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  • Writer's pictureJessica Moore

Risk vs. Reward - Celebrating 9 years of service

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

In 2005 CitiHope brought a group of teenagers from northern New Jersey to Belarus. It was our first-ever Volunteer Youth Mission and it was spectacular. The team made numerous visits to hospitals, orphanages and summer camps, met an airlift of donated medicine at the Minsk airport and attended its press conference alongside US and Belarusian dignitaries. Perhaps most poignant was a meeting at the US Embassy with then-US Ambassador George Kroll who encouraged the teens, ages 13-17, to a life of service and diplomacy.

Belarus Youth Mission Airlift
2005 Belarus Youth Volunteer Mission Team receiving CitiHope's medicine airlift on the tarmac with US Ambassador George Kroll and Belarusian hosts Dr. Mikhail and Ludmilla Sobol.

As it was a Youth Trip, we experienced the requisite exhaustion, seemingly endless hours of travel, karaoke and hilarity. Words and phrases in a new language were bravely attempted, as were new culinary experiences. New relationships were forged, existing relationships strengthened and the team itself remains in contact to this day, even celebrating a 10-year reunion in New Jersey in 2015.

That is rare, as many volunteer trips tend to be highly impactful in the moment but intentions to remain close fade upon the return to ‘regular life’. CitiHope was truly blessed because most volunteer mission trips don’t have the Smock Family involved.

One of the team leaders, Tom Smock, brought along his daughter, 17-year old Hannah. Tom had volunteered for CitiHope in Belarus several times prior to the Youth trip and shared his experiences with his family.

Hannah, like her father, fell in love with the former Soviet Republic and that love changed the course of her life. After returning home she began to take Russian language classes and following high school graduation Hannah chose to continue her education with International Studies at Lafayette College.

In 2009 CitiHope was pleased to offer Hannah an internship at our offices in Belarus, fulfilling some of her college requirements. In 2010, after graduating Lafayette College, Hannah moved to Washington DC to begin work at CitiHope’s DC office.

August 2019 marks 9 years of Hannah working for CitiHope, and we are celebrating!

During the last 9 years, Hannah Smock Estifanos has become a highly valued member of our team and a trusted friend. She currently works as CitiHope’s Food and Nutrition program director and manages food programs from Dominican Republic to Somaliland with excellence. Hannah is diligent, reliable, intelligent and thoughtful. She is a consummate team player and respects each person she meets. Hannah is a writer and a poet who examples great compassion and deep love.

Hannah met her soulmate at Lafayette College, Brook Estifanos, and they married in 2013. Hannah and Brook visited CitiHope’s program in Ethiopia in 2015 while visiting Brook’s family. Brook was born in Ethiopia, and we had the privilege of watching him become a US citizen in 2017. Hannah is an avid runner who represented CitiHope in the 40th Marine Corps Marathon in October 2015. She further cemented her ‘Superwoman’ status when she gave birth to a son, Yisak, in January 2017 and continued work part-time from home after maternity leave.

Hannah’s story is unique but is a real example of what can happen when you take a risk, step outside your comfort zone and dare to experience life from another person’s perspective. Hannah’s ‘yes’ to volunteering her time, raising money and spending a week serving strangers has yielded incredible rewards not only for her, but also for all of us who are honored to know her. CitiHope is proud to have her on our team, and we cannot wait to see what the next 9 years brings to Hannah, her family, and the people we serve together.

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