Over the past several years, I have often been asked how the idea of linking the equestrian world with that of development and humanitarian efforts arose. I spent the first twenty-two years of my life as a committed and ambitious equestrian. From the age of five when I began competing in the pony hunters to my first International Grand Prix at sixteen, I worked every day to excel in my sport. The skills and lessons I learned as an equestrian athlete have provided a strong foundation for the humanitarian work I do today.
At the age of twenty-three, I decided to make some radical changes in my life. I headed to Honduras to build partnerships with local organizations and help with the reconstruction efforts after the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch. While I had to overcome the initial obstacle of not speaking Spanish, my biggest challenge was facing extreme poverty in this developing country. It was the first time in my life that I had been confronted with such misery. I 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 I had in Honduras changed my life and reaffirmed my conviction that the time had come for me to change paths. I knew that I had to do whatever was in my power to help alleviate the terrible suffering of these children and to give them hope for a better life. I began envisioning the possibility of founding my own organization that would be sustainable and facilitate long-term positive change.
Bridging the Gap
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, we 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!