• Kendra Butler

A Letter From the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our new and improved website. Thanks to my dear friend and previous RVA resident, Devon Charles, our webpage looks professional, clean and bright!

I thought that I would christen our new web presence by finally  posting a letter from the World U.P. Executive Director, me. I’ve been fighting this post for a while. You see, this letter hasn’t come easy, because there’s the letter to everyone that I should write, and then there’s the letter that I need to write. The version I should write is poised, professional, inspirational, and creates confidence in the community that I have every ability to create the most diverse, dynamic, and successful non-profit that the Richmond community has every seen. I should write you a cover letter that makes you want to donate all your time (and money) to World U.P., and tells you numbers and statistics.  I should reiterate my professional experience for you and why I’m qualified to be an Executive Director. In fact, I want every person to know all these things, but the problem is that should has never worked for me. Instead, I’m going to share with you what I need to write. If you want my qualifications, I’m happy to share my resume.

The letter I need to write gives you the raw honest truth as to why World U.P. exists, the amazing people I get to work with, and what exactly it is we are trying to accomplish. I’m going to share my heart. So, stick with me friends, because once my heart starts talking - it’s difficult to shut up.

In June 2016, I asked myself a very difficult question - Why does so much hate exist in this world? While I didn’t know the answer (and doubt I ever will), I knew that I had never felt so blessed to be a privileged, educated, moderately traveled, white woman in this century. Living in a time when we literally have access to the world at our fingertips, I never understood how it is that we can still hate people we haven’t met and so easily judge the people we have. While there are many explanations and theories out there, I tend to think that it all boils down to fear. Fear of the vast unknown and finding out that all the things we have come to so firmly believe isn’t true. Fear is the biggest stimulant of hate and judgment - it motivates some and isolates others. So, how do we overcome these fears? Personally, I think that experiencing our fears head-on and learning about our fears unveils three things (1) the hidden beauty of the thing we fear, (2) how to differentiate the good in the fear from the bad, and avoid the bad, and (3) we are capable of more than we can imagine. So, if fear cultivates hatred and judgment of others,  then theoretically experiences our fear can cultivate love, peace, and understanding.

I believe that cultural experiences helps mitigate racism, religious intolerance, and hate.The problem is that there’s a HUGE portion of society that don’t have access to classes on religions of the world or language classes, much less access to travel. I think that anyone who wants to have cultural experiences, should be able to have them, for free. People shouldn’t have to choose between surviving and becoming a citizen of the world. I think that’s a problem - and it turns out that a lot of people agree with me.

I have to say, I frequently get overwhelmed by how many people feel as passionate about this mission of World U.P. as I do. Let’s talk about some of those people for a moment, shall we? Once you’re done reading my long post - take a look at our Team Page. Look at those smiles! Aren’t they some of the most beautiful and sincere people you have ever seen? I feel blessed EVERY SINGLE DAY that I have found such wonderful people to work with in this organization. We push each other, we compliment each other, and above everything else we support each other. When we get together to laugh, talk, plan, develop, and coordinate - it doesn’t feel like work. To me, it feels like hanging out with some of my best friends. We are all vastly different, but we who share an amazing mission/vision to live in a peaceful society that is a melting pot of races, religions, foods, music, arts, and languages - a culturally diverse melting pot, if you will.

So, these amazing people and I got together and decided to try and create opportunities for people who cannot afford them. Opportunities to learn about other cultures. Opportunities to travel. Opportunities to interact with people they wouldn’t normally meet. Opportunities to experiences things that are traditionally expensive or availability, that to some they seem frivolous or are what dreams are made of, and ten months later, here we are. Over the next few months we hope  to roll out a few programs (which can be seen on our home page) that can broaden people’s horizons and further cultivate a community of cultural understanding and peace.

I hope that this blog becomes a place of community inspiration, education, motivation, and information for anyone who wants to start something big or just see a more peacefully diverse society. All the -ations, really. Most importantly, I want this blog to be a sea of voices, not just mine, so I ask (and beg) you to contact us with questions, comments, articles, stories, etc. that think would make great content for our site.

Thank you in advance for joining us on this journey, supporting us, and tolerating my over use of terrible puns and dad-humor.

Peace, Love, & Understanding,

Liz Dukette

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