SXM! Check me out!
Jade Lopez: Founder of “I Heart All Human Kind”
Not many a Sint Maartener has travelled halfway across the world, let alone encouraged others to do so, but Jade has! Through her heart-warming stories and new foundation – I Heart All Human Kind – she hopes to inspire others to lend a hand to those who need it most. Find out more about her foundation and how you can assist her in creating opportunities for families by helping them realise their potential by supplying them with the equipment they need to start their own business.
1. Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised on St. Maarten. Growing up on the island gave me the privilege of living a very active life. I spent my time riding my bike, hiking and training for athletics at Raoul Illidge with Les Brown. My parents were very active and encouraged me to take part in triathlons and marathons. I was part of the Caribbean swimming team and I have also competed in equestrian sports. I enjoyed all those activities but my true passion has always remained dance. However, spending a lot of my time with my family of 11 aunts and uncles and 22 cousins from nearby Aruba has been one of my favourite pastimes and has made me the outgoing and sociable person that I am today.
2. When did you move abroad?
In 2009, I graduated from St. Dominic High and moved abroad to further my education in the performing arts. After studying in Holland for a year, I was given a scholarship to attend Cambridge Performing Arts in the UK where I was selected to perform alongside Bollywood dancer Karan Pangali at Curve Theatre in front of 800 people. After graduating in 2013, I moved to London where I landed a job working on a cruise ship as a performing artist.
3. How long have you been travelling and why?
I have been travelling for 16 months since October 2015. Following graduation and returning from the cruise, I moved to London to pursue my career as a performer. I started off by joining the London Cheerleaders but soon enough I started to feel very much uninspired. Commuting through London and to the studios was tedious, long and expensive. The lack of sun, outdoor activities and social life followed by the constant hustle and the grey and cold weather made it personally very hard for me to maintain my passion in a city that felt very hostile.
I had grown up in the sun and in a social, active environment and London was the complete opposite. The question of what I was doing with my life consumed me. I felt trapped and having no kind of outdoor life made it harder, so I decided to escape and seek a new perspective on the society I lived in by learning and immersing myself into different cultures; I was on a mission to find some sort of new inspiration.
4. Where did you travel to and how did you end up in India?
Initially, I travelled to Australia which was amazing! I travelled the whole of the East Coast doing everything from the Great Barrier Reef diving to camping in the jungles while meeting beautiful and interesting strangers. The adventure, adrenaline and unique interactions were definitely the re-ignition of what had started to feel like my dying flame. However, the source of inspiration I was hoping to discover hadn’t quite come yet.
After a couple months of travelling, I moved to Melbourne and started working. I found myself being more active and again finding my passion for the performing arts and making yoga my daily ritual. I felt much more balanced but I hadn’t quite gained the inspiration I was hoping for, so I decided to pack up my belongings and head to India where I took up an intense yoga teacher-training course. I then travelled around visiting several undeveloped areas. I was intrigued by people’s spirituality, positivity and outlook on life here, especially those who didn’t have anything.
5. When was the first time you decided to lend a hand to the people in India?
The starting point was when my friend and I rode Royal Enfield’s Motorbikes in the mountain range of Kerala in Munnar and came across a small village. These villagers never had the opportunity to leave, let alone meet someone of a different ethnicity. Everyone was just as inquisitive about us as we were about them.
Although there was a big language barrier and we couldn’t communicate much through words, we ended up dancing, playing games, teaching the children new games and sharing so much laughter among ourselves. We spent about four hours there and as we parted ways, the ambience of the place seemed to come alive. It was very humbling, truly life defining and a deeply profound experience, as we managed to raise the energies, smiles and create a positive experience for not just one person but a whole village.
I was initially just really interested in them and how they were able to keep such a high spirit and a warm smile on their face despite living in such terribly poor and difficult conditions. I could relate to having so little but more so the isolation of having nowhere to go and no one to help, so I wanted to help them find solutions that could make a difference to their lives. I care deeply about good people, which makes it painful when I see injustice.
As I continued to travel, I found myself very much intrigued by the way most of the lower caste got by here in India living in such bad conditions. I wanted to learn more and the only way I could do that was by getting involved and helping them.
6. What are the bad conditions?
India holds the distinction of having the highest number of poor people in the world. The government system is corrupt and doesn’t do much for people who live in the slums. Lower caste people have traditionally been excluded from mainstream society governed by the so-called upper caste communities. Some sleep on the side of the roads, next to faeces, urine and garbage. When not sleeping outside on the streets, families live often completely isolated on the edge of the city, barely surviving by doing only those tasks considered unfit for the upper class.
In my opinion, this is the worst form of rejection. I’ve witnessed upper class people pushing these children and even the women aside. I have seen them refuse to give a six-year-old girl drinking water. I watched a man from the upper class beat a tuk tuk driver purely because he was angry and needed to let go of steam. I’ve witnessed these families, which I am helping, struggle to meet their basic needs including food and an education.
The women don’t have jobs as they don’t have an education. They have no skills to generate money and have no choice but to look after the children. The fathers and brothers are out all day driving their rickshaws; this has its difficulties as so many others do it too. They are lucky to come home with only a few cents. In the very worst cases, but all too often, these families send their children out on the street to beg for money.
7. Why have you started this foundation?
I started the “I Heart All Human Kind” foundation because I believe it can help those who are less fortunate. It will also give them the opportunity to use what they have to support themselves. I travelled through India and when I landed in Jaipur, I was introduced to three families through my tuk tuk driver, one of the families being his.
I initially had intended to come here to get some jewellery I had sketched made. In the process of doing that, I started teaching the children of these families some fun games and Basic English. Like many others in India, the families don’t have beds to sleep on or even chairs to sit on; just a small, dark concrete room. They don’t have much to offer but still offered me and other locals who stopped by everything they had, never asking for a single thing in return, merely enjoying my presence and their own act of giving.
I couldn’t bear the thought of continuing my travels knowing that I was leaving these warm-hearted families in these living conditions, without even attempting some relatively simple solutions. I decided to stay and start this foundation to help them get out of their struggles. They don’t have the opportunities we have in a developed country and until someone reaches out to help them, their lives won’t ever change. I believe that “I Heart All Human Kind” will help these families and hopefully more by providing them with the tools they need to start their own handicraft business, giving them the opportunity to use what skills they have to support themselves!
8. How can people help you to make a difference?
I am only one person and one person alone cannot change the things I see here. People can help by sponsoring, getting the word out and sharing the Facebook and GoFundMe Page. I’ve also just launched a website about the campaign and started an online store selling antique Rajasthani handmade home decor items where 50% of the sales will be going straight towards the charity.
I would ultimately like to help as many families as I can, realise their potential through development, growth and productivity. Helping these families might not change the world, but it will change the world for them, allow them to know that someone cares, giving them hope, strength and possibilities to a brighter future.
No one should have to struggle so much to simply be treated like a human being, have food to eat, a place to live and an education; especially those with such kindness and generosity in their hearts!
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