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Joyce Duvall of Christopher’s Haven: “Appreciate the opportunity to work for a cause close to your heart”

Appreciate the opportunity to work for a cause close to your heart. The drive is so different than any other job in the world, and the rewards are immeasurable. As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joyce Duvall. Joyce Duvall is the […]

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Appreciate the opportunity to work for a cause close to your heart. The drive is so different than any other job in the world, and the rewards are immeasurable.


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

Joyce Duvall is the Executive Director of Christopher’s Haven with over 20 years of nonprofit and program development experience. A Sudbury, MA native, Joyce now lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband, Bill. The couple has four children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild.


Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

I lived in Massachusetts most of my life until about five years ago when my husband and I moved to Georgia. I helped start Christopher’s Haven in 2001 which began my interest in nonprofits. I learned as I went and took over as Executive Director in 2011. We now have Christopher’s Haven’s in Boston and Atlanta!

Can you tell us the story behind why the nonprofit was started and your involvement?

A friend of mine in his 30’s got cancer and spent a lot of time in the hospital where he witnessed families going through cancer treatments with their child. Many of them came to Boston for some very specialized treatment with no place to stay. Boston hotels are not affordable for most young families, especially with the high costs that come with cancer treatments. So, a group of friends gathered to create an organization that would help solve the housing issue for families in need of temporary housing while their child faces this gigantic battle.

Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?

There are few and limited places to stay in most cities, and most are very restrictive with what they offer and usually not ever available for the whole family. We at Christopher’s Haven feel it is very important to offer the entire family an experience of togetherness and support.

Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?

There was a sweet little boy, about four years old, that was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had surgery to remove it, and it was not successful. They could not get the whole thing. The hospital told the family to go home and make their arrangements as they only had about three weeks to do so. Before they left the hospital, a young doctor whispered to them: “go to Boston.” The doctors looked into it and found they had a treatment that could possibly save his life. A major problem, however, was that the mom was nine months pregnant. The Boston hospital gave the family Christopher’s Haven as a possible place to stay, but there were a LOT of other arrangements to be made. The family called us, we made room for them and then went to work. We found an OBGYN, a crib, baby clothes, diapers, and all things needed for a “last-minute baby delivery.” The baby was then born as we fit multiple family members in the apartment to help. Their little boy got the treatment he needed and is a happy, healthy teenager today. This family was shocked at how we were able to make this impossible situation happen with all the love and support.

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

Support for pediatric cancer is the lowest of all cancers. We need to make leaders understand the particular difficulties and complexities involved in getting treatment for their child. It involves the whole family. It comes with expenses that are not covered by insurance but can quickly become insurmountable. Christopher’s Haven addresses these issues by offering families an alternative to the high-priced living options in expensive cities.

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

Leadership is quietly observing the people around you, encouraging independent thinking, communicating with the public every possible chance and leading them towards the needs at hand. Slow and steady, but get the right people there.

Actors Chris Evans and Chris Pratt visiting Christopher’s Haven, Boston

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non profit”. Please share a story or example for each.

1) It is much harder than you think. People genuinely want to help and promise to do so, but it often just doesn’t happen. Expect the let downs, but never give up. One will happen and change your world.

2) The incentive to work hard is the force of the need and importance of your cause.

3) A long time ago while pursuing a perspective goal, I was advised to never take no for an answer, and it has served me well.

4) Pay attention to all opportunities large and small. You never know which will remain large and which will remain small.

5) Appreciate the opportunity to work for a cause close to your heart. The drive is so different than any other job in the world, and the rewards are immeasurable.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

A very lofty want is Dr. Jill Biden. She now has the ability to make considerable changes. Robert Kraft helped us once and was very moved by our story. We would love for him to get involved again. Michael Buble has deep ties to pediatric cancer because he went through it with his son. Our number one hero on this planet, however, is Chris Evans — he is always paying attention.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

“And when you get to where you’re going, turn around and help her too. For there was a time, not long ago when she was you.”

We have all needed help along the way and it’s important not to forget and to pay it forward.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter — @Chris_haven and @JoyceDuvall13

Instagram — @christophershaven

Facebook — Christopher’s Haven

Linkedin — Joyce Duvall

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