Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jessica Rimington

Today, young people from all over today are benefiting from the One World Youth Project, a unique educational program that allows youth to explore and better understand their own community, while at the same time learning about the community overseas. It is through this process that participants discover friendship across borders, gain empowerment as they recognize the integral role each individual plays in a community, and realize the challenges that face our world. However, this project would have remained just an idea had a young girl not allowed herself to be used as an instrument of change. As we join Jessica to celebrate her birthday- April 13th, I thought it will be nice to share her inspirational story with you- a story that will not only motivate you but also stir you up to “stand” and be counted for change!

Here it goes: In the summer of 2002, Jessica was one of two U.S. students chosen to represent the Jane Goodall Institute and the United States at the Children’s Earth Summit. The summit brought together over 100 young people from around the world to discuss a path toward a more sustainable future. But, half way through the summit conflict emerged. One night Jessica was woken up at 2 am by some of the South African students. “Quick! Hurry! You have to come to the hall,” they said. “Some people want to vote the United States out of the Summit !!” She was perplexed.
When Jessica walked into the hall, she felt as though she was entering a secret meeting. There were about 40 students present, all sitting by country groups. After listening to the discussion, she quickly realized that it had nothing to do with her as a person. Instead she was a target because of what she “represented”- the United States. Although they were able to work through the conflict that night, the experience changed Jessica’s life.
In a world increasingly impacted by globalization, it is ironic that in many ways so many misperceptions about different cultures still exist. This is part of what got Jessica thinking: What if there was a program that facilitated cultural understanding, but at the same time taught youth leadership and empowered young people to take action on an issue and make a difference? While attending the United Nations for World Environment Day in June 2004, all steps needed for actualization of the vision became clearer as she watched Young people from different cultures sitting next to each other and sharing ideas. Everyone was excited for the future. “I decided to take a gap-year before attending Georgetown University in order to pursue the dream of creating the project. Many people told me I was crazy. They said it was impossible for an 18 year old with no money to found a non-profit and get it up and running in the two months before the new school year. But, they were wrong”.
Today, the One World Youth Project remains a leading global youth network. “I think now, more than ever, cultural exchange is extremely important. If we want to effect change, if we want to build a better future, we must first understand each other” says Jessica, the 2005 Brower Youth Award recipient. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Jessica, and May God Bless you richly!

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