In 2006, Jessica Markowitz, then 12, started a charity that has sent 22 impoverished Rwandan girls to school. Richard's Rwanda IMPUWE is named after Richard Kananga, an aid worker who stayed with her family that year ("impuwe" is the Rwandan word for compassion). Richard does reconciliation work in Rwanda, and when he told Jessica about the children who had lost their parents to genocide and could not afford school, she asked how she could help. "He connected me with 22 girls, mostly orphans, who needed assistance," says Jessica, now 14. "I talked to some girls at my middle school, and we formed a group that bloomed into something bigger." Um, yeah it did! Through bake sale fundraisers, school supply drives and a ton of determination on the part of its members, Richard's Rwanda IMPUWE has changed the lives of those 22 girls. Jessica has taken several trips to rural villages in Rwanda, where she formed a partnership with a local girls' school. She spent this past summer teaching Rwandan kids to read in English. "I feel really determined to do something for girls like me across the world," says the Seattle native.
The charity is expanding to chapters in five more high schools this year. For her amazing work, Jessica was awarded a World of Children Global Changemaker Award last week -- that's like the Nobel Prize for youth. "One big goal we have is to build a women's empowerment library," says Jessica. "We want to emphasize female contributions inliterature and academics to show the girls in Rwanda how powerful they can be."
So awesome! Through June 1st, all donations made to Richard's Rwanda IMPUWE up to $25,000 will be matched by a family foundation who heard about Jessica's efforts. So if you give, you'll be giving twice. Double good.
Watch Jessica in this video about her charity and get totally inspired. We did.
PS-Feeling like one person can't make a difference? Jessica's story proves that theory wrong, but for more inspiration, you should probably listen to Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" one more time. If you have a heart, this song will warm it. (And go see "This Is It" -- so good!)