From the age of five when she began competing in the pony hunters to her first international Grand Prix at 16, Jessica Newman worked every day to master the equestrian sport. Toward the end of her riding career, Newman found that she had a calling.
“I started to realize that there was a lot more out there, and that I was living in a very privileged circle,” she recalled. “I’d done everything I wanted in the sport as a competitor and had been fortunate to so do. It was time to dedicate my life to doing something for others, not just focusing on my own goals.”
At the age of 22, Newman decided to quit riding and delved into humanitarian work, eventually founding JustWorld International in 2003. Through her network in the equestrian world, other riders began to see that together, everyone can do their part to help others in need.
For the past 15 years, hundreds of Rider Ambassadors and supporters, including juniors, amateurs and professionals from around the world, have changed thousands of children’s lives. JustWorld currently works with local non-governmental organizations in Cambodia, Guatemala and Honduras to help sustain education, nutrition, health and hygiene, and leadership and cultural development programs for children with little opportunity to receive support from other sources.
JustWorld International has grown tremendously. Two of its partners’ founders have been recognized as CNN Top 10 Heroes, proving that their strategy of working with local NGOs to support multiple pillars of change is effective. This year alone, JustWorld has given more than 6,500 children the tools they need to finish primary school and served more than 200,000 meals.
While the growth of JustWorld has been remarkable, the nonprofit has big plans, including a new executive director, Mei Mei Newsome. Newman introduced Newsome at the annual JustWorld Gala on Jan. 12 in Wellington. Newsome has been deeply involved with the organization for 10 years and previously served as volunteer managing director for three years.
“She is committed to JustWorld, and I believe the right person to take what I started and grow it beyond what any of us could hope for,” Newman said.
Newsome is ready to further develop JustWorld International’s efforts. She said that her main challenge will be raising more funds to reach more children. JustWorld has plans to expand this year, starting at home. Newsome announced that JustWorld will be partnering with a literacy program to reach elementary students in Belle Glade, located in Palm Beach County, just 30 minutes from Wellington.
Under Newsome’s leadership, the JustWorld staff, volunteers and supporters are excited to continue to make a difference in Honduras, Cambodia, Guatemala and now Belle Glade. Newman will focus on further developing the charity through her role as president of the board. For more information, visit www.justworldinternational.org.