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UMTV: Young Women of UMCOR

Three young women have become leaders at the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and the unique challenges and rewards of their work have led them to become best friends too.


(Melissa Crutchfield at food distribution in Haiti): "We are counting on enough rice, and beans, and oil, and salt to feed a family of approximately five for about five days."
They don't wear power suits or superhero capes, but Melissa Crutchfield, Shannon Trilli, and Nyamah Dunbar, do fly from continent to continent, scale giant obstacles, and work for good as representatives of the United Methodist Committee on Relief around the world.

Nyamah Dunbar, UMCOR/Imagine No Malaria Executive Officer in Charge of Grants: "Our African counterparts a lot of them are surprised at how young we are. And they even comment on that. 'You are so young and you're doing so much, and you're already responsible for all these programs.' So indirectly the church is also presenting a face and really breaking some ceilings not only at the head office level, but even towards the partners in the field."

Field work is not new to these three. They all served in the Peace Corps before coming to UMCOR.

Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for International Disaster Response: "It's also really interesting to think about our former boss, Rev. Sam Dixon, who hired both Shannon and myself, and was around when Nyamah was brought on board. He had something of a vision. He recognized that potential for synergy amongst us as people and staff colleagues working together."

He also had faith that a young person could contribute ideas to combat a killer disease.

Shannon Trilli does presentation: "We look at the national malaria plan."

Shannon Trilli, Director of Global Health Initiatives: "Imagine No Malaria provided me the opportunity of a lifetime. I was a young person in my 20s coming out of the Peace Corps and Sam Dixon, of course, who was then the head of UMCOR, looked at me, I don't know why to this day, and said, 'How would you approach creating a health care system out of this system that we represent in Africa?' Never would I have had the opportunity to touch a 75-million dollar program and grow it and envision it from the ground up I don't believe in any other place."

Nyamah Dunbar: "One of the greatest things about doing what we do is that we're simultaneously doing it together. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of effort. And it's amazing for young people to have that opportunity."

Sometimes these close friends are still surprised by what they've seen and done as leaders on the UMCOR team.

Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for International Disaster Response: "We'll probably think back and be like, 'Oh, my gosh. Can you remember, you know, how crazy it was that we tried to pull off a million mosquito net distribution in Ivory Coast, you know, on a wing and a prayer?" Basically cause that was the early days of Imagine No Malaria. I'll look at Shannon and see what she's accomplished in the few years she's been there. I'm just amazed. I just think Shannon and Nyamah are like the most amazing women I've ever met."

Shannon Trilli: There's just nobody in this job that I can imagine the last four years at UMCOR being with than Melissa Crutchfield and Nyamah Dunbar. My two best friends are my work colleagues every day. The main issue we can struggle with and help one another with is balance. You know, what is it like to date when, like this week we're in Accra, and have to be in Port-au-Prince, Haiti together by Saturday. What does that mean in terms of how you feel? We understand the moods and the tiredness."

Nyamah Dunbar; "We individually hold ourselves to that high mark. And we hold each other accountable to that high mark. And that's so comforting and great in a work setting because if I know Shannon's in charge of one aspect of a project I don't worry about it because I know she's got it under control. And I think she feels the same way about me. And I think we both feel the same way about Melissa. There's so much to be done, really mastering the art of dividing and conquering. And so we've definitely been able to do that."

They also hope their success inspires others to get involved.

Shannon Trilli: "I think it's a testament to, at a time when the church is looking to engage young people, I found that UMCOR and Imagine No Malaria gave myself and my best friends, my colleagues, an incredible opportunity. And I think many young people in our church are looking at us saying, 'We want to do that, too. Can we join you?' So I think it's an incredible story of personal opportunity but also of our church who found young people and found a place for us. And we are implementing it and succeeding at a level beyond what we would probably be able to do anywhere else."

To learn more about the United Methodist Committee on Relief, go to

Posted: September 28, 2012