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Young Alumna Combines World Travel and Volunteerism

“World peace.”

We’re all used to hearing those two words as the pinnacle of common human desire. It’s what most of us would wish for if we could selflessly wave a magic wand and have just one thing come true. But on a planet with such pronounced differences between its many peoples, what would it take to actually achieve the ultimate goal?

Katelyn Jarvis, Bus ’15, believes the primary pre-requisite is cultural empathy — the first-hand knowledge, understanding and acceptance of those differences which lets individuals easily embrace what lies beyond. She feels you don’t have to dig very deep to discover and cherish the similarities, rather than the differences — and she believes such knowledge can be transformational.

In pursuit of this ideal, Katelyn is currently traveling the globe — working side-by-side with new friends and acquaintances to help their communities. In the process, she hopes to show what is possible when you put your best foot forward. It’s the birth of her non-profit organization Peace Stamps, built on her twin passions for volunteerism and travel. Through it, Katelyn hopes to do her part to nudge humanity a bit closer to global harmony.

To establish Peace Stamps and scratch her incessant volunteer/travel itch, Katelyn is in the midst of visiting all 193 United Nations-recognized countries plus three sovereign nations, doing volunteer work in each. To call extra attention to her mission, she is attempting to capture a pair of Guinness World Records — to be both the fastest and youngest female to visit those 196 countries. She is on pace to finish her tour in about 16 months at age 26; that schedule equates to an average of about two and a half days per country and would put her in the record books.

Katelyn comes by her charitably driven wanderlust naturally. Having grown up in Loveland just outside of Cincinnati, she is applying traits that she inherited and learned from her parents. Her father has always been a motivating force, including coaching his daughter in sports throughout her childhood.

“He holds me accountable and doesn’t allow me to do anything halfway,” she says. “He owns his own investment firm, so I attribute my entrepreneurial spirit to him. I get my love of traveling from my mother. She’s been to every U.S. state at least twice and made it a point to take my brother and me to each one. At age 18 I went to Alaska — my 50th state.”

Make a Difference, Pursue Your Passions

Then it was on to UC where Katelyn double-majored in finance and economics. She played lacrosse for two years and has coached the sport for three different local high schools. She also dived into volunteering as a Bearcat, serving organizations from Junior Achievement to Matthew 25 Ministries to the SPCA. Upon graduation, she worked in the banking business, traveling throughout Ohio to help ensure banks were adhering to required industry regulations. But over time, she had the increasing feeling that she could — and should — strive to make a greater impact in people’s lives by making a radical career change.

“My parents have always been supportive of my dreams, no matter what they are,” she says. “The first thing they said when I told them I was quitting my job, starting a non-profit and traveling the world was, ‘Go for it!’”

She reached out to several non-profits that promote peace through tourism. Receiving no responses, she decided to start her own organization, combining her interests into Peace Stamps.

“People have told me I should pick one cause for my volunteering because it’ll be easier to obtain grants, but I don’t want to do that,” she says. “Peace Stamps’ mission is to encourage people to make a positive difference through their travels by pursuing their passions along the way. Ultimately, I hope to provide grants to others through Peace Stamps so that they can make their own positive difference abroad. In my case, I’m doing a wide variety of volunteer work as I go from country to country — I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one specific cause.”

Her savings, grants, sponsorships and donations — Peace Stamps is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation — are funding her charitable adventure that has so far provided a wealth of heartwarming experiences along with a handful of anxious ones.

“The most rewarding moments are always when people are so thankful that I helped their organizations,” she says. “I worked for one in Saint Kitts & Nevis in the Caribbean called the Heart of Saint Kitts Foundation. They posted Facebook photos of me helping to clean up their beaches, and several of their citizens reached out to me afterward expressing their gratitude.

“I’m always so inspired by the people I meet, and any lingering second thoughts about my decision to do all of this are immediately put to rest whenever I enter the next country … I can’t stop smiling when I visit a new place! It’s one of the ways I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.”

Navigating Global Hot Spots

Katelyn also was touched by the genuine concern and kindly assistance given her by immigration staff, airline workers, and airport and city police after a Bolivian immigration officer stole her cell phone, necessitating a rather scary visit to a La Paz police station/prison to file a report.

Still ahead on her itinerary are global trouble spots such as Venezuela, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and North Korea. Katelyn is apprehensive yet prepared, planning to hire bodyguards and armored car service as good sense demands.

“I do hours of research for each country and try to plan the safest route possible,” she says. “For instance, Iraq has a ‘touristy’ part of the country called Kurdistan and safety isn’t a major concern now. In Syria I’ll take a private car and keep to government-occupied roads.

“My biggest hurdle will be North Korea. I know several people who have traveled there and say it’s one of the safest destinations they have visited. If you follow the government’s rules, then odds are you won’t be detained. The required tour guides are with you continuously, so you’d have to evade their oversight and deliberately break the rules. Since the U.S. passport is not valid now in North Korea, my only hope is that something changes in the near future that either removes its status as a UN-recognized country, or where travel for U.S. citizens is resumed.”

She is looking forward to visiting Africa, particularly such countries as Tunisia, Egypt and Madagascar. They don’t know it yet, but soon some of their people will become acquainted with World Peace’s newest traveling ambassador. And after that?

“I want to travel to space with Virgin Galactic, and I want to start my own tour company that incorporates volunteering with road trips around the U.S.”

Learn more about Peace Stamps and keep up with Katelyn’s travels on Facebook.

By Keith Stichtenoth
Special Assistant,
Executive Communication

Email Keith
or call 513-556-3296

JarvisAlumniHighlight

Katelyn helped clean up beaches in Saint Kitts & Nevis, collecting 140 pounds of trash. For her father, Art, visiting his daughter meant pitching in with the clean-up.

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A Honduran boy living in an orphanage was introduced to Katelyn’s favorite sport, lacrosse.

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Volunteering for the Latin America Sea Turtle Association, Katelyn joined a night beach patrol’s search for sea turtles, collecting their eggs and taking them to a hatchery, where they were released into the ocean after hatching.

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Katelyn’s travels have taken her to many amazing places, including the Salar de Uyuni (Bolivian Salt Flats).

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