Humane Campaign: Santorini
Just over a year ago I was on a secret flight to South Africa to surprise my sweet best friend for her birthday because I will forever and always be a believer in preforming reckless acts of love for people. My flight had a 12 hour layover in Istanbul and I had zero intentions of spending it in the airport. My passport was excited to get some middle eastern ink.
When I was three years old my mom made me a handmade Jasmine costume for Halloween, without one of those ugly flesh colored midriff coverings that all of the other Target store bought costumes had. I feel like this says a lot about how I turned out to be who I as a person and it also made me really excited for my first experience in a Middle Eastern country and tap into my Arabian Princess roots. I posed inappropriately on a Persian rug, drank Turkish coffee darker than Donald Trump’s soul, and noticed that the one common trend in any country I’ve been too - Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, USA, South Africa and now Turkey - we all love KFC.
I booked myself on a couple of tours and one thing led to another - I missed my flight home. To this day, I’m not sure how this happened, as I was the gate before my flight was scheduled to leave, but nonetheless it did. The next flight out (that I could afford) didn’t leave until the next day and I became the epitome of an ugly American tourist as I internally panicked trying to figure out my life.
In the lost baggage area where I claimed my suitcases an unassuming man approached me and explained that he was an American photographer living in Turkey, and he had a couch. While I didn’t know him, I felt like God gave me a little wink and said “you said you wanted an adventure.” I ignored all lessons of stranger danger that I’d ever been taught and stayed with him and his friends because a there was a pillow with my name on it. What some photographers do for a good image, I’ll do for a good story. My mom has gray hair.
On the taxi ride to his flat I learned that he’s not a wedding, brand or Instagram wannabe photographer - but that he was documenting the conflict in Syria and had just published a book on the events. I ran my singular thumb over shots of demolished buildings and and injured people whom my new roomie had physically known and realized there was a very large problem happening in the world that I essentially knew nothing about. I needed to pay attention.
Fast forward, and its February with a spray tanned President. There’s fear preached into the veins of people that I love from the POTUS at a podium with veins popping in his forehead. While news breaks of children having their faces melted off, people that I’d once respected were brainwashed into believing these people experiencing immense danger and terror were full of those very things themselves. Over 70% of people who I’d grown up respecting were willing to stand behind a man who said that mommies and daddies gripping their children to their chest, while getting out of a boat of hundreds of people because it was their only chance at survival, were going to kill/bomb/terrorize our country.
My cheeky eight fingers created a sign that read “JESUS WAS A REFUGEE” for an anti refugee rally and I was fully ready to be written out of any conservative family’s wills that hadn’t already done so. There’s a time for being passive in order to keep the peace. I don’t know when that is - but I hear its a thing. I did know that this wasn’t that. I couldn’t take watching videos of children wearing remnants of their families and houses on their faces anymore. Knowing that this ban was a thing people who had taught me Sunday School, and about the love of the Jesus they supposedly believed in, could get behind sent me feet up to another couch. This couch owner is named Nikki and she is my therapist. She helps me navigate how to deal with tragedy in the world and is probably the biggest part of why Tony and I have a healthy relationship.
Coming to terms with the fact that I personally couldn’t change the terror in Syria was actually a really big stepping stone - as insane as that might seem. I’m a capable firecracker but even I know when a beast is too big for me to fix on my own and civil war in the middle east isn’t going to be won by a 24 year old yoga teacher in Minneapolis. I also can’t change people - Nikki likes to remind me of this. I can only love them, and I do that really well as illustrated in the first paragraph of this email. Seriously, who flies 1/2 way around the world for a birthday surprise.
I started asking questions to figure out how to best help this issue and I had a big statement made to me: “If you go to a country in the middle east right now you’ll be going there because it’s “glamorous” to help people in need but you won’t be able to do anything substantial go to a neighboring country and help organizations help the refugees who have made it out.”
I’ve essentially been a full time volunteer since I was 18. I write, teach yoga, and consult small businesses on social media but most of my day is spent organizing charity events or dreaming really big to help the people that the world likes to forget. God told me to do that when I was 20 and I take it really seriously. My life is not about me, and actually yours isn’t about you. Whether you, I or anyone like it our lives are not given to us to create comfortable living situations. They’re given to us so that we can take care of one another and I think our obsession with comfort is honestly why our world is so incredibly fucked up. So I’ve forced myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and unfortunately for anyone who wants to be close to me I’m addicted to this lifestyle because I’ve seen it change lives. I’m more comfortable in third world countries, running around chasing children and stories where gangs and organized crime and immense poverty run alongside me than in my boyfriend’s oversized sweatpants. I’ve seen organizations work wonders, I’ve been apart of these miracle organizations myself, and the entire reason I moved back from SA to the USA was to try to help fund these organizations.
I became a yoga teacher because I loved exercise and I liked the idea of getting paid to get yolked. Abs are cool, but truth be told, I only care to be healthy enough to be my best self to help other people. Best case scenario after being a health goddess in our early adult years? We end up 80 and wrinkly AF anyways while looking back and wondering why we spent so much time doing sit ups instead of kissing people we love and learning to love people we don’t. My love for intense workouts stems from wanting to get in and out and done with it so I could go love more children in townships.
But then 20k+ people started following me. The concept of a chick missing half her left arm who does yoga is like inspiration porn for some people and I told myself that as long as I donated 1/2 of every Instagram or blog post I made, it didn’t matter if I just focused on fitness on my profile. I’d been doing this for nearly a year when the height of the refugee crisis hit and both Nikki and I knew if I didn’t do something big I was going to erupt from the inside out.
While I couldn’t change the civil war in Syria I did have an account with two very powerful things at my fingertips:
- 20k people who apparently care what I have to say
- A profile that brands want their products on
I also have been given this cool talent where my eight little fingers create things that people want to read which will always blow my mind. I'm not a trained journalist or a renowned novelist, and all of my stories are essential about the same thing: humanity.
I put that together and I created a concept called the Humane Campaign. We produce content (copy, photos, video) for brands and use that to fund us creating similar content for organizations doing amazing work that need help fundraising. We work with companies that want to create social justice through social media. Agent Katie and I would write to pitch brands, Laura would kill in the meetings, and Josh found an awesome, credible organization doing awesome work with refugees that needs their story told. In a world where there are a million things to disagree on, there's this truth that we're all human and we all know what it's like to love, fear, laugh and dance. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that hatred cannot exist if we focus on what unites us as a human race, instead of what makes us different.
It's 5 AM in Santorini and I haven’t slept more than four hours at a time on this trip because of night terrors regarding what’s happening to children around the world that I can’t change. I’m jet lagged, I’m exhausted, I miss my boyfriend and I honestly still have a lot of wine in me from dinner that my lamb didn’t soak up. I’m experiencing a hangover being birthed in live action right now. My pastor won’t even be mad that I’m hungover when he reads this because he’s intentionally gotten me lit too many times to count, and he also really wants me to start saying live action because it’s a cool phrase he created and he wants it to catch on.
I haven’t gotten to the refugee camps yet. I’m in beautiful Santorini. The only experiences I can tell you about Greece are dreamy ones. But the most important thing I can tell you is this:
It is absolutely, 100% possible to take whatever your line of work is and use it for the benefit of others. If you’re reading this you’re in the top 1% of the world, so I’d also like to let you know it’s your duty. The world is broken. Children with disabilities like me in Africa are thrown away because communities think they’re possessed. Eastern Europe is experiencing the largest refugee crisis in history. Human trafficking is the largest industry in the world. There are children forced into armies and sweatshops whose fingers should be on books and pencils, not guns and clothing.
To be able to help brands succeed in their businesses through social media with some of my best friends while using their marketing budgets to help organizations stop these very things is dreamy in the ways that no bottle of wine or view in Oia could ever compare to.