“Generations come and generations go,” says an ancient book of wisdom. We here at REI are in a transitional phase of leadership, as Brian and Ginny Teel prepare to pass the baton to Craig and Kris Slater. Craig has been serving as Deputy Director of REI-Vietnam since April 2018, and will assume the full directorship at the beginning of next year. We think you might like to get to know him and his family!
“It will be a challenge stepping into Brian’s shoes,” Craig said recently, “but I’m looking forward to this new role. My visit to Vietnam last April was very encouraging. The warmth and welcoming spirit of the Vietnamese was remarkable. I was able to observe and learn a lot, although obviously I still have much to learn.”
Craig also has much to bring. After graduating from Cedarville University in Ohio, with degrees in Business and Accounting, he began a 2-year financial management program with General Electric (GE), which provided him with the equivalent of a MBA. He subsequently worked at GE in Corporate Treasury, GE Capital, and GE Investments.
Obtaining a solid business education was not all that happened while at Cedarville. Craig ran for the university’s track and cross-country teams and became national champion in 800 meters his junior year. More significantly, he began to notice a lovely young woman on the team named Kristine. “Cutest thing I ever saw,” he says. Craig and Kris were married in 1988. While Craig worked at GE’s corporate office, Kris worked at the Kennedy Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where she taught life skills to adults with disabilities.
In 1993 the Slaters moved to Hong Kong to work with a non-profit organization (AKA non-government organization, or NGO). While there they served as part of the leadership and staff care team for resident staff in East Asia. Interestingly, they helped obtain visas for REI’s first medical teams to Vietnam. You may remember the names of Doug Sparks (founder of REI), Dr. Ace Barnes, Dr. Bob Wattles, and Paul Ronka, former director of REI. All these, and others, traveled through Hong Kong to obtain visas for Vietnam in those earlier years for REI.
Craig and Kris expanded their Asia experience by moving to Taiwan in 1997, where they continued to serve with a NGO in a leadership role. They also volunteered at an international school, continued raising their two young children, and somehow managed to find time to learn Mandarin.
Next chapter—back to the USA in 2006, to serve as International Vice-President of the same NGO. Craig served in this capacity until 2018, when REI invited him to join us! Kris continues to serve as an instructional para-professional at an elementary school, which she has done since their return.
Ethan, their son, born in Hong Kong, is now 22 and studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Iowa. He is in the process of interviewing for dental school. Abby, their daughter, born in Taiwan, is 20 and in her second year at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. She is studying Public Relations with a French minor. She has followed her parents’ footsteps as a runner on the track and cross-country teams.
The Slaters greatly enjoy hiking in the Colorado mountains and exploring new trails almost every weekend when they are together. Camping, canoeing, running, soccer, pickleball—all are interests for them. In all ways they stay fit.
What is Craig looking forward to in this new role? “One of REI’s challenges is to keep our contributions relevant to current and future needs in Vietnam,” Craig says. “We must continue to ask what is needed, and what we can bring. We hope to expand our resident staff and bring new people with new experiences and skill sets on our short-term teams. We are deeply grateful for our many like-minded volunteers who love the Vietnamese people.
“We also want to strengthen and deepen existing friendships with our Vietnamese partners, our American partners, and our partners from other countries—Canada, Singapore, the Philippines, and elsewhere. And we want to explore the possibility of expanding our work into new strategic sectors in Vietnam.
“And I also am looking forward to starting to learn the Vietnamese language!”
Welcome, Craig and Kris! REI is blessed to have you come onboard!