A social movement of professional and amateur riders is expanding. Stemming from the initiative of the American former Grand Prix show-jumper, Jessica Newman, JustWorld International (JWI), was founded in 2003. Since then, the JWI has raised millions of dollars to fund local educational programs and health projects in developing countries. Still, according to Newman, the work has just started: JustWorld International is on a mission to unite riders globally, to make them join forces and give a leg up for children in unprivileged situations.
By Ane Bjølgerud Hansen. Photos JUSTWORLD
The social entrepreneur is the former international rider Jessica Newman. Newman has a strong belief and a profound commitment to her work. She competed in the international showjumping circuit from the age of 16-22, and then she decided that she wanted to go into humanitarian work: “I lived such a privileged life that I had to do something to give back to others”, Newman explains. She travelled to help victims of hurricane Mitch in Honduras in 1998: “It shocked me and also inspired me that I knew I had to dedicate my life to doing something that is helping others, because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing that there is such injustice in the world and not doing anything”. Coming from the horse world, she knew that equestrians don’t have much time to do charity work because of the intense and consuming lifestyle. However, many of the people in the horse community are very privileged. Then, she found a way to let equestrians be involved without leaving the sport by creating a community of donors and volunteers.
JustWorld International funds come from individuals, partner horse shows, and corporate sponsors. From the headquarters at Newman’s farm, JWI channels the funds to a number of projects in deprived areas. They work with local partner organizations involved in providing education, nutrition and health services. Presently, JustWorld is active in Honduras, Brazil, Cambodia, Guatemala and Senegal. The organization has no religious or political affiliation. And Newman herself works 100% for JustWorld without taking a salary.
JustWorld International’s unique feature is that it works with fundraising through the equestrian community. It started within show jumping. JWI is present at numerous equestrian events where supporters run events to raise funds and awareness for the organization in many ways. As do the organization’s own ambassadors who include top equestrians Kevin Staut and Alexander Zetterman, plus much more. To help, professional riders donate a portion of their prize money, hold benefit clinics or organize fundraising events, just to give a few examples.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”
Swedish Zettermann has been involved in humanitarian work for some time. He held benefit clinics for JWI in Sweden last fall and has taken initiative to a fundraising gala. He explains why he is involved: “We know very well how the rest of the world is, but still we choose to close our eyes. It is more important than ever for well-known riders to be ambassadors for JWI and similar organisations”. Zettermann acknowledges that riding as a costly sport, and continues: «Many equestrians save every penny just to be able to ride, and many dream to do more, without having the economic opportunity. But you don’t have to donate millions or thousands here, what is required is for more people to set aside some time and be involved. As an ambassador, I hope to make that happen”.
French Kevin Staut, one of the highest-ranking show jumpers in the world, is a long-term ambassador of JWI. Staut joined JWI in 2007 as one of the first riders to do so: “JustWorld counts on the support of riders to help raise awareness within the equestrian world to provide a better life for children in developing countries,” Staut says. In 2013, he also visited a JustWorld project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for several days.
You do not have to be a professional to become a JWI ambassador: “Equestrians of all ages, levels and disciplines are welcome to become ambassadors”, director Jessica Newman explains. The ambassadors represent JWI by wearing a signature jacket in the show ring and act as spokespersons to raise awareness among their friends, local community, at horse shows, and in the media. In total, more than 500 JustWorld ambassadors, professionals and amateurs alike, from 40 countries give “time, talent, and treasure”. The idea is to become a grass-roots movement, in which riders on the national and local level take part. The best way to take part is to decide on how much and what you are willing to support.
JustWorld’s goal is to be a catalyst for positive and long-term change in the developing world. Education is a key instrument in creating sustainable development by empowering people. Indeed, it is a basic human right. Sadly, education is not universally given, even in countries where schools are officially free. For example, school supplies for textbooks and materials are required for attendance, something many poor parents cannot afford. Therefore, the main recipients of JWI funding are local schools in impoverished communities in Honduras, Senegal, Cambodia, Guatemala and Brazil that provide education in the official school curriculum, cultural activities and vocational programs for children. 25 US$ can fund textbooks for five students in a year and 80 US$ pay for a student’s entire education throughout one year. As little as 10 US$ ensure a student a uniform and shoes. As of now, more than 3,500 students receive support through JustWorld, but the main challenge is to keep the funds coming and growing.
Anyone who works with education knows that it is difficult to learn on an empty stomach, and this is why JWI also works with local partner organizations within the fields of nutrition, health and hygiene. For instance, the successful trading stables Ashford Farm in Belgium recently teamed up with the organisation to sponsor the salary of a full time nurse at the partner project in Cambodia. Support from partners such as Ashford Farm ensure students’ medical care as their families cannot afford to send them to a doctor or hospital. The managing director at Ashford Farm Enda Carroll was the winning bidder of a pony (Nidge) auctioned off to benefit Just World in 2014, and that was when the partnership started. Carroll encourage people to help in the way they can: “From the outside looking in, it is very apparent that the volume of work done and differences in lives they have made already. JustWorld is continuing to grow and develop, helping more individuals, and without support from people like us, none of this is possible.”
If you are interested:
Becoming a JustWorld Ambassador
Equestrians of all ages, riding levels, and disciplines are welcome to become JustWorld Ambassadors.
To be an ambassador means you wish to represent JustWorld by wearing the colors of JustWorld in the show ring and acting as a spokesperson to raise awareness for JustWorld among your friends, local community, at horse shows, and in the media.
Ambassadors pledge a portion of their winnings or an annual donation, and/or volunteer their time. There is no minimum amount an Ambassador is required to pledge.