Jami Sanders Peebles
Firm: Central Trust & Investment Company
City: Springfield, Mo.
In February 2013, Jami Sanders Peebles cancelled her vacation, underwent a slew of immunizations and rebooked herself on a 13-hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Joining 13 other women leaders who hailed from all across the United States, Jami and her group embarked on a journey that was, in her words, “life changing.” As a member of Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Panel, Jami and her group traveled to Africa to see firsthand the impact of this micro-loan/training program. Speaking through translators and “communicating through hugs and kisses,” Jami and her group met women whose work ethic overwhelmed the Americans: For some Ethiopian mothers, the sole means to feed their children came from walking up and down hills to gather 80 pounds to 100 pounds of sticks to sell in their village.
Through Convoy of Hope, Ethiopian women may apply for a 10-week program in which they learn financial literacy and business skills. To date, about 1,000 women have gone through the program. “If you can change a mother’s life and she can afford to send her kids to school, you can change the lives of her children,” Jami says. “I spoke with women who had so little food, they had to decide which child to feed.” But, after graduating from the program and receiving micro-loans, women were able to start their own businesses and finally educate their children—families in Ethiopia must pay a fee to send their children to school.
“I’m a strong business woman, but this brought me to my knees. People said to me, ‘why Ethiopia?’ And I thought, ‘why not?’”
Jami’s philanthropic efforts in her hometown are just as significant as those in Ethiopia. Over the last decade, Jami has served as both a disaster volunteer and president of the board of the American Red Cross. In her role as a case worker, she’s responded to all sorts of disasters, including ice storms, tornadoes and local fires. When Hurricane Katrina hit, over 2,000 families were sent to Springfield, Mo. for medical care. Working at the triage center, Jami heard stories and helped displaced families assess their immediate needs, such as food, shelter and money. “My role is to provide comfort and hope,” she says. And, Jami is also proud to serve on the board and executive committee of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks—an organization that, she says, makes a tremendous impact on southwest Missouri.
When she returned from Ethiopia, Jami recalls thinking: “I came back, and at first I felt guilty about everything we have here. Then I realized I’m in a position to make a difference. How I choose to make a difference is up to me.” And, make a difference, she certainly does.
Photograph by: Rockafellow Photography