For most people, corporate success would be enough, but thankfully Cynthia Kersey isn’t most people. Starting at Sprint, Kersey’s career progressed to the top of her field, selling and managing a $30m account and achieving a six-figure income, but she wasn’t fulfilled or passionate about her life.
Bravely, she stepped aside from these trappings to achieve her first goal of writing a book, Unstoppable, a series of stories about people who have overcome obstacles to achieve personal triumph.
“I’ve always loved stories of unstoppable individuals,” explains Kersey. “I read about and studied people who have a purpose, stay focused and refuse to be put down or quit. I was inspired and decided to cash in my life savings in to write my first book.”
However, just 18 months later, Kersey’s 20-year marriage fell apart, leaving her devastated and feeling out of control. “It was my dear friend and mentor, Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, who told me that when you have a great pain in your life, you need a greater purpose, and suggested I build a house for a family in need.”
Although now a single woman, living on the proceeds of her book, Kersey threw herself into a project to raise funds for construction of a school in Nepal. Instead of feeling satisfied at achieving sufficient funds for one house, she continued with her effort, raising $200,000 in 12 months, putting roofs over the heads of 100. In December 2000, leading a group of 18 people to Nepal, Cynthia worked to build the first three properties.
“At 100 houses, the sense of achievement felt bigger than my pain, and I was, once again, inspired. That was my first experience where I understood the power of giving, and it truly transformed my life, catapulting me into a deeper level of service and contribution.
While I was in Nepal, I met a single woman who was to live in one of the homes we helped fund. We connected deeply and I remember her saying, ‘Thank you. Please don’t forget me’. That was a pivotal moment for me; it inspired me to integrate giving into my business and to make a big difference.
In 2005 after I wrote my second book, Unstoppable Women, I was invited to a rural African Women Concert-Conference in Kenya. The women there had spent days walking across the continent in order to share their stories; I was both shocked and inspired. It brought home to me that just by virtue of where you’re born, can determine whether you’re living a life with hopes and dreams or trying to merely survive. The biggest hope of the women there was that their daughters get an education as it would change their lives.”
Kersey’s second major opportunity came about in 2008, as she turned 50. A friend’s son had asked people to donate towards the funding of a school in Uganda, for his bar mitzvah. “I was inspired again,” says Kersey.
“I thought if I organized a fundraiser and invited 100 people, asking each of them to donate $100 each to attend the party and then asked them to contribute more that evening towards a Ugandan school. We raised enough to fund two schools!
The giving was amazing; this is when I decided to start the Unstoppable Foundation and asked others to use their birthdays as fundraisers to help educate children in Uganda Africa.
What I discovered is that person truly care. They care about others…whether they’re in their own communities or half way around the world.
People gave. They had fundraisers. Their children had fundraisers. They asked their friends and community to write checks. They gave up their birthday parties.
Three years later, I was still working my business, but I really wanted was to fundraise with my foundation full-time, so I talked with two of my closest friends about it. And this became the master strategy: One day I thought, “This is the master plan, I will call three people a day and ask them to contribute money, their products or resources to my project. People were so generous and responded so fantastically. One person donated $50k and ran one of our campaigns. It was just amazing, and I felt that the universe had my back and that this was the right thing to do.
Since then, the Unstoppable Foundation has really grown, and we’re now educating over 9,000 children A DAY! But, a school is not enough. That’s why there are five pillars to our work. Education, clean water and sanitation, food and nutrition, plus healthcare and training for the parents to generate an income so it’s self-sustaining.
We have accomplished so much in just eight short years.
But there are still thousands of children and their families waiting for an education.
It costs only $1 a day to educate a child through our Sponsor a Village model for one year. Every $25,000 raised supports approximately 70 children and 350 family members with the 5 pillars of sustainability.
We have promised the children and elders that AS LONG AS THEY WORK HARD and lead this effort TO RAISE THEIR community out of poverty, we WILL NOT LEAVE THEM, until EVERY CHILD, and EVERY COMMUNITY IN THEIR ENTIRE REGION receives access to these life-saving services.”
We will not stop. We are unstoppable!!!
Cynthia Kersey is the founder and CEO of the Unstoppable Foundation (unstoppablefoundation.org), whose mission is to ensure that every child on the planet receives access to education.
Find out more about the Unstoppable Foundation and how you can use your birthday or any special day to make a difference in the life of a child.