AJ Maestas Global Passion
For those I don’t know well, global travel and service are passions of mine. Most of my work has been domestic, but that’s changing with my introduction to REALITY and the JDC.
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation (Schusterman), comprised of the REALITY initiative and the JDC Entwine grantee, is a global organization that seeks to improve lives, strengthen communities and advance equity. I was nominated to attend my first trip to Israel with the REALITY Sports group by Mindie Kaplan (thank you Mindie!). It was a week-long leadership journey that gathered amazing people in sports, health and wellness in an intensive, thoughtfully curated itinerary designed to elevate our leadership and ignite our ambition to change the world. We had the chance to visit the holy sites of three of the largest monotheist religions in the world, learned an extensive amount on the history and culture of the Middle East, and were fortunate enough to visit and experience the Holocaust Museum. It was incredible to explore Israel’s culture and society through the lens of sports professionals, and as a platform for understanding the complexities of my own community and industry.
The second JDC Entwine / REALITY partnership trip I was able to attend was to Ethiopia. Accompanied with another amazing group of individuals, we learned about the incredible programs in Africa, along with a flawless feedback loop for improvement on ways they are changing lives in the continent and country. Examples include Tikkun Olam Ventures (TOV), which leverages Israeli AgTech like drip irrigation technology to help lift Ethiopia’s most vulnerable farmers out of poverty. From this specific program the farmers are improving yields 2 or 3-fold. We also saw first-hand the work of Dr. Rick Hodes who selflessly has saved hundreds of lives across the continent with lifesaving and free surgeries. Specializing in the most extreme cases the Dr. is a true angel who has fostered and adopted numerous children to host and fund them through their life transformation.
We are starting to give back now, starting with the badly needed financing to support the work of the Dr. Rick and his team. We’re responding to COVID-19 in Ethiopia today with handwashing stations, community awareness campaigns, PPE to medical clinics, and webinars with Dr. Hodes about COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment for East African medical professionals on the frontlines. A few highlights of our travels and the kids in need are linked below. If you are interested in learning more about the amazing REALITY, Schusterman or JDC initiatives, or ways in which you can become involved with relief funds / attending the next trip, please contact me!