Cover Those Cheeks! Our CEO's #Giving Story

That's right, I went there. I made it awkward, and uncomfortable, and a little bit embarrassing (cheeky jokes are always a little mortifying for those watching them unfold, am I right!?) But that's what we are all about here at The Unmentionables-- we help cover cheeks, so we're embracing opportunities to be cheeky. We deal with the embarrassing, the awkward, the unseen, the unmentionable everyday, and we strive to confront every awkward moment, every embarrassing situation, and every unseen person with endless compassion, understanding, sensitivity, vibrant spirits, a sprinkling of cheeky personality, and an endless supply of 'unmentionable' humor.  

Hello! My name is Kaleigh and I am one of the co-founders and the Chief Executive Officer of The Unmentionables! Thank you so much for taking the time to check out our blog and learn more about us and what we do!

Going forward, this blog will be focused on stories written by our staff, volunteers, those we serve, and some guest expert blogs but with #GivingTuesday today I wanted to tell you about what inspired me to take a massive leap of faith and start The Unmentionables with my co-founder, Megan.

This is #MyGivingStory.

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Over the past six years I have conducted research concerning civilians in conflict, often traveling myself to conflict zones and vulnerable communities.  Throughout my research I have been confronted by the horrors of war on a daily basis, particularly the horrors experienced by ordinary people, and the dire circumstances those who have fled conflict live in every day.  As a result, I've always been passionate about giving back to these communities on an individual basis, but have also always had a nagging sense that I should be doing so much more for communities that have welcomed me with open arms and shared what little they have.  This passion to give back was bolstered by some eye-opening and heart-wrenching experiences I had while conducting research in the Middle East this past year, in which I saw the true horror of conflict unfold 20 feet in front of me, alongside family stories of past trips to Syria.

In December 2010, my incredible grandparents had the opportunity to travel to Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.  They'd been to about 130 countries at this point, traveling in the most adventurous (and not always safe) ways, so we didn't think too much of their trip.  However, when they came home I asked them what their favorite part of their trip had been and they answered, "Definitely Syria, you just never know when the borders will close, we are so grateful to have been able to see it."  Again, I didn't think much of this answer-- my grandparents are very passionate lovers of world cultures and intrepid travelers so it was not an out of the ordinary response...until three months later when the entire Middle East disintegrated in the 2011 Arab Spring. 

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During this time, my family's horror at the situation in Syria became more and more prevalent, and we attempted to help the Syrian refugees flooding into our country as much as we could.  We donated all our unneeded clothes, books, and household goods; my grandparents donated more than half a floor of their home worth of items to newly arrived Syrians!  We wanted to help however we could because my grandparents had spent years telling us the most incredible stories of the beauty and kindness of Syria and its people.

Now, as a former athlete and person passionate about promoting health, wellness, and empowering vulnerable communities, this had always been a consideration for me as I thought about how to help these refugee communities.  But until this summer I couldn't figure out what to do with these seemingly disparate passions, until my friend Megan went to Greece to volunteer with refugee communities in Athens.  Megan then emailed me asking for donations for a campaign she had decided to run to provide underwear to refugees in Athens after noticing the dire circumstances for refugees needing these products.  At hearing about her campaign my heart just LIT UP.  I was so excited.  I sent her some money immediately, and was fascinated by her updates on purchasing, and distribution, and the incredible stories of refugees she was meeting. Upon Megan's return home we started talking about how to expand the effect and turn this one-time, spur-of-the-moment underwear campaign into a long-term solution for refugees' 'unmentionable' needs. 

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Right around this time my grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer but when I told him about 'The Unmentionables' he jumped at every change to encourage me to do this essential and innovative work and provide these unmentionable items not only to Syrian refugees, but to refugee populations globally.  He spent hours talking to me about options, and ways forward, and different conflicts and vulnerable communities that we could serve-- he was so engaged and enamored with our cause.  His passion and commitment to The Unmentionables from the very first spark of an idea helped me marry my academic and cultural passions with my passion for global health in the most effective, vital, and consistently overlooked way.

My grandfather passed away recently but he was, and continues to be, a primary reason why I am so passionate about the work The Unmentionables does.  While other organizations have certainly captured my mind, The Unmentionables and the vital work we do has captured my heart and soul.  

 

THIS IS #MYGIVINGSTORY.

 

 

Feeling inspired? Want to find out how you can give?

Interested in volunteering or interning with us? 

Share why you are passionate about The Unmentionables this #GivingTuesday using #MyGivingStory on social media.