Q: Prior to joining the IRC in NorCal, you were the Country Director for the IRC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for just over 3 years. What was your work there like?
Sarah: I became the Country Director during a time when the DRC’s program was struggling. It had just gone through downsizing and humanitarian needs were growing. The IRC needed to pivot away from development work to focus more on acute crisis response. I was able to build back up the DRC program where we were able to expand our funding diversity, rehire staff, and implement high impact programming reaching more people across a wider geographic scope. I also led the team through two complex and profoundly challenging Ebola outbreaks and potentially volatile presidential elections! I am proud to have led us through a difficult period while still achieving growth and innovation.
Q: What inspired to you to apply for the Executive Director position for the IRC in Northern California?
Sarah: I really wanted to bring my skillset and experience overseas with the IRC to the domestic resettlement work we do. I feel very passionate and committed to IRC’s strategic vision so wanted to bring both established, from many years with IRC, and new, as I joined IRC’s domestic programs, perspectives to support the amazing work we are doing in Northern California. I am really excited to bring my fresh perspective and energy to contribute to all the great work the IRC does in the U.S.
Q: How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Sarah: My life experience has made me realize the importance of engaging meaningfully with as many people as you possibly can. There is wealth in diversity. I have worked overseas in many contexts, with many people, from many different backgrounds. As a leader, I prioritize listening and seeking understanding from all the people we engage and serve as only then can I develop a clear, informed, and impactful path forward.
Q: What is something positive that has resulted from the pandemic for you?
Sarah: It has been positive to see the ways people still come together. The resilience of humans prevails. We always push forward and in many ways it has brought people closer together. Specific to IRC programming, the pandemic positioned us to propel our digital access & literacy efforts forward. We’ve seen successes in the way our teams have pivoted to remote and in some regards we have become more successful in reaching and serving our communities!
Q: What has inspired you about the IRC in Northern California’s work?
Sarah: I have been super inspired by the breadth of clients we are reaching across Northern California. The IRC has an excellent and well-deserved reputation as a refugee resettlement organization, but we are doing so much more than that. We are innovating across sectors and actively growing services to support refugees, immigrants, survivors of crime & human trafficking, in addition to asylees and growing support for asylum seeking families. We are diverse in the services we provide; and, we are positioned to offer and do so much more moving forward.
Join us in welcoming Sarah Terlouw to the IRC in Northern California!