out and make a change.”