Industry Innovators: JustWorld International

By Erna L. Adelson & Jackie McFarland

What a JustWorld
Winston Churchill said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” One interpretation can certainly be discerned while watching a particular periwinkle huntcoat enter the ring at many horse shows across the country: Equestrians, universally united by the compassion and dedication characterized by lifelong horsemanship are uniting worldwide for social change as ambassadors of JustWorld International. Riders/ambassadors don the special blue huntcoats as proudly as the blue ribbon. The organization has given athletes a purpose beyond show ring success, and for many equestrians, this is a natural fit. It would come as no surprise to Winston Churchill that one of the most successful international change organizations thrives within the culture of people who love horses.

We caught up with JustWorld’s founder and executive director, Jessica Newman, during her most recent visit to southern California. She had just returned from a trip to Colombia, where she is hoping JustWorld will expand. “We are focusing on developing a lot in Central and South America because of the proximity of extreme poverty to the affluent equestrian community,” Newman explains. “This way, we are able to implement local programs and really demonstrate to resident ambassadors the influence of their support as we have been able to do in Guatemala.”

Also in 2009, the Natalie Johnson Center was completed in Honduras. The school and community hub was named for JustWorld junior rider-turned pro, Natalie Johnson, who donated 100% of her winnings over the past 5 years.

But, as Newman points out, you don’t have to emulate Natalie Johnson in giving all your winnings, or even ride competitively to join the steadily growing movement. She is wearing a handmade charm bracelet that riders Sophie Simpson and Madison Newman are selling to raise money for the project that they adopted, which will help provide access to education, nutrition, and necessary skills to children in the world’s poorest countries. “You don’t have to have a lot of money or give a lot of money to be involved. You can give 1% of winnings or 100%. Any creative fundraising is welcome,” says Newman. “The bracelet I’m wearing is a great example because these girls were able to create unity among riders and supporters of JustWorld while fundraising.” Another example of creative donating is Antares, where a percentage of every helmet sold goes to JustWorld for a program that provides nutritious lunches to children in Cambodia.

Additionally, JustWorld has a team of technical officials like Course Designer Leopoldo Palacios and rider/clinician Francie Steindenwell Carvin, who regularly donate services or expertise. “I did a clinic for JustWorld in Woodside,” explains Carvin, who has also joined Newman as a volunteer on a trip to Honduras. The Pacific Coast Horse Show Association (PCHA) sponsored the clinic, and Newman was in attendance. “I donated all of my earnings and spread the word to everyone who attended with a video, so we were able to reach riders who may not even be regularly going to clinics or winning a lot of money but they will join the movement. I will be donating my clinics in the future. It was really nice of the PCHA and it meant a lot to people in NorCal, because Jessica was actually there,” she continued.

JustWorld also offers Volunteer Memberships, Corporate Sponsorship, or Group Project Adoptions so that entire barns can get together to raise money and awareness. Outside of the equestrian industry, Regan Hayes (sister to Canadian rider ambassador Lauren Hayes) hosted a fashion show in Ottawa, Canada, with proceeds benefitting the organization. These types of projects have berthed an organic evolution in the overall structure of JustWorld International. Newman has been gradually restructuring so that each initiative will have local operators and report to a more regional chapter. “We are looking for partners who really see the value of paying it forward and taking control of their own projects,” she says. “We are looking for leaders.”

Newman already has one new horse show partner in mind. Show manager Dale Harvey has plans to make his Del Mar International Horse Show the first JustWorld International Show in California. While the details of the full partnership have not yet been finalized, Newman explains that this is an expansion on what show managements can offer. Over the years, shows have donated access to communication, advertising, or unique campaigns like a place for donation on the entry blank, horseless horse shows, or a silent auction. “Having once been a competitor, I know the in and outs of shows so we continue to come up with different ways to get people involved and generate support,” she notes. Dale Harvey, who is spearheading the partnership, hopes that this will serve as an example for other equestrian venues. “It’s a great organization with incredible work all over the world and it’s an organization that I am proud to partner with,” he explains. “We plan on having some social events and fundraisers that will really benefit the program and hope that it inspires others, both individually and collectively, to act as well.”

Another facet of the movement has emerged within equestrian youth by way of the virtual communities fostered by online social networks like Facebook that have connected JustWorld ambassadors from afar. Young equestrians like Sophie Simpson and Cayla Richards, purveyors of the Facebook scene, have become virtual advocates, managing relationships with other riders and participants through a knack for social networking. Richards explains it well: “Being an ambassador allows me to incorporate charity work into my passion of horses. I can make contributions by spreading awareness not only to the horse show community, but also to friends and family.” Simpson, 11, uses her online presence as practice for her future role as a spokesperson for JustWorld. “As soon as I completed the application process I felt like I was a part of something big, and I want to get more people involved,” she says.

“Just by joining the group and spreading the word about JustWorld is a contribution in itself,” says Newman. We would venture to say that the wise Winston Churchill, who wore many coats in his day, would likely have chosen to wear a periwinkle JustWorld coat if he had the chance.

Get involved as a rider or advocate for JustWorld International by contacting Jessica Newman or Caitlin Demaree, Equestrian Coordinator.

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