Meet Seattle’s first ambassador

UW Bothell student Jozlyn Pelk will travel to a country of her choice as part of the Seattle Ambassador program. (Photo courtesy Seattle International Foundation)

If you had the opportunity to travel to any country in the world to help people living in poverty, where would you go?

This is precisely the question before University of Washington Bothell (UWB) student Jozlyn Pelk, age 20, who just a few weeks ago was selected as the first ever Seattle Ambassador.

The Seattle International Foundation, the City of Seattle Office of the Mayor, as well as several non-profit organizations based in Seattle have teamed up to create the Seattle Ambassador program, which is running for the first time this year.

Three ambassadors will be selected to travel free of charge to a country in Asia, Africa, or Latin America and share what they learn about global poverty with the Seattle community.

“The goal is to have the Seattle Ambassadors, not just me, but other future Seattle Ambassadors picked, to come back and tell a story,” Pelk said. “[I also hope] to inspire others to maybe go to that country and continue the work.”

Pelk entered the contest for the trip at the Earth Day celebration on the University of Washington Bothell campus in April. After being contacted by the Seattle Ambassador CEO, she was asked to submit a video about the importance of ending global poverty.

A tree nursery and cooperative outside of Sololá, Guatemala. The kind of program Pelk might be visiting on her trip. (Photo by Michele Frix)

A tree nursery and cooperative outside of Sololá, Guatemala. The kind of program Pelk might be visiting on her trip. (Photo by Michele Frix)

She was at her job at Papa John’s when she received the call that she was selected as the first Seattle Ambassador.

“I was in the middle of a huge lunch rush,” Pelk said. “I had a cheese cup in one hand and my phone in the other and [when they told me I won] I threw the cheese behind me and hit my boss!”

In the last few weeks, Pelk has learned a lot about what to expect during and after the week-long program. While on her trip, she will meet with community leaders and local families to gain a better understanding of the poverty situation. She will be accompanied by a guide and will be visiting Seattle-based non-profit organizations stationed in the area.

As of right now, Pelk has narrowed her focus to Latin America, but she has yet to select a specific country.

“I’m already having a hard time narrowing down what issue I want to pick,” Pelk said. “Narrowing down to a country is the hardest decision I’ve ever made.”

A Bothell resident her whole life, Pelk has never been outside the United States. Surprisingly enough, what she is most fearful of is flying over the water, but she says all that she will gain from the trip will be “worth the risk.”

The education that she has received at UWB has helped Pelk to prepare for her experience abroad. She is a double-major in Law Economic Public Policy and Global Studies with a minor in Human Rights. After Pelk graduates from UWB this coming spring, she hopes to earn her teaching certificate and become a teacher.

“All of what I am doing right now in school is perfect for this opportunity,” Pelk said. “Especially in my Global Studies classes, I’m constantly reading about global poverty issues.”

After the trip, she will return to the United States ready to share the details of her experience with local media outlets and at events in the Seattle area.

Pelk talks with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Bookda Gheisar on KING 5's New Day Northwest following her selection as the first Seattle Ambassador.

Pelk talks with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Bookda Gheisar on KING 5′s New Day Northwest following her selection as the first Seattle Ambassador.

“It will hopefully inspire others in the community to say ‘hey, I need to reach out to a country and an issue I am particularly interested in,’” Pelk said.

As the concept of being a global citizen gains momentum around the world, globally-minded people like Pelk are seizing opportunities such as the Seattle Ambassador program in order to better themselves and help others.

The final two ambassadors will be selected in October of this year and in early in 2014, but Gloria Mayne from the Seattle International Foundation says you don’t have to be a selected ambassador in order to get involved with the program.

“It’s an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about poverty issues,” Mayne said. “We are continuing to work with our community partners to spread the word…to encourage other people to recognize Seattle’s leadership in alleviating global poverty and how they contribute to this movement as global citizens.”

The Seattle Globalist is a media partner of the Seattle Ambassador Program. 

You can join the program here, or by texting Seattle to 80088

Hillary is a natural-born writer who, from the age of five, was writing and illustrating books about her favorite zoo animals. She cares deeply about environmental and Latin American issues. As a Global Studies major, Hillary is excited about the prospects of being a foreign coorespondent and will travel in pursuit of a good story. Hillary's work has been published in the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter and the Seattle Globalist as well as on UWave Radio at the University of Washington Bothell.

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