I want to share the story of two people who have inspired me to do great things.
When I first met Dawn Engle and the PeaceJam family, I was overcome with the feeling that I was in the presence of wonderful people on an important mission. I approached Dawn to see if there was a way I could help in linking troubled youth with strong role models. She encouraged me to follow my passion, and to accept an invitation that I had just received to visit a girl's orphanage in Kenya.
Before going to Kenya I had seen and read a lot about Africa on television and the internet. I had knowledge but not a lot of tangible understanding. I flew into rural Kenya on one of Kenya Air's tiny planes, and landed on a runway surrounded by a grassy field. One of the first things we did was to go to purchase food for hungry children in a nearby village. In this village of mud huts and dirt paths I saw hungry and hurting families. A lot of them were only able to eat once every couple of days, a tasteless paste of boiled corn flour and water called ugali. I listened to mothers telling me what it was like, mothers who had seen their children die, and I met children who had no mothers.
When I arrived at the orphanage, I was embraced by five little girls who called out, "Jambo Karibu," which in Swahili means "Hello, Welcome." Comparing the children I met in orphanage to those I had met in the village, the truth was that they were just the same. They were beautiful kids. But the Many Hopes girls had food in their bellies, they get to go to school, they had hope that the rest of their life could be different. They have hope because they are loved and because they have opportunity.
Now there are 46 girls in an orphanage in Kenya who call me Auntie Jessica, and as rewarding as it is to spend quality time with them, I came home from Kenya determined to work hard to address the systemic issues that end up leaving children hungry, without homes, and without hope.
That's why I am so passionate about PeaceJam. PeaceJam is directly focused on the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, which identify the root causes of the problems that destroy families -- violence, war, extreme poverty, and disease. Confronting the most pressing issues facing our dynamic global community, they engage Nobel Peace Laureates from around the globe with youth, to undertake the critical conversations that need to keep happening. I am now helping them to create an incredibly ambitious "One Billion Acts of Peace" campaign, designed to tackle the toughest issues facing humanity. And I believe that we will succeed.
The driving force behind PeaceJam's mission is an incredible "let's do it ourselves" attitude -- which is a constant reminder that every single one of us matters, that every single one of us can make a difference, and that together, we are unstoppable.
Watch their Tedx Talk, and let me know if you want to join our "One Billion Acts of Peace" campaign, and if you are inspired to greatness, too!