Sara Lein was once at a Bethel University conference with some of the youth at .
The speaker said: “Do something radical.”
So Lein left herself a note: “Go to Haiti for a month.”
She did, and is now involved with Kozefó, a nonprofit working to improve opportunities for education for young people in the Caribbean nation.
Lein, joined by her daughter Breelynn, traveled to Haiti last summer, teaching English at the orphanage where her two adopted nephews are from. She went back in December 2011 and is planning an Aug. 18 5K benefit for Kozefó through Woodbury Community Church.
Lein—who worked as teacher in the St. Paul school district for more than 20 years and now serves as special education resource coordinator—said she didn’t want to approach her experience there as an American who thinks she can fix everything.
“I just went with an open mind and an open heart,” Lein said.
She quickly learned that education would be key to improving the lives of young people in Haiti.
“If we’re going to help the nation, change the nation, it’s going to come through education,” Lein said.
Brian Schulenburg is the senior pastor at Woodbury Community Church.
“Sara is the real deal. The work that she is doing in Haiti is fantastic,” he said. “She is an example of someone who doesn’t just talk about making a difference in the world—she puts her time, energy and talents into making a tangible difference in the lives of others. She puts her faith into action.”
Lein delivered 230 books to the orphanage during one trip to Haiti, and said she has been impressed with the Haitians’ thirst for knowledge. It’s been a worthwhile experience, she said.
“The fulfillment for me exceeded my expectations,” Lein said.
Darrin Geier, youth pastor at Woodbury Community Church, said Lein is a great role model for teens at the church.
“Her compassionate heart and listening ear make her a great youth ministry leader, and our ministry is stronger because of her,” Geier said. “A powerful example of this is the fact that two students at our church, who were in the same class in school, both had the same assignment which required them to interview somebody they looked up to. Unbeknownst each other, they both selected Sara.”
Lein said those who have considered doing something for others should go for it—do something radical.
“If people hear that little voice in their head, don’t hold back,” she said. "Trust it and have the courage to step out and see where it leads."
Schulenburg said Lein’s contribution to education in the Twin Cities and beyond is inspirational.
“I hope that the work that she is doing will cause other educators to see the impact that they can have on people in developing nations,” he said. “The need in Haiti can seem a bit overwhelming, but making a difference in the lives of even a few people can go a long way towards bringing lasting change in a needy place. Someone once said, ‘Small things done with great love can change the world.’ Sara is an example of this type of person.”