We need to create sustainability so that we are helping not just for today, but for tomorrow."

Two and a half years ago, Tim Hoffman '00, M'02 (Mechanical Engineering), and his wife, Natasha, a South Africa native, packed up what they could in a Land Rover and set off from their home in London for South Africa. The 174-day trip took them 29,000 miles over land, through 25 countries. By the time they reached Egypt, they decided that once they arrived in Cape Town they would stay indefinitely. They are still there today, as full-time volunteers with Living Hope, a Christian faith-based, nonprofit organization that brings health care, addiction treatment, HIV education and economic empowerment to the poor.

Although the decision on the timing of their missionary commitment was spontaneous, Hoffman says they had known for years that they had a calling to work in South Africa with the poor, particularly those affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He prepared by switching careers from engineering to product development and marketing in order to gain people management skills, while she earned a degree in child psychology.

As volunteer coordinator, Hoffman works with potential and current volunteers, preparing them for their mission trip, matching them with the most suitable volunteer jobs, and ensuring that they make a smooth transition to a life very different from what they left behind in the U.S. or Europe.

"We are coming in as Westerners, and we need to know that our role is to empower — not to supplant, but to support. We need to create sustainability so that we are helping not just for today, but for tomorrow," Hoffman says.

The couple is committed to staying in South Africa at least through 2013. After that, Hoffman says, they might decide to work as volunteers with another nonprofit in Africa or return to school to train for careers in international development. "It's been quite a journey to get here — both literally and figuratively — and I can't imagine life any differently."

Read more about the Hoffmans on their website, ChangeThruHope.com.

Posted March 2013