As Executive Director of World Relief Seattle, Chitra Charles Hanstad ’83, M.A. ’86 has a special connection with refugees who come through the program, especially the young girls. And not just because she was seven years old when her family moved from India to Chicago.
“I get so excited that we get to resettle these girls, and they don’t get taken to the brothels,” she said.
Trafficking was a reality she witnessed firsthand when working in India. A passion for young girls to succeed still fuels her work.
At Wheaton, Chitra was mentored by New Testament professor Gilbert Bilezikian. “He helped me see that Jesus stands for the marginalized,” she said. She studied under longtime Director of the Communications department Jim Engel and specialized in the field of public relations.
Chitra and her husband, Tim, have worked on issues related to social justice, land rights, and anti-trafficking for organizations located around the world, including India, Romania, Mexico and the Netherlands. “I’ve always had a justice bent,” she said.
After a period of living in Bangalore, India, for five years, Chitra says she didn’t want to go back to Seattle. But, of the opportunity to lead World Relief ’s Seattle office she recalls, “I had six different people send me the job description.”
Under her leadership, World Relief Seattle is growing. Her team has resettled over a thousand refugees and developed economic empowerment programs for those who were already resettled.
“The faith and resilience of refugees inspire me. I think of Wheaton and people who gave everything, like Jim Elliot ’49 and Nate Saint ’50. Jesus’ heart is for the marginalized and that is what he calls us to,” Chitra said.