Grant Kouri ’06 has chosen a career of service and steps out courageously to act on his convictions. Graceland’s mission and values are lived out in Grant’s passion for global humanitarian work.
Q: What are you doing now that grew out of a Graceland connection or preparation?
A: After I graduated from Graceland, I went into the Peace Corps and lived in the Kingdom of Tonga for three years, teaching and leading community development projects with local leaders. This experience led me into a career in international development and humanitarian relief; I’ve been in it for 10 years now. I went into the Peace Corps mostly because of Graceland winter term classes in Thailand and Nicaragua. I got an introduction to what international development is about and saw the needs and the gaps that could be filled with a career in that profession. Those two winter terms gave me the opportunity to travel internationally while at Graceland, which set me on the path to where I am now.
Q: What do you love about your job now, and what’s next on your journey?
A: After I got out of the Peace Corps, I went to graduate school and studied Humanitarian Assistance and International Administration at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. I then started working with SCMS (Supply Chain Management System) and managed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). SCMS became the world’s largest public health supply chain and has been hugely successful, drastically reducing the spread of the disease. After three years, I transitioned to the international non-governmental organization (NGO) that I work for now, called Global Communities, doing procurement and logistics at the headquarters office. In February, I took a full-time field office position in Gaziantep, Turkey, which is about 20 miles from the Syrian border, about 60 miles from Aleppo. We support internally displaced people (IDP) who are like refugees, but do not cross an international border inside Syria. We support an IDP camp of about 100,000 people with basic municipal services like water trucking, latrine desludging, garbage removal, shelter kits, hygiene kits distribution, and gender based violence protection. In the besieged areas, we’re providing pregnant sheep, coal and heating stoves, seed kits, farming supplies, and farming equipment to farmers. We’re trying to equip those farmers to be able to produce food inside Syria to stave off the almost inevitable famine that’s going to come from the war.
As the Procurement Manager, I’ll manage a team of about 15 in Turkey and five inside Syria. Our job is to take the awarded U.S. Government funds and spend them in compliance with how the government expects us to spend them, to be accountable for how we spend them, and to buy the relief materials that people inside Syria need to survive.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s as close to my dream job as I’ve come. A field-based job in emergency relief is exactly what I’ve always wanted.
Q: What is your biggest takeaway from Graceland?
A: I don’t know anyone who had closer connections and friendships than I did at college. The nature of where Graceland is and how student life is run with the housing system – I was in Closson House – you find a group of people, and they become your friends. You study together, you go to class together, you hang out together, you eat meals together, you do your laundry together, you do everything together, and that fosters very strong friendships and tight bonds. I’ve got so many great friends from Graceland, and I keep in contact with dozens of them. Graceland secured relationships and experiences that have led me to where I am today.