Elaine Rossi

With JSI since 1991


You’ve been at JSI a long time — when did you start?

I joined JSI in 1991. My first salary was negotiated on a paper napkin at a restaurant at the Rosslyn Metro station in Washington, D.C. I moved to Madagascar a few weeks later, and haven’t changed employers since.

What has been most memorable about your time here?

Most of the highlights of my time with JSI center on people: colleagues from ministries and NGOs, donor clients, women and families that benefit from our projects, and of course JSI co-workers and friends.

“Most of the highlights of my time with JSI center on people: Colleagues from ministries and NGOs, clients, and of course JSI co-workers and friends.”

Do you have a particularly entertaining cultural experience to shares?

Some years ago, I invited a small group of officials to my home in Antananarivo for lunch. Many adults there are afraid of dogs.  Our  dog loved to play and grabbed the jacket sleeve of the Minister of Population and Youth, and would not release it. The dog was delighted by the attention, and sat there wagging his tail and shaking his head—and shaking the Minister’s jacket with it.

Unsurprisingly I suppose, the Minister never accepted an invitation to our home again.


Elaine in Madagascar with JSI staff, 1999

What clients have you liked working with?

One of my favorite clients was a U.S. ambassador who had a special interest in health and an education in history. When something wasn’t going the way she wanted, she’d invite JSI representatives to meet with her. One day in her office, she started raising her voice about how JSI should be able to find a rural public works project for the 300 U.S. sailors docked in port (with the subtext of removing them from the delights of the capital city and garnering some favorable PR for the U.S.) When she had finished, the US Ambassador cleared her throat, and asked if I’d like to join her for afternoon tea. I accepted, and we made sure the sailors spent some time renovating and painting clinics and building community garden walls in villages where JSI worked.

What about your co-workers — what adventures have you shared?

My favorite team-building activity of all time was white-water rafting on Africa’s Zambezi River. One of the last bits of advice the steersman gave us was, “If you fall out and can’t grab the raft, swim for rocks not sand, since the crocs hang out on the sandy side.” There was no way to back out of the trip but there were some pretty pale faces as we launched, and a lot of us did end up swimming faster than usual that day.

How would you describe working at JSI?

Working for JSI is like being part of a big, wild family. Since I joined, I have moved six times and acquired a husband and two children, each feted by JSIers. My colleagues have mentored me and together we have celebrated personal and professional successes and adjusted to our losses.

A Project to Remember

In 2005, I participated in the midterm review of JSI’s Maternal and Child Health Initiative in Russia with donor representatives. It was my first time working in Russia. Among the many helpful instructions were, “It’s cold in Siberia in February-one of our staff just lost part of his ear due to exposure,” Hope you like vodka shots… in the morning, afternoon, and at dinner,” “Don’t worry, there aren’t that many regional plane crashes during blizzards,” and, “If senior officials fall asleep during interviews, don’t wake them.” The assessment was well-received, JSI got more funding, and no more body parts were lost. It was really an assignment to remember!


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