We all know one person really can make a big difference in the world, but sometimes it’s nice to see an actual example. Got a good one last week in the form of Jessica Posner.
The 24-year-old woman from Denver was named the “top world-changer” among all Americans under 25 by the “Do Something Awards,” which were aired live on VH1 July 19.
I had never heard of this award, didn’t watch the awards program and might not have even heard about her story if she wasn’t from Denver, where the award has garnered a decent amount of local media attention. But after hearing about what this person has accomplished at a time in her life when many of her contemporaries are still living with their parents, I thought it would be worth spreading the word to Life Insurance Selling readers – another community of people who know plenty about giving back to their communities.
Posner’s community needs quite a bit more help than most. She moved to Kenya at age 20 to teach theater to children, but was shocked by the poverty she witnessed in a hell on earth called Kibera – Kenya’s largest slum, where about 1.5 million people cram into a Nairobi tenement that is about the size of Central Park. Drinkable water and electricity are scarce; garbage and sewage are not.
Instead of doing the easy thing – which would have been to abandon the area and teach kids about theater in a less hopeless place practically anywhere else in the world (or the next easiest thing and live in a nearby middle-class neighborhood as was offered) – Posner decided to live there (she wanted to be taken seriously) and founded a nonprofit called Shining Hope for Communities that built the first free schools for girls in Kibera. Through Shining Hope, which is funded by donations and grants, she has also initiated a gardening program, a library, an Internet-ready computer center and introduced ecologically friendly latrines that convert waste to methane gas that can be used for cooking and electricity. In August, Shining Hope will open Kibera’s first accessible health clinic, staffed by a full-time nurse and a part-time doctor.
In being named the winner of the award via Internet voting from among a field of five candidates, Posner said the $100,000 prize will be used to help make more clean water available to more people, and will allow the school to expand enrollment from its present 60 girls ages 5-8. If she is not already, imagine this might get her on the radar of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been known to spend a few dollars on good causes in Africa.
Much like learning about the significant charitable endeavors of many producers we profile in the magazine, stories like these inspire me to do more (and make me feel guilty for not doing even more) in my own community. Most of us could stand to give back a bit more, don’t you think?
More blog entries from Brian Anderson.