Jesse’s childhood experience as a missionary kid in Africa motivated him “to work and to struggle with people, to provide a chance for the poor to speak, and for the world to listen and to act.” He is now working in World Vision’s office in Washington, D.C., as policy adviser for children in crisis.
A memory from childhood stands out for Jesse. His parents were missionaries in Uganda at a school where children, orphaned by AIDS, were sponsored through World Vision.
Jesse says he was playing soccer with the students — an American 14-year-old playing with African friends, “doing this totally normal thing with kids just like me, and yet no one outside the village had any idea of the hardships these children had gone through. I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”
His time in Africa motivated him “to work and to struggle with people, to provide a chance for the poor to speak, and for the world to listen and to act.” He is now working in World Vision’s office in Washington, D.C., as policy adviser for children in crisis.
Jesse mobilizes Americans and educates lawmakers on Capitol Hill so they take action on issues affecting children around the world, such as human trafficking, child sexual exploitation, child labor, and child soldiers.
He earned his master’s degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He focused on international relations, especially Africa, and conflict studies.
Before joining World Vision, his experiences included a project interviewing people in Uganda displaced by a conflict using child soldiers. “The more I talked to them, the more I wanted to be working hand-in-hand with these people. For so many, this was the first time they were able to share their story. Being able to provide that opportunity opened up a whole new world for me.”
He says people in Uganda and around the world are so touched when they hear of Americans speaking out for them. “It really means the world to them because, in the case of Uganda, they have felt invisible for more than 20 years.”
Jesse has also worked in community development projects that built schools in Uganda, provided water and sanitation facilities to displacement camps, and empowered communities to invest in their own future. He was also the director of external relations for Resolve Uganda, an advocacy group working for peace in Uganda.
He likes to share the stories of individuals. “That’s when you feel the greatest connection — when you see there’s a 13-year-old girl being forced into prostitution, and she’s no different than your own daughter. This is someone’s child. This is a person who has every right to get an education and have the opportunity to make something of her life.”
Jesse finds that “many people throw up their hands and say, ‘This is too big. I can’t do anything.’ I love to answer that question. Guess what: There is something you can do.”