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To Haiti — with love

Rebekah Miner, who has been working as a nurse in Tacoma, comes from a South Kitsap family with a long history of volunteering for worthy causes.  - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
Rebekah Miner, who has been working as a nurse in Tacoma, comes from a South Kitsap family with a long history of volunteering for worthy causes.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

SKHS grad off

to lend hand

in poverty-torn

country in Central America.

With unemployment rates soaring, many people are just hoping to hold onto their jobs.

But don’t tell Rebekah Miner that.

The 2003 South Kitsap High School graduate gladly walked away from her nursing position in the critical care unit at Tacoma’s St. Joseph Medical Center. Miner, 23, will take steps toward fulfilling a lifelong dream when she boards a plane today for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, after which she will catch a connecting flight to Haiti to work for Children of the Promise.

According to its mission statement, the nonprofit strives to “provide for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of infants who’ve been orphaned or abandoned; reunite the infants with their birth families whenever possible; and facilitate families in the adoption of children with little or no hope of being reconnected with their birth families.”

Dating back to high school, Miner has been active in causes such as Key Club, Global AIDS campaign and World Vision, in addition to her church.

She learned about Children of the Promise from a guest speaker while taking nursing classes at Whitworth College, but her desire to work with children was instilled much earlier.

Both sets of her grandparents were medical missionaries in India. Jack and Mina Miner, of North Carolina, worked in Maharastra during the 1950s and ’60s, while her mother’s parents, Arthur and Jeannie Thiessen, of Southworth, served in Champa from the 1950s to the ’70s.

“Growing up, it’s hard not to be influenced by how much of their lives they gave to the people of India,” Miner said.

Even with that background, not everyone would leave a stable job for the unknown, but Miner said it was an obvious decision.

“Why not now?” she said. “It’s almost natural for me.”

Miner knows it won’t be easy. She doesn’t know the language — her father, Bert, has been working to teach her Creole — but Miner said she hopes that won’t be a significant factor because she will be working with children.

And that might not be the greatest challenge, either.

While the organization’s Web site, childrenofthepromise.org, describes success stories, it also notes three unexpected deaths in December.

“I’m buying a one-way ticket,” Miner said. “I’ll get down there and see if I can handle it.”

She said the orphanage in Milot, which cares for 50 babies, faces daily challenges.

The Web site details cases involving the children it receives. Many infants who are brought to the facility when a parent dies and the surviving spouse is unable to provide the child with sufficient care.

Miner said many are “deathly ill” from malnutrition or other ailments when they arrive.

Besides her family history, Miner said she’s been fortunate and feels inspired to help others.

“I’ve had a lot of gifts and opportunities in my life and now I can turn some of that around,” she said.

Miner said she will miss some indulgences, such as coffee and watching her younger brother, Joel, wrestle at South, as well as daily interaction with friends and even treks to the grocery store.

She admits that she’s “not excited to deal with the bugs down there,” and will miss the Northwest landscape that allows her to camp and hike.

But none of those factors influenced Miner to change her mind at any point, and she doesn’t have any timeline for when she expects to return.

“I just want to offer nursing care to the infants until a permanent nurse can arrive,” she said. “I’m just hoping to keep them alive.”

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