By: Julie Kirchner
When Danielle Jackson started her photography business five years ago, she could never have predicted where her passion for photography—and people—would be taking her one day. This summer, Danielle is going on her first-ever mission trip to Uganda with Show Mercy International. We caught up with this busy entrepreneur, wife, mother of two teenage daughters, and soon-to-be missionary to find out what inspires her.
“People have always been my thing. I just love people. I majored in sociology, which is ridiculous…don’t ever let your child get a degree in people. That is not a ‘job,’” Danielle shares straightforwardly, with a kind of knowing chuckle in her voice. “BUT, truly, what is behind all of it—the photography, the fundraisers, all the things I do—it’s the people. It’s my love for people that gets me there.” This is evident in the way that Danielle goes about her business as well as her philanthropy.
Find Your People
When a friend asked Danielle if she would be interested in going on a mission trip to Uganda, she heard a strong calling to “go.” Though she had never done anything like that before, she suddenly felt overly compelled. At the time, she would have about one year to prepare for the July 2019 journey to Africa, and she would need to raise all of her funds on her own. After consulting Google on the topic of fundraising for a mission trip, she decided to start a Facebook group. “I don’t do any of the things that I want to do alone. I kind of felt like I needed people to help me do this and figure it out. So, when someone says, ‘Oh, that’s amazing that you did that!’ I feel like, no—I really didn’t do it. I did it with this bunch of other people who helped me do it. I never do it by myself, I always take other people to do it with me. And I can do it very enthusiastically, because I genuinely feel that way,” she says.
Find Your Way
One of the first fundraising opportunities Danielle undertook was a shoe drive in partnership with Funds2Orgs. The organization helps people start up a business of selling shoes and provides them with training and the ability to provide for their family in places where there is sometimes no business opportunity otherwise. Individuals or businesses can also collect shoes to raise money that will be paid directly to nonprofit organizations, which is what Danielle did to raise funds for the mission trip with Show Mercy International. She says, “It was a great tie-in to be able to help people on my way to help people.”
Danielle sought input from her friends on Facebook when deciding whether the shoe drive could be a viable option. The minimum amount required for collection was 2,500 pairs. When Danielle broke it down, she said, “Really all I need is 100 friends who could say they could find 25 pairs of shoes. So, I just said on Facebook, ‘Hypothetically speaking, how many people could find 25 pairs of shoes to donate?’ Within an hour, I had 80 people saying, ‘I could do it, I could do it, I could do it.’ And I was like, oh my gosh I think I am starting a FUNDRAISER for shoes!”
In her fun-loving way as a photographer, she told anyone donating shoes that they would have to do a “selfie” with her because she wanted to remember that moment. “I thought people would run from me. But everybody kind of wanted to do the selfie-with-me thing. It just became a thing!” Even Powerhouse’s own Jennifer Kirkpatrick got involved in donating shoes. Danielle reflects, “The great thing about doing a shoe drive was that anyone could participate—people without resources to donate money. There were a lot of people that were able to participate.”
Another fundraising project that Danielle enjoyed was working with Fund the Nations to design and sell “Hope & Joy” t-shirts to raise money for the mission trip. The company handles the designing (with your input), printing, packing, and shipping for you, so you can maximize the contributions from sales to your cause.
When You Hear Your Calling, “Go”
Danielle’s trip to Uganda will be from July 8-24, 2019. While there, she will be using her photography skills as well as possibly some new talents she hasn’t fully explored yet. “I’m open to doing any type of ministry that they need there. Going into hospitals or schools, doing a children’s Bible lesson or a puppet show,” she says.
Danielle learned that she will be taking pictures of a new birthing center while there, and the coordinator mentioned to her, “It would be great if there was a live birth!” So when a friend then donated a very LARGE first aid kit, Danielle joked, “What are you preparing me for, Lord? Maybe someone more qualified should carry the big first aid kit.”
While Danielle is in Uganda, Show Mercy will be celebrating their five-year anniversary there. She says, “I’m excited to be able to give the photography piece back when I come back. That’s how I’ll be able to continue to help support them. They can use it for advertising or something else.”
Mentally preparing for her first mission experience, “I haven’t gotten any messages that it will be easy,” she continues. “I think it’s going to be really challenging. Living there is hard. The life there, even for the missionaries…” she takes a breath. An American was kidnapped earlier this year, and Ebola has been brought to Uganda, both of which can put fear in anyone. What would she like the most from those of us wanting to help? “Prayer,” Danielle says, “Prayer for my team that’s going with me, and prayer for my family that I’m leaving here while I’m in Uganda.”
On Giving Back…to Yourself
Even with all her work and mission preparations, Danielle takes time to run or walk daily, preferably outside. “That’s a huge thing for me. It’s like an energy release and it’s also a great time to think.” Danielle describes nature as being very important to her. She is inspired by the songbirds and light. “Light is always so important to me. I’m always evaluating the light around me because I think that’s my photographer’s eye. So I’m looking at how the light comes through the trees or how it reflects off of things. Or the shadows and the darkness. I look at light a lot, and I can do that really well when I’m walking in nature.”
On Doing What You Love
Danielle encourages, “The things that I do, I can ONLY do those things. I love them, and that’s why I can do them. And everything I can do, I am able to do with so much passion. I have no motivation to do something I don’t love.”
Looking for more?
You can follow Danielle’s mission trip with Show Mercy International or check out her successful Funds2Orgs shoe drive fundraiser on Instagram.