Dear Shalya, thanks for your question. Over the past several years, Jessica has often been asked how the idea of linking the equestrian world with that of development and humanitarian efforts arose. She spent the first twenty-two years of her life as a committed and ambitious equestrian. From the age of five when she began competing in the pony hunters to her first International Grand Prix at sixteen, she worked every day to excel in her sport. The skills and lessons she learned as an equestrian athlete have provided a strong foundation for the humanitarian work she does today.
At the age of twenty-three, She decided to make some radical changes in her life. She headed to Honduras to build partnerships with local organizations and help with the reconstruction efforts after the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch. While She has to overcome the initial obstacle of not speaking Spanish, her biggest challenge was facing extreme poverty in this developing country. It was the first time in her life that she has been confronted with such misery. She was in Latin America’s poorest country face-to-face with the most horrible forms of poverty. What a heart-wrenching experience it was to witness orphaned and abandoned children living on the streets in cardboard boxes, sniffing glue to “escape” their terrible reality, rummaging through garbage dumps to find something — anything — to eat, and begging or stealing money for the parents who had left them to fend for themselves. These children had no future, no hope, no way out.
The experiences She has in Honduras changed her life and reaffirmed her conviction that the time had come for her to change paths. She knew that she had to do whatever was in her power to help alleviate the terrible suffering of these children and to give them hope for a better life. She began envisioning the possibility of founding her own organization that would be sustainable and facilitate long-term positive change.
A cornerstone for JustWorld International became raising awareness and encouraging young people to make a positive difference in the world and then share that knowledge and experience with others to achieve a domino effect. Along with Hilary Betaille who also shared this vision, they founded JustWorld International in late 2002. Athletes, advisors, sponsors, horse show partners, owners, and the general public have all been tremendously supportive and committed to making a difference. We now have professional, junior and amateur ambassadors representing JustWorld around the globe. Ambassadors and donors visit our partners every year to see firsthand where their donations are going, who is being helped, and the difference they are making and help to keep this dream alive by sharing it with others.
By combining our forces and networks, we have the power to mobilize so many people and together we can create a just world!