Community//

Jan Haeg: “Take time to reflect”

Our work in Constanza, Dominican Republic has been like throwing stones in the water and seeing ripples of change. In this rural area on the outstreets of Constanza, there was no school for the children to attend. The daily wages came from working in the fields, collecting garbage in the dump or prostitution. Children helped […]

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Our work in Constanza, Dominican Republic has been like throwing stones in the water and seeing ripples of change. In this rural area on the outstreets of Constanza, there was no school for the children to attend. The daily wages came from working in the fields, collecting garbage in the dump or prostitution. Children helped bring income by shining shoes, washing cars or selling candy. As they got older, and without an education, they were forced to follow their parents’ footsteps to earn a wage.

I met Pastor Angel Moreta in 2011. He and his wife, Jackeline, moved to Constanza in 2000 and saw the lack of education and little hope for the future. In the year 2000 they started praying for a school. In 2011, Lifetouch was looking for a location for our next Memory Mission. We had never worked in the Dominican Republic. When we went to visit Pastor Moreta and the Constanza community, we fell in love with the children.

Over the course of the last 8 years, we have worked alongside the community and helped build two schools, a vocational school, and helped establish a home for teenage moms. There are ripples of change happening within families and the community.

One single mom, who had been a prostitute has now received her education and is a teacher at the Cecaini school. Her daughter is now in college studying to be a doctor.

We met a family who was living at the base of a gravel pit in an old ice truck. Their home had burned down and they had no income. The volunteers were inspired by this family and the love of Grandma Maria and her daughter and grandson — that money was quickly raised and within two months a team of volunteers returned to build them a new home.

We met young girls that unfortunately were not in school because they were pregnant and were at a loss for their future. With the vision of Jackeline and Pastor Angel, volunteers were compelled to help these young abused girls and their babies. There’s now a home for teenage moms where the moms and babies are able to safely go and receive medical help, education, legal assistance, clothes and supplies for their babies.

Christopher R. is in 2nd grade and received a national award by his teacher and principal for achieving the highest scores of all 2nd graders in the Dominican Republic. Three years ago, this would not have been possible because there wasn’t a school in his community.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jan Haeg.

Jan Haeg grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota and continues to be proud of her roots. She attended South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD where she graduated with a degree in clothing and textiles. Upon graduating, Jan worked for a small search firm in Minneapolis for a few years before joining Lifetouch Photography in their management development program. She trained in St. Louis, Missouri and became a Territory Manager in Long Beach, California. After a few years in the field, she moved back to Minneapolis and has spent her career at the Lifetouch home office in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. She has had various leadership roles in Sales, Human Resources, and Leadership Development. Her passion for giving back provided her an opportunity to manage the Lifetouch Gives Back programs including the Lifetouch Memory Mission trips since 2006. Jan’s adventurous spirit has led her to explore 25 countries and all 50 states. Jan and her husband Ken have two adult children; Danny and Molly. Her favorite get-away is their family cabin in northern Minnesota or the family farm during harvest.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Travel and volunteering were two cornerstones of my upbringing. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota with a population of 550. There were 32 people in my high school graduating class. From as long as I can remember, my family and I would sit around the globe at our dining room table, spin it and talk about the places our fingers would land. From the opal fields of Australia, to the Serengeti in Tanzania and the fjords in Norway. I always knew I wanted to travel. I also volunteered at a young age and had compassion for others. So, in 2006, when a senior executive at Lifetouch asked me to manage the Memory Missions it seemed like all my interests were coming together. For more than 10 years I volunteered my time managing the give-back program while managing the leadership development program for the company. I am very blessed that my passion and career intersected and I am able to do what I love!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Before I became involved in the work in the Dominican Republic, I thought of the Dominican Republic as a third world country. As I became involved there, I received some sage advice from a Lifetouch Memory Mission group leader who said, “Think of the Dominican Republic as a developing country.”

That advice stuck with me and now, having traveled so many times to the Dominican Republic, I fully understand the interpretation of a “developing country.” The children are developing. They are learning skills to break the cycle of poverty. The adults are developing. They are gaining confidence to say no to drugs and prostitution. The community of Constanza is developing. I have witnessed economic growth and businesses developing. Cecaini School and a vocational school are developing and represent much more than education. These schools are providing hope for the future for kids in Constanza.

While we have gone to Constanza to physically build schools, we’ve built so much more. During the workdays, volunteers build relationships with the local Dominican workers on the construction site. They mix cement, push wheelbarrows, lay block and mortar for walls, sand walls, paint and pour concrete for sidewalks, among other manual jobs. The Dominican workers are so patient with us. It has been life-changing to see the friendships that have formed among the volunteers and their local partners.

It is not all work and no play. When the students from Cecaini School have recess, the volunteers put down their hammers, trawls, cement buckets and exchange them for jump ropes, soccer balls and decks of cards. They love to play with the kids. The children are always anxious to learn some English. They giggled when I tried to speak in Spanish.

It has been important for the Dominicans to finish building these two schools. It creates a strong sense of pride and ownership. We are there to lend a helping hand, but it is the citizens of Constanza who are building these schools — for the future — for their children and for the larger community.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota and was the youngest of four girls. My dad was a successful farmer full of common sense. My mom was always cooking, cleaning, volunteering and managing the schedule of everyone. After college, my first job was a career consultant at a search firm. I didn’t have a full grasp of various roles, jobs, or titles within a business. I was hired to interview candidates and help place them in jobs. I’m sure I asked some basic questions and showed my ignorance on a daily basis in the beginning!

However, I had a wonderful manager and mentor. I learned quickly it was okay to be curious, ask questions and show interest in others. Those traits have served me well over the years.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Since 2000, Lifetouch has served children, families and communities both locally and globally through the Lifetouch Memory Missions. The commitment to these initiatives helps to strengthen our relationships with schools, organizations and families as we continue to strive to capture, preserve and share life’s joy.

Lifetouch has organized 17 different trips, traveling to nine different destinations in need around the world for a week of intensive volunteer service. More than 500 volunteers from 48 states and five Canadian provinces have devoted over 150,000 hours to Lifetouch Memory Mission projects. We have photographed and delivered 5,500 student and family photographs.

We have served in Kosovo, Jamaica, New Orleans, West Virginia, Tennessee, Haiti, Navajo Nation in Arizona, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Now as part of the Shutterfly, Inc. family, the dedication to making a difference is continued. Shutterfly’s first value statement says, “We make a difference…with each other by helping to capture, preserve and share life’s joy. We connect people to what matters. We take care of one another and give back to our local and global communities.” The Memory Mission exemplifies this value and is one of the ways we engage our employees and invite our customers to live out this value each year.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?

Our work in Constanza, Dominican Republic has been like throwing stones in the water and seeing ripples of change. In this rural area on the outstreets of Constanza, there was no school for the children to attend. The daily wages came from working in the fields, collecting garbage in the dump or prostitution. Children helped bring income by shining shoes, washing cars or selling candy. As they got older, and without an education, they were forced to follow their parents’ footsteps to earn a wage.

I met Pastor Angel Moreta in 2011. He and his wife, Jackeline, moved to Constanza in 2000 and saw the lack of education and little hope for the future. In the year 2000 they started praying for a school. In 2011, Lifetouch was looking for a location for our next Memory Mission. We had never worked in the Dominican Republic. When we went to visit Pastor Moreta and the Constanza community, we fell in love with the children.

Over the course of the last 8 years, we have worked alongside the community and helped build two schools, a vocational school, and helped establish a home for teenage moms. There are ripples of change happening within families and the community.

One single mom, who had been a prostitute has now received her education and is a teacher at the Cecaini school. Her daughter is now in college studying to be a doctor.

We met a family who was living at the base of a gravel pit in an old ice truck. Their home had burned down and they had no income. The volunteers were inspired by this family and the love of Grandma Maria and her daughter and grandson — that money was quickly raised and within two months a team of volunteers returned to build them a new home.

We met young girls that unfortunately were not in school because they were pregnant and were at a loss for their future. With the vision of Jackeline and Pastor Angel, volunteers were compelled to help these young abused girls and their babies. There’s now a home for teenage moms where the moms and babies are able to safely go and receive medical help, education, legal assistance, clothes and supplies for their babies.

Christopher R. is in 2nd grade and received a national award by his teacher and principal for achieving the highest scores of all 2nd graders in the Dominican Republic. Three years ago, this would not have been possible because there wasn’t a school in his community.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Everyone has something to offer. Volunteering takes many forms and can be the gift of time, or lending a hand by providing muscle, fundraising for a worthy project, or sharing talents to make a difference. There are needs locally and globally.

Education brings hope. It’s the one thing that can break the cycle of poverty. The gift of education taps the unseen potential.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I have always liked this quote from President Ronald Reagan, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

A leader creates a trusting environment allowing others to be their best selves.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Take time to reflect. There are mini life lessons each day if you take time to reflect and journal.
  2. Learn to speak another language. In my case — I rely on translators to help me build relationships. I am amazed by how much I am able to communicate with a few words and yet I would love to be able to carry on an in-depth conversation one on one with someone.
  3. Become a well-rounded reader. History, autobiographies, fiction, non-fiction, classics. I think there is so much wisdom and engagement by being well-read.
  4. Be curious. Ask questions and embrace the notion of listening and learning. Showing that you are interested in others is a compliment.
  5. Learn the art of storytelling and taking a picture that creates emotion. Emotion drives connection. Being able to tell a good story, with depth and emotion, through words and photos, help build empathy, relationship and create memories. I love to take pictures that help tell a story and stir emotion.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Vacations are a precious time to create memories, restore energy and explore a new location. Taking a trip to snowcapped mountains, white sandy beaches or an amusement park are priceless, and yet could there be another option? If I could inspire a movement to bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, I’d want to expand on what Lifetouch Memory Missions do for a broader audience. Help and inspire others to take a vacation with the purpose of giving back. One’s perspective of day-to- day living may change, allowing you to restore what is important in life. As a family, the notion of doing good and serving others together, while on vacation, might be the best investment in building a relationship with your loved ones and to create more connection in a world full of isolation and division.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.” Nicholas Sparks

Every day has a routine. A sense of responsibility to your to do list. People are counting on you to accomplish a task. How you choose to show up can make all of the difference in the world. Surround yourself with like-minded people and ordinary things become extraordinary experiences.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Either Richard Branson or Ellen DeGeneres. Both are individuals that have taken their fame and fortune and made significant differences in the lives of others.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LifetouchMemoryMission/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lifetouchgivesback/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LifetouchMM

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMbl_L1s2bnjfeB-983uusg

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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