Featured Person: Anastasia Yecke
Featured Person, Anastasia Yecke became involved with Aura’s House back in 2004 when she chanced upon a posting in the Volunteer section of Craigslist asking for donations to help build a home for a deserving family in Guatemala.
Things were going well at her job in Miami, Florida and she was looking for opportunities to give back, so she clicked on the link which took her to Aura’s House. She was pleasantly surprised to see that Aura was sponsored through Children International, an organization with whom she was already familiar due to her sponsorship of several children with them through the years. So she donated $10 to the site, and a few hours later received an email from Kristen, the site’s founder, asking how she had come across Aura’s House. Kristen was curious because it turns out Anastasia was the very first “unknown” donor – meaning, not in Kristen’s circle of family, friends, and coworkers. Anastasia emailed her back, and that was the beginning of a decade-long friendship.
Anastasia writes, “In those days, I was working for an advertising agency and traveling to New York City on a frequent basis. Kristen and her husband Michael lived nearby, so I had the pleasure of getting to know them during my trips. After funding for the home for Aura’s family was reached, Kristen asked me if I would be interested in partnering with her on future projects. My answer was an unequivocal yes! Thus followed many projects in quick succession.
In 2006, Kristen and I decided to travel together to Guatemala and Honduras to meet Aura and also the Rojas family for whom we had built another home. In subsequent years, Aura’s House evolved to tackle a variety of projects in the areas of Education and Income Generation. I am happy to say that our original team of just Kristen and I has become a great group of volunteers. This has enabled me to take more of a backseat when necessary (like now, as I am planning for my wedding in October!). I still maintain the database of donors for Aura’s House and send out our newsletters.”
In 2010, Anastasia underwent a major career change and left the advertising world for good. She became a licensed massage therapist and now runs Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage in Miami, Florida. She greatly enjoys being self-employed and helping her clients get rid of their aches and pains. “It is infinitely more rewarding than my former office job, plus I can take time off whenever I need to, but it is definitely a lot more work than I thought it would be!” she says with a laugh. “Still, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Last summer, Anastasia used some of her time off to return to Guatemala to visit again with Aura, who is now in college. She then traveled to Antigua where she met up with a group of doctors and volunteers from her church and spent a week bringing healthcare services to the children of poor urban communities around the capital. Children International published this blog post about her chance encounter with a CI-sponsored boy during her visit.
In her free time, Anastasia enjoys volunteering with The Cat Network, traveling, being outdoors, and mentoring a boy from one of Miami’s under-served communities along with her fiancé, Erik.
When asked what she wants to do when she retires, she smiles and says, “I love to write and hope that by the time I retire I can finally finish the novel I’ve been working on sporadically for three years already! Also, I’d definitely like to travel more, but I won’t be one of those old ladies who sits on the beach sipping umbrella drinks. I love adventure travel and travel with a purpose. I would like to eventually visit each child I have sponsored through CI, including those who have aged out of the program, and discuss with them ways I can help their families lift themselves out of poverty.”