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‘Just Do It. Take The Plunge’

By Staff | Aug 21, 2015

LeAnn Hager with the team from the Bossangoa field office [LeAnn second from left in the front row]

LeAnn Hager has been helping those in need for over 20 years. During that time, she has learned an immeasurable amount about life, the world and, perhaps most importantly, about herself.

Hager was born in Anamoose and grew up on her parents’ farm just north of there. She attended Anamoose High School, after which she attended Moorhead State University. Having grown up in rural North Dakota her whole life, she knew there was a world out there that she had yet to explore and cultures she had yet to experience. Like a lot of us, she knew she wanted more out of life. Also like a lot of us, she didn’t know where to look to find what she was searching for.

It was during her time in college that Hager met the person who would change her life forever. One random day while she was walking to class, she ran across a recruiter from the Peace Corps. She had known about the Peace Corps and thought she had a general understanding of what they did and the services they provided, but had never considered joining. The recruiter talked to her about what it was like to work for the Peace Corps, who she would meet, what she would do and how she could help those in need. After talking with the recruiter for a while, she decided to sign up.

Her first mission was to Senegal, West Africa. During her trip to Senegal, she met many wonderful people and was able to help many villages through the humanitarian missions the Peace Corps provided. She said it was scary at first, knowing it would be two-and-a-half years before she could see her friends and family again. When she got back from her mission, she realized she couldn’t wait to go back. She had finally found what she was looking for.

After she returned from Senegal, Hager moved to Washington, D.C., and got her masters. While she was there she kept her eyes and ears open, constantly searching for new ways to help those in need. That was how she learned about Catholic Relief Services, a program similar to the Peace Corps that went to struggling or war torn countries and provided humanitarian services. In March 2001, she joined the Catholic Relief Services and has been a member ever since.

Photo of Cardinal McCarrick (CRS board member) and LeAnn Hager in Bangui, CAR on April 8, 2014, during a visit by US religious leaders on a solidarity visit.  The Cardinal is one of LeAnn’s favorite people in the world.

The biggest thing Hager has taken away from this whole experience is the generosity of people from all walks of life, from the people who weren’t able to help personally but donated money, to the people in the villages she was there to help who were ashamed they could only offer her a cup of tea. She has worked alongside numerous persons from all sorts of different backgrounds. While they all had different upbringings, they all shared the same goal: To help those in need.

When I asked Hager if she could go back and do anything differently, she told me she wouldn’t. There were definitely some bumps along the way and some growing pains, but at the end of the day she has learned so much and had such a wonderful experience, she couldn’t imagine doing it any differently. She did say, however, that there are a few misconceptions out there about humanitarian organizations that she discovered. The one misconception she heard the most was people thinking all humanitarian organizations were there to profit and convert people to Christianity, and that is simply not true. In fact, most organizations make a concerted effort to remain neutral. They are only there to help.

In speaking with Hager, it was clear she wasn’t doing this so she could get her story in the newspaper. She is not in it for fame or because she wants people to know how good of a person she is. She realized there might be some people out there who are just like her and wanted to explore the world and experience other cultures, while also giving back to those in need. To those people out there, Hager has some simple words of advice, “Just do it. Take the plunge.” She knows the route she took isn’t for everyone, but there is no way to tell if it is right for you until you try.

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