Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I originally was in the United States Marine Corps and I would volunteer to do humanitarian work while stationed in various countries throughout Africa.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started doing this?
I would say the time I helped what I thought was a “regular” nomad get from Ali Sabieh to Tew’o here in Djibouti. It was a scorching 48 degrees C that day and I happen to drive past him in the middle of the desert. I turned around pull next to him and in my broken Somali language I asked where he was going and if he wanted some water. ( I always keep water in the back of my SUV in a cooler) . He said he needed to get to Tew’o. That would have been a day and a half to 2 days walk through the treacherous conditions or I could take him in 2 hours via my vehicle. I told him I would take him and he was reluctant at first because he didn’t want to be a burden. He finally gets in and it’s a quiet ride and then finally he speaks in broken English and says thank you so very much, I owe you. I needed to be in Tew’o today and I wasn’t going to make it in time. I tell him no thanks are needed just doing my job as a human being. He asked where I lived and I told him what area of the city of Djibouti I resided in. We maintained small talk in broken English and Broken Somali until we get to his destination. We say our goodbyes and he is so grateful that I have given him this ride he keeps saying I owe you. Again I tell him, no you don’t and I proceed to leave and he says I will repay your kindness. I smile and say thank you and I drive back home. 3 weeks pass and I hear my security guard outside loudly talking with someone then I hear him banging on my front door. I go out to see what was going on. I look over the balcony and I see the gentleman that I gave a ride to outside my home and he has 10 goats with him! He says I told you I would repay your kindness! I teared up and went to the man and gave him a huge hug. I didn’t need the goats but that was his way of repaying me. I go back inside to grab him some water but by the time I came back out, he disappeared. I ended up giving the goats away to a family that could actually use them but I did keep one as a pet.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The realities in the field are sometimes very painful but you have to put on a brave face and learn to speak with others about your current mental well being to stay grounded. Remember, this is for the greater good of humanity so everything you do matters on a scale larger than you could imagine and you are appreciated for your hard work and dedication.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My father’s love for his family and people as a whole instilled this into me. I remember as a child he would never miss any fundraisers our community was having even if it meant for him to work a full shift and then drive a few hours each way round trip to be available for his community. He did this for weeks at a time when we were raising money to rebuild our local outreach center for disadvantaged youths.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Everyday! This is why I permanently moved to East Africa and assist UNHCR here in Djibouti at the refugee camps.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Yes, my favorite….”Show love and you will receive love!” While I was doing volunteer work in Afghanistan I befriended an 11-year-old boy and his 9-year-old sister. Every day we would just speak on the issues going on in the area, I would give them water, food, and clean clothes if I were able to round some up. This went on for weeks and I can tell they truly trusted me as a person. One afternoon, I was out and approached by a group of teenagers and a few young adults that actually wanted to hurt or even worse kill me. Some of them had sticks and some had guns. There was literally no place for me to run but as I’m trying to defuse the situation, the brother and sister come running over and they stand in between myself and the group of people to shield me from any harm and actually got the group of guys to leave me alone and go away. I asked them why would they put themselves in harm’s way like that? They said you have been nothing but respectful and loving since we have met you and we felt that we owed it in return to you.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow me on Instagram j_chest29 but more importantly, they can follow the work being done with the UN on their Instagram @refugees. I don’t post the work that I do on my page too often as it can be a touchy subject.