If you get the impression our US team is bigger than it actually is, that’s probably because Carrien is taking care of things in the background. Since the beginning of The Charis Project, Carrien has been working to fill all the gaps and cover all the roles that need covering and don’t fall to another person’s specific job description.
This while raising and educating her own 6 children.
Carrien grew up in Canada, and comes from a very large extended family. “I have very good childhood memories of getting together with all of my cousins at my grandparents’ house and playing together and spending holidays and weekends together.”
This was part of what inspired her to work with families. But the biggest difference came after she had children.
“Before I had children I wanted to work in an orphanage and hold babies that had been abandoned or didn’t have a mother. (I didn’t yet know that most babies in orphanages do have mothers but those mothers aren’t supported to take care of them.) After I had children I experienced how fiercely a mother can love her children and how horrifying it would be if I ever lost them or had to give them up.”
For Carrien the idea of babies and children being separated from their mothers, the people who, with the right resources, are the most likely to love them fiercely, and protect and advocate for them, became horrifying.
“I imagined myself in their situation and how awful it would be to have to choose between my children having food to eat every day, or staying with me, and then giving them to someone else because I loved them too much to let them starve and miss out on an education. If I were in that situation I would want someone to help me, and my children, together. Someone who would encourage us to stay together and help us get through the rough time.”
And that’s exactly what she did. Together with her husband and her children, Carrien moved to Mae Sot, Thailand, to work to strengthen and keep families together.
Carrien is very passionate about her work at The Charis Project, especially the challenge of curriculum writing, even though it’s not easy to figure out how to adapt information across cultures and languages to parents in very different situations from her. From childbirth classes, to nutrition for pregnancy, to a positive parenting module – Carrien uses her own child birth Ed. experience and research to share useful information with women from migrant villages who may not even understand why women have their period.
Carrien wants mothers to succeed and flourish in their role. She knows from experience not only how hard the job is, even for an educated and well-resourced woman, let alone for someone living without those advantages, but how important it is to the well-being of children, families, and the world that mothers are supported.
“I have never met such strong, hard-working, capable women as those we work with. If they had been given the opportunities I was given as a child, some of them would be CEOs of corporations by now. I want to give them every available resource so that they can give themselves, and their children, a better future.”