Alumni Wave: Emily Jones
Where Are They Now?
After living in South Carolina, England, Hawaii and LA – and having countless international travels in between – it is safe to say that Emily Jones (a.k.a. EmJ) could tell you a few stories from her mere 27 years. From helping to pioneer our Ulu Pono Kids program and working as STN’s creative director, EmJ made a major impact during her five years on staff at STN! Unbeknownst to her at the time, each endeavor was a vital piece of the puzzle to help her reach for her ultimate goal: getting to the Congo. A goal that we at STN were excited to support her to chase! This woman filled with wanderlust has never just been ‘wandering’; EmJ travels to bring about justice.
For this month’s ‘Where Are They Now?’, we’re excited to highlight this dream-chasing former STN staff member, and tell the story of how her long-awaited desire to go to the Congo became a reality.
“Once upon a time…
When I was 8 years old,
I remember feeling very strongly
a voice inside me saying.
”Go To Africa.”
I immediately said ‘okay’.
I went to look at a globe, knowing that Africa was a big place, and thought, ”Okay, which country?”
As I scanned the wild continent, my eyes rested on ‘The Congo.’
I looked over and over at different countries, but felt a certain attachment to the Congo.”
When you’re just eight years old, there’s not much you can do to get yourself to Africa, but a big dream was planted in my little heart and I claimed the Congo for my future.
On top of Africa being on my mind, justice was another topic that overwhelmed my young brain.
I would read about the Civil War and long to go back in time and work on the Underground Railroad.
I wrote a speech against racism, imagining myself as Martin Luther King Jr. and felt my blood boil any time a racial joke passed my ears in my Southern stomping grounds. A passion for justice and protecting people grew in me, and it was bigger than I could understand.”
EmJ’s dream to go to the Congo was planted in 1996, and as the years went on, that dream never faded. Throughout her years of learning French, studying to be an educator, working with youth-at-risk, travelling with STN and doing humanitarian work in impoverished communities, there were many things that – though unknowingly at the time – contributed to EmJ’s preparation to work in the Congo.
It wasn’t until she met a woman from South Africa who introduced her to the organization Justice Rising (JR), a non-profit organization that “brings peace to communities affected by war by educating children at risk, creating sustainable jobs, and developing community leaders.” Justice Rising goes to different war-zones, but one (unsurprisingly) specifically triggered EmJ’s interest: Democratic Republic of the Congo! As she continued to research about Justice Rising, she was blown away by how much their vision was aligned with her own. So, her official preparation began, and in January 2015, EmJ joined the JR team as their Creative Developer.
“This position, though located in California, effects both projects on the ground overseas and the development of Justice Rising in the west. I put together programs and curriculum for on-the-ground use in war zones and conflict affected areas as well as developing and implementing awareness initiatives and campaigns for the western world. I’ll be brainstorming, dreaming and writing programs for kids who, because of trauma, have shut down the creative portion of their brain. These programs and curriculum are implemented overseas and used in the following years by internationals and locals to better the quality of life for kids, and help them move on from trauma and live a happy and whole life.”
After her months of preparation with JR (and years of anxious anticipation), this past June EmJ boarded her first flight to the Congo and embarked on the journey that she had dreamed of for so long. For 3 months EmJ worked with youth, mentoring and running a Creative School started by Justice Rising. Despite doubts and concerns over the children’s ability to start using their imagination again, EmJ discovered something quite different: “In all my travels, I have never encountered such imaginative people. Now it seems easy to believe Congo will be known for its power to create wonderful things.”
In August, EmJ arrived back at the Justice Rising headquarters in LA and is already planning her next trip to return to the Congo. It is amazing to see someone who has poured so much of her heart into Surfing The Nations be launched into pursuing new, bold adventures.
Thank you, EmJ, for not only serving others all over the world, but also for being an inspiration to us – and many more – to bring about positive change in the darkest places on earth.
To find out more about Justice Rising, and how you can get involved, visit their website www.justicerising.org.