While her work may be done behind the scenes most of the time, Karen Smaha, our Global Logistics Coordinator, plays a critical role in ensuring the meals packaged by our volunteers reach beneficiaries in need around the globe. Read on for a Q&A with Karen about her journey with Rise Against Hunger so far, which started in the Philippines!
When did you first start working for Rise Against Hunger?
I started with Rise Against Hunger in February 2014 as Assistant Program Manager in Atlanta. I moved into my current role as Global Logistics Coordinator in May 2015.
How did you get involved with the organization?
I was first introduced to Rise Against Hunger when I was living in the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was invited to assist with a Meal Packaging Event being facilitated by the Malaysia team. Rise Against Hunger was working to open an office in the Philippines.
After assisting with the Meal Packaging Event, I, along with a few other volunteers who also lived in the Batangas Province, decided we wanted to host a Meal Packaging Event in Batangas. We partnered with a local church in Lipa City to package over 30,000 meals in August 2013, the majority of which were used in relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan.
My Peace Corps service ended that September. I had loved the way Rise Against Hunger brought so many people together at their events, as well as the work they were doing around the world. I was fortunate to be hired on just a few months after returning home.
What is your current title, and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
As Global Logistics Coordinator, I am responsible for planning and managing our shipping schedule for meals and other aid. I work closely with our partners, Community Engagement staff and freight forwarders to schedule all shipments and ensure they are successfully delivered to our in-country partners for distribution. I am constantly working to balance the needs of our partners and Community Engagement staff in order to provide the best service possible. My day-to-day includes a lot of communication, updating and creating customs documents and working through any issues that may arise.
What is your favorite memory from your time with Rise Against Hunger so far?
I’ve had the opportunity to see our work in several countries that we serve, which is always a great experience. There is nothing more satisfying than getting to meet those you serve, assisting in improving logistical processes to help our partners and seeing the smiling faces of the children who receive our meals. But my favorite experience comes from when I was still facilitating Meal Packaging Events while working at our Atlanta location. All of my family is in Birmingham, Alabama, and I was able to facilitate Rise Against Hunger events there so I could work and then see my family.
At one Meal Packaging Event in Birmingham, where we packaged just over 10,000 meals, my mom attended and brought one of my nieces to help. After the event, I talked to my niece about the work we had done that morning. While we were talking, she took my phone and started playing on it. When I asked her to finish our conversation about the event and how the meals would help people before playing games, she quickly corrected me that she was not playing. She turned my phone around and showed me the calculator with the number “9,855.” She then informed me that she was nine years old, and if she had eaten three meals a day every day of her life, that is how many meals she’s had in her lifetime. She was amazed that in under two hours, we had packaged more meals than she had eaten in her lifetime. I was amazed at how simple it was to recognize the impact we were making, and I still use this story when I facilitate events.
What is your favorite part about working at Rise Against Hunger?
I love being able to better the lives of people all over the world, and the amazing co-workers I get to do it with.