Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Welcome, Sandra!

Sandra and fiance Abdias
We are excited to welcome a new member of our PID team! Meet Sandra Sonley, our new Haiti Field Director.

Hometown:​ I grew up in Warrenton, VA. But I've been around the Beverly, MA, area since college and that has felt like home for the past few years.

Education:​ Bachelors degrees in Biblical Studies and French from Gordon College. Master of Social Work from Salem State University.

Family: My parents, sister (Beka) and extended family are all in Virginia and Maryland.​ My fiance, Abdias, and his family are in Haiti. My church family is in the North Shore of Massachusetts.

Hobbies:​ I used to knit and I brought knitting supplies with me to Haiti to try and get back into it. I like a good story to read or listen to. My mom gave me a copy of Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. It takes place in Haiti in the 18th century. I started it a long time ago but I'm just now getting into it. Also, the past four months I was doing (or attempting - haha!) CrossFit where I was living in Beverly. Really tough, but really kicked me into shape!

How did you first get involved with PID?
​I always had hesitations about short-term service trips, but my friend from Gordon convinced me to volunteer on a service trip in May of 2010. Gale was there at the same time as our team, and I was sold on their model of partnership and their transparency as a service organization. A few years after that​, I ended up intern​ing​ for about 11 months for PID in Haiti.

What were you doing before you became the field director?
I just finished my MSW degree at Salem State University at the end of August. It was a long ride, but I learned a lot.​ I also worked as a case manager for a social service organization, which taught me a lot about what low income families face in the US.

Why did you decide to come on board full-time with PID, and what are you most excited about in your new role?

If you've ever been to PID in Haiti, or spent any length of time there, you know it’s pretty easy to fall in love with the people and their mentality and resilience. The work PID does can get complicated and there are some very hard aspects (at least it seemed to me as an intern), but I see the fruit of their commitment and I know it is all really, really worth it! ​I am most excited about working with the same people and lots of new staff as well. I was there for the better part of a year for my internship, so I know a lot of the people who work there. The laughter among staff and the culture of the clinic is pretty irresistible. I know that the relational aspect of how Haitians approach work will make the harder parts of the job worth it.

You're now about a week in to your new position. What has surprised and/or challenged you so far?
So far so good! The hardest part and most surprising part has been driving here; it takes all my concentration and I feel like the roads are a maze. But it hasn't been as hard as I've though. ​

What is your greatest hope for Haiti?
Since Haiti receives so much help from so many thousands of organizations, it’s possible to feel like they are all coming in to try and “fix” Haiti. When you come down here the airplane is full of volunteers and workers from dozens of charities and NGO's, which is great on the one hand. Sometimes, though, it’s possible to forget that despite the good intentions we can bring in, people and communities are transformed when they make things happen for themselves. Outside help can simply provide encouragement, tools and other resources for that. My hope is that progress for the country really will be a partnership between people of Haiti and the outside organizations that come in, and will take Haiti to a place that the people of Haiti want to see it go. I also have a hope for us who are “outsiders” coming in, that we will be open to how much we gain from partnerships like this, and let that inform the nature of our service.


  1. Welcome Sandra, I was fortunate to spend time with PID in Haiti while you were an intern there. Though Lizzy set a high standard as a field director I know you will be great in this role. I applaud your comments about partnership. I agree that PID is a great model for partnership and ways that short term volunteers can contribute to the greater effort of positioning Haitians to "make things happen for themselves" as you say. Best to you as you serve PID and the people of Haiti!

  2. Congratulations Sandra. I look forward to working with you again. I also look forward to seeing how you grow into this new role and make it into your own.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Sorry about that, I commented under Lizzy's name at first. :) Thanks everybody for the words of encouragement.