Jessica Stokes

Cause: UN Women Australia
Adventure: UN Women’s Ride for Rights 2016
Fundraising Page:
Social: @jessicapstokes

As our Adventurer of the Month, Jessica has scored herself a $100 Paddy Pallin voucher! To be our next month’s winner, make sure you’re uploading your journey to social and use the hashtag #IveBeenInspired.

Tell us about yourself

I am a lawyer, empowerment coach and public speaker living in Perth, Western Australia. For the past few years I have known that I had a greater purpose than the insurance legal work I was doing.  Being aware that there was a purpose I hadn’t yet discovered allowed me to really keep my eyes open and last year I decided to stop being scared and start my own coaching and resilience training business to empower female professionals in Perth. I wanted to transform people’s lives through positive change and strategic intervention. My mission is to coach and empower women to take control of their life and become who they want to be.

What inspired you to take on your first Inspired Adventure for UN Women?

In July 2015 I received an email from UN Women asking me to join their Ride for Rights across Vietnam and Cambodia and experience firsthand the work of UN Women. The email stated a few facts that horrified me. Women represent 2/3rds of the poor in Asia. Just 19 per cent of Parliamentarians in Asia are women. As many as 2 in 3 women in the Pacific will experience violence – and too many of these are girls, under the age of 16. But… together with UN Women I could change all that!

It makes me feel very uncomfortable to think that as a female, I have a better chance of thriving because I was born in Australia as opposed to Vietnam or Cambodia or somewhere else. Strong people protect others. Man or woman, society’s strongest stand up and speak out because they know silence isn’t a good enough response to injustice. I wanted to lend my support and voice to this important movement to empower women and girls to break the cycle of poverty and violence and build a brighter future. I care about this problem and I wanted to make it better.

What made you decide to cycle for UN Women?

After requesting further information I decided that this 12-day cycle journey was an excellent opportunity to travel, get fit and raise funds for UN Women. I saw cycling as the best way to see as much of Vietnam and Cambodia as possible whilst also getting healthy and committing to some much needed exercise. Cycling was something I started doing with my dad and was also a cheap way of getting in and out of work in the city so it made sense to incorporate riding into my daily routine.

I was particularly drawn to Ride for Rights, as all funds raised will support women’s economic empowerment in the Asia Pacific region. Knowledge is power and I wanted to do everything I could to empower women to transform their lives and their communities. The women, girls and families that are assisted by this fundraising are incredibly hard working, humble and honest families who just need the support of economic programmes such as the ones UN Women provides. Although we have travelled far in international’s women’s rights, we still have far to go. Women need equality. Women need to be equal participants in their homes, societies, and governments and in our workplaces. The world is being held back in every because of they are not. Women share this planet 50/50 and they are being unrepresented. Their potential is astonishingly untapped.

"Knowledge is power and I wanted to do everything I could to empower women to transform their lives and their communities."

What do you think is so exciting about being able to take on an adventure as well as give to a cause you care about?

I was inspired to join this adventure to get out of my comfort zone and make a real impact in the world. I wanted to join 23 other riders who are passionate about the work of UN Women and join them in an incredible adventure to create a brighter future for women and girls. I wanted to visit a UN Women project in Dong Thap that helps females and communities’ better prevent, prepare for and mitigate the impacts of natural disaster. I wanted to visit UN Women projects in Phnom Penh working to empower young leaders and develop better community organisations driving the progress to better advocate for their rights and end sexual and physical violence against women. I wanted to travel with purpose and have a passion for adventure. I wanted to see the work of UN Women on the ground. I wanted to experience the vibrant culture and beautiful landscapes of Vietnam and Cambodia and get inspired by the work of UN Women all while challenging myself on a cycle journey like no other.

What are your total funds raised for UN Women so far? Are there any key fundraising ideas that have been the bulk of your success?

I exceeded my initial target of $3,000 and I have raised almost $4,400 for UN Women so far. The bulk of the money raised came from direct donations from family, friends and colleagues. I sent personalised emails to family, friends and people in my network outlining the cause and requesting a donation. The most successful fundraising event I ran was the release of Suffragette. Almost 100 people attended and I raised over $2,300.

My first event was a Clothes Swap High Tea where a small group of girlfriends came round with unwanted clothes and accessories. I charged $40 and raised $320. I organised the food and had a gift voucher donated by Cooper & Laurie as a door prize. All clothing items that did not find a home were donated to Dress for Success a not-for-profit organisation offering long-lasting solutions that enable women to break the cycle of poverty.

What have been your biggest challenges in taking on an Inspired Adventure? How did you overcome this?

One of the biggest challenges for me was believing that I could meet my fundraising target of $3,000 and cover the travel costs. I was extremely nervous when deciding to sign up for the ride, which happened whilst I was working as a lawyer. The decision to leave my previous job was not exactly planned and I was under enormous stress trying to come up with the funding to cover the travel costs as well as meet the fundraising target. However, I realised there will never be a point in your life where it’s the right time to do a great thing. You have to create the perfect time, the perfect opportunity and the perfect situation. A lot of people become comfortable, they become satisfied. I was going to a job that I didn’t like a job that was making me sick. When you’re not pursuing your goal you are literally committing spiritual suicide. When you have goals that you are reaching for and striving for that get you out of your comfort zone such as fundraising and training you find out talents and abilities that you never knew you had.

Have you noticed any changes or transformation in your life since taking on your first adventure?

I have started to embrace pain in my life to effect real change. I am getting up earlier to cycle with my dad at least 3-4 times a week. I have realised that today is all that matters. There are 86400 seconds in a day. How you use those seconds are critical.

I have realised that I need to do what is hard and the only one that can keep me from winning is me. I have realised it’s possible to live my dream of helping change women’s lives but its necessary to be committed and a plan of action. I am a natural born life coach. I have talents that I have hidden for a long time. I want to help others and help myself.  Unless you attempt to do something beyond that what you have already mastered you will never grow. There’s an old African proverb that says “If there’s no enemy within then the enemy outside can do us no harm.” I was scared. Scared of what? Scared of failure. Scared I’m not perfect. Then I realised I don’t have to be perfect. Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. When you are serving others you are not afraid. I decided I needed to focus on what I can do to help others in order to help myself. The fastest way to change your state is movement. The cure for fear is action.

"I have realised that today is all that matters. There are 86400 seconds in a day. How you use those seconds are critical."

What advice would you offer to other people looking to complete a challenge like this?

When you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe then you’ll be successful. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Fear is what stops you. Courage is what keeps you going. It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not. The reason we grow is so we have something to give of value. Things don’t always work out the way we’d like. When you don’t give up, you cannot fail. We cannot change the cards we were dealt. It’s never too late to start again. Believe in yourself, even when no one else believes in you.

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Become our Adventurer of the Month to win a $100 Paddy Pallin voucher

Take a picture whilst on your adventure or when you’re training and use the hashtag #IveBeenInspired and your adventure hashtag. The most exciting use of the hashtag, with an adventure, and fitness focus will be our Adventurer of the Month – it’s that easy!