I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio and grew up with my mother, older sister, and younger brother. I graduated from high school in 2001 and went on to get my bachelor’s degree in International Business on an academic scholarship at the University of Akron. After graduating, I applied for and was accepted as an officer in the United States Navy and was commissioned in 2006. My first tour was two years with an aviation squadron based out of Norfolk, Virginia, during which we completed a six month deployment to the Arabian Gulf on the USS ENTERPRISE. Afterwards, I spent a year in Seoul, South Korea, where I worked long hours and enjoyed some of the best food in the world. I am currently stationed in Monterey, California, attending Naval Postgraduate School, pursuing a Master’s degree in East Asian Regional Studies. I particularly enjoy reading, quilting, hiking, and traveling.

Meet Joanna West

Where are you from?

Monterey, CA

What made you want to go to Haiti?

I’ve been particularly interested in Haiti since choosing the military disaster relief response after the earthquake in 2010 as a final paper topic for a seminar last year. The more I learned about how much damage was done to the entire nation, and how much still needs to be accomplished there, the more I wanted to do something that would make a difference. When I found out the proposed dates for the travel to Haiti would match up perfectly with the 2 week summer break that was scheduled from my classes, that decided me!
What are you hoping to get out of the experience?

I am hoping to actively participate, even in a small way, in making a difference in a country that really needs our help and support. I want to witness and experience what the Haitian people are going through, and bring those stories back with me, to hopefully raise awareness of how much still needs to be done there. I am also looking forward to meeting and spending time with the other volunteers who were passionate enough to make their fund raising goals a reality and share our interests and experiences.

How did you approach the task of raising $5000?

First I donated some money to my own project so that people could see I was serious about my efforts. My main approach to reaching people was through Facebook. I sent out a personal message to each of my contacts there and told them about the project and asked them to contribute. Or, if they weren’t in a position to contribute financially, if they would be willing to pass the word to anyone they knew who might be interested. I was skeptical of my ability to gain the full amount through fund raising, so I also began setting my own money aside every month from the beginning to contribute to reach my goal. I had other help, such as local friends donating household items for me to sell in a yard sale that went towards my final tally.

What are a few of your best fundraising tips?

A personal appeal is really the only thing that will get you anywhere in the end. People are inundated with messages asking them to give to one cause or another, so to get any attention for your project, you have to really connect with people first.

Can you offer any words of encouragement to those still working towards their fundraising goal?

It seemed like an impossibly large amount of money, but if you devote your time, energy, and creativity to making your goal, it can definitely be done! This year’s trip might be over, but there’s always next year (we all hope! ) …in the meantime, you can get active in other social causes (whatever inspires your passion the most) and expand your social networks so that if the opportunity comes up again, you will have some groundwork laid out to run a successful fund raising campaign.