Help Change the World!
There are several reasons why I’ve written this short tribute, first because it’s about a remarkable woman named Jacqueline Novogratz, doing her best to help others in need. It is quite uplifting and filled with inspiration! Something we can all appreciate. It also has the most amazing synchronicity ever! Secondly, it just happens to tie in with our friend Rosette Delacroix and connecting them both by way of a simple sweater!
So please let me explain, not too long ago Rosette wrote on her blog that she was getting some very nasty comments from those wanting to criticize her work. Some very hurtful things were being written that she had to actually block from being posted for others to read. She said those critics were the very ones wanting to take her “finely woven, handmade sweater” and try to find any loose threads to pull and make the whole thing unravel.
I was left feeling very touched by that sentiment! And I love her sweater metaphor! Especially since she has been very kind to so many others including myself. Rosette has even invited and encouraged me to write my own debut article that I’ve already posted here on her blog. Never in a million years did I think I would ever get involved with doing such a thing! She has also allowed me to continue, at my own leisure, to write more articles as I choose. So more are now in the works and coming later.
Well I too got just a tiny taste of some unkind criticism from certain people not agreeing with what I wrote in my first article. But that has been nothing compared to what Rosette has to endure on a regular basis! That also makes me think twice now about putting together my own blog. But I’ve also written this particular tribute as a way of me personally saying to Rosette a deeply heart felt Thank You for helping me to find my own way of sharing my info with others!
Now let me tell you all about that other remarkable lady, a kind soul helping change the world. Her name is Jacqueline Novogratz and she has a very special story to share! And to all the naysayers, I hope you too, will find this article uplifting and with no cause for negativity!
When Jacqueline was a small girl she received the gift of a blue wool sweater. It had an African motif across the front – two zebras walking in front of a snowcapped mountain. A special gift that quickly became her prized possession. Jacqueline simply loved it so much she insisted on having her name sewn into the inside sweater’s neck. She went through elementary and middle school wearing it, feeling deeply attached since it was a gift from her beloved uncle Ed. That lasted until she reached her freshman year in high school and had by then outgrown the sweater.
One frustrating day she was approached by several school boys telling her how well that tight fitting sweater was showing her contours and how much they wanted to “climb that sweater’s mountain!” She then rushed home feeling hurt and telling her mother of her ordeal.
Jacqueline’s mother told her it was time to simply let go of her sweater. So they could either just toss it in the trash, which Jacqueline felt was a shameful thing to do, or better to give it to the local Goodwill. They opted for the latter and gave the sweater away to their neighborhood Goodwill store.
So fast forward 10 years later…..Jacqueline was twenty five and while jogging through the hilly streets of Kigali, Ruwanda, she noticed a small, scrawny African boy. He caught her attention with his wearing an oversized blue sweater. It was tattered with holes and dirty, reaching well below the boy’s knees. A sad sight for Jacqueline but the boy seemed so content in wearing it. Still it was a painful reminder for Jacqueline that there are others in the world that have very little to sustain them. But it was also just then that another thought struck her – so she ran over to the boy and grabbed him by the collar and turned it over. And there it was, her name inside the neck! Yes, it was her blue sweater!
Quite an amazing synchronicity, wouldn’t you say?! The poor piece of cloth had made it’s complex journey all the way from Alexandria, Virginia to Kigali, Ruwanda. And Jaqueline has since said she uses that moment as her own powerful metaphor to show us how interconnected we are. How our actions – and inaction – can touch people we might never know, never meet, everyday of our lives, all around the world. And like with Rosette, another perfect sweater metaphor! So let’s also consider here the impact the internet has when we can quickly connect with others, that we have never even met, all around the world.
Such wonderful people I’ve never met, but much like Rosette, I now know them as Nathalie, Lidy, Downtown Julie, Lola, Joanna, Andrejka, Lou and others. They’re all a small but regular and mighty group of contributors to Rosette’s blog. And it’s through their questions, comments and concerns that I have learned so much! Great Thanks to You All!
As for Jacqueline Novogratz, in 2001 she became the Founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit global venture capital fund whose goal is to use entrepreneurial approaches to address global poverty. “We would not make tiny loans to women, but would invest hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in enterprises that applied to reach at least a mission customers. My passion was using business models to create effective, sustainable systems where government or charity alone had failed poor people”.
In 2009 she published her book The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. And it still continues today to leave it’s impact on millions around the world. The book is rich in amusing and touching anecdotes of Jaqueline’s myriad encounters in third world countries.
Along with her entrepreneurial efforts aiding poverty, some of her other accomplishments include having lived with some of the most impoverished families in different parts of Africa. And helping so many survivors after the bloody geneocide in Ruwanda. She paid a special visit to Agnes, an inmate at Kigali’s Central Prison in Ruwanda. Agnes was accused of being a perpetrator of the geneocide. She had made incendiary speeches, urging Hutu men to kill the Ruwandan Tutsis and inciting women to encourage their husbands to work harder in their murderous acts. Agnes, a born leader, serves as a reminder that power corrupts on an equal opportunity basis. She had traded her integrity for power.
So Jacqueline’s story is richly composed of the stories of many others, the extraordinary people who have shaped her life. They came from all corners of the world—a Cambodian monk who lived his entire life in a mud hut in Africa. Some very poor Kenyan women dancing with joy in their own huts. A genocide survivor who fought back to claim her life again with just 4 liters of milk. And a little girl who had lost her home in Pakistan.
“Spending my weekends wandering the hillsides of Rio, talking to whomever I met in the favelas or slums. Though I felt people staring at me, some with anger in their eyes, I wanted to know this country, not just its wealthy places. The chasm between rich and poor was stunning. I’d never experienced such povery alongside such wealth before, and I’d never felt such a strong desire to make a difference or felt so fully alive”
Helping the world’s disadvantaged was always Jacqueline’s destiny, she just didn’t know how she was going to do it. So she just dove in with her heart and let her work in those third world countries show her the rest of the way.
She did return to Ruwanda 20 years after she first arrived, to see how the country had changed and try to understand the genocide that took the lives of 800,000 people in 100 days in 1994. She found that some colleagues had died, yet another had become a perpetrator of the violence, and others had lost everything. The stories were shocking and heartbreaking, and left her with new questions about human behavior.
Despite the tragedy, Jacqueline remains optimistic and still believes in the interconnectedness of people around the world as much as ever! “We have only one world for all of us on Earth and the future is really ours to create, in a world we dare to imagine together”, she concludes.
So this is just a short story I feel strongly about sharing. And again, it’s a way for me to thank my dear friend Rosette. Through our own connecting, a true synchronicity for sure, she has found in me the dormant voice that was afraid to speak up, afraid to share with others. She kindly gave to me the opportunity to start writing! And in turn, I have found in her, my own blue sweater!
Rich Blessings to You All, Luke
You can also watch this short clip of Jacqueline Novogratz describing her experiences: