Interview with Jesús Nebot by Carmen Fdez de Córdoba.
If one looks at your trajectory in recent years, you could be defined as a philanthropist, actor, director, lecturer, entrepreneur, etc., which of these adjectives most identifies you and why?
I’m not crazy about defining myself with any of those labels. They seem restrictive to me. I rather see myself as a humanitarian. No matter what work I may be involved in or what tool of expression I may choose, my ultimate purpose is to raise awareness about our common humanity.
At what moment did this idea of helping others come to your mind? Did you have a vision? What went through your mind? Tell me about that exact moment. Was there a trigger event?
When I was 6 years old, on Christmas eve, my parents gave me for the first time some pocket money so I could buy with it whatever I wanted. It felt especial. Shortly after, they went to “la misa del gallo” (Midnight mass) and left me home alone. However, 5 minutes after they left, I heard a knock on the door. I thought they had forgotten the keys, but when I open the door, I found an unknown woman breastfeeding a baby and holding another child with her other hand. She asked for my parents. I told them they were gone, and she proceeded to leave as well. However, I was too curious and asked her what she wanted. She told me she was a gypsy woman who had recently arrived in town and was seeking donations to feed her children during the Christmas season. At that time, I told her I could help. I reached down the pocket and gave her the money my parents had just given me. She was surprised and touched by my gesture. She started crying in gratitude. At that very moment I realized I could not have bought myself with that money any toy or ice-cream or anything that would have given me more joy than the one I experienced helping this mother in need I had never met before. It also woke me up to the fact that I was very privileged as a child and that I could use that privilege to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Could you share with us an experience of philanthropy that has been particularly meaningful to you?
During the pandemic, everyone was able to access some federal assistance but not undocumented immigrants. Many of them were “essential workers” who were exposed to COVID-19 earlier on due to lack of protective measures at work. Many got sick and then passed the virus at home to their respective spouses and children since they did not have the luxury of practicing social distance in their small apartments. Here they were sick, without any federal assistance, unemployment benefits or easy access to healthcare. I made the decision with my wife Susana to use all the money we received through federal assistance to help these families in need. I placed an announcement on Facebook and very soon I received multiple requests. We dedicated the evenings to connect with these families on video through WhatsApp and then help each one of them with some emergency cash and information so they could access free food, medical attention and apply for local resources that were being created to address this crisis. We got to meet around 70 wonderful families this way and created great lasting relationships with many of them. 😊
What would you say to our subscribers who have always thought about helping but haven't taken the step? Just do it?
Don’t just do it for others. Do it for yourself. For your own health and well-being. It is incredibly joyful and fulfilling to reach out to others and know that you are making a difference in their lives. Find out what you are passionate about and look for a local non-profit organization in that field that you could support with some volunteer work. If you are too busy, there are many wonderful charity organizations making it easy for each one of us to donate and be part of the solutions to many of our humanitarian crisis. If you don’t trust the money is going to end up in the right hands, there are many tools you can use to check their efficiency. I particularly like www.charitynavigator.org Finally, you can always choose to be kind to everyone, no matter the circumstances. If you see a homeless person in the streets or someone approaches you for a donation while you wait on a traffic light, don’t ignore them. You don’t have to give them any money. If you suspect they may use it to feed some addiction, you could perhaps offer them a piece of fruit or a granola bar that you could easily carry in your car or bag. Or you can simply say hello or ask them how they are doing. I also like to compliment them about something beautiful I see in them. Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of your smile to connect with all people and gift them with your love and positive energy. Your kindness can touch people’s lives in many unexpected ways.
Many times things are done wrong or are not done due to lack of knowledge in the world of philanthropy...tell us something that most of the subscribers may not know and that you think is fundamental to do things better.
It is not easy to know what’s the best way is to help. What it is easy is to criticize ourselves or others when certain objectives have not been accomplished as we envisioned. I feel it is very important to always listen to those we want to serve or help. Their input crucial to know how to do that in a way that will truly empower them. In addition, we all need to acknowledge ourselves -or others- for acting in good faith and doing our best even when the results are not what we hoped for. Finally, let’s not forget that our so called failures give us a great opportunity to learn and grow so we can improve our effectiveness in our next philanthropic efforts.
But is it so complicated or is it not complicated? How do you channel your philanthropy activities and how do you organize yourself to make it compatible with your other activities?
We all need to choose how we want to engage with any philanthropic endeavors. Some of them can be quite simple and won’t cost us a lot of time or money. For instance, I’m a big fan of www.kiva.org It is a very simple way for any of us to support small entrepreneurs in developing countries with microloans at 0% interest rate. $25 is all you need to start investing. I go to my account with them once a month to reinvest all the money I receive back from prior loans and add some more. Technology makes things very easy for any one genuinely interested in helping. You don’t need to launch your own Foundation or non-profit organization to do so. I would not encourage others to do that unless they can make a full commitment to their cause and have the necessary resources to succeed without “burning” themselves out. In my case, a lot of my philanthropy lately is through www.genteunidasd.net where I was invited to serve at the board of directors. We all contribute depending on our time and I have never felt that any of my non-profit work was complicated or took too much time away from my business or other activities. Each person needs to find their own life balance in that respect. Sometimes work and philanthropy can be combined. And sometimes, even when we are on vacation, it is easy to dedicate one day to visit a local school, or hospital or shelter with the intention of spreading some love and donate to a worthy cause.
Do you have any relationship with the beneficiaries beyond the donation?
In some cases, yes. For example, I met my adopted son Manuel at a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Los Angeles. I went there to show one of my humanitarian films to the kids and he just arrived in the middle of the screening. He was an orphan child recruited by human smugglers in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico) to work for them as a “coyote”. He feared for his life so he sought refuge in the US. He told me after the screening that all he wanted was a family. I was touched by his words so I asked him if he would adopt me as his father and he said says. Susana and I are so blessed that we brought him into our lives. He is now all grown up and living in his own house since last year. We are now using his room to host an asylum seeker from Venezuela that we are sponsoring. I also have a closer relationship with a few families that live in different countries that have approached me for some assistance. But I only do that when I feel I can help in a more personalized manner. Any of us can donate anonymously to any person or organization so having a relationship is surely not a requisite to be impactful in other people’s lives.
Have you ever thought about involving other people to support common causes or to ensure long-term survival? After Jesus, what comes next?
I’m still fairly young so I have not put much thought into that. But, I do have “legacy funds” invested so they can keep growing until I’m no longer here and they can be donated. However, I have not been as successful as I’d like to be in engaging others to donate their time or money. Perhaps because fundraising is not one of my best talents. But I have done it for certain emergency causes that I felt were well worth it. I have also use especial occasions -such as my birthdays or my wedding- to request donations instead of gifts. There are simple online tools available through facebook and other social media companies that can help anyone to seek donations for their favorite charities. This is a great way for all of us to make a difference. And some great non-profits make that process very simple with powerful videos and messages. A good example of that is www.charitywater.org. It is one of my favorite charities and their communication tools have helped me raise thousands of dollars for them in such occasions.
How would you like to be remembered?
One of my non-profit activities is to be a facilitator for www.pachamama.org Our vision is that of a world that works for everyone: We aim to co-create an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet That is only possible when we wake up from our current dream state and we realize that we are not separate from one another but rather powerfully interconnected. The best way to remember me is by remembering that, in essence, we are all One. Just Love that One unconditionally. It is you; It is me; It is all of us. It is also all living species and Mother Earth and the rest of the planets. It is that which indigenous tribes referred to as Pachamama.
10) What question we have not asked you and you would like to be asked. And if you want to give us the answer too, go ahead, you are at home.
I’m thankful to you and all your interest in me and in helping others. One additional question could be: Who inspires you? My answer: Spiritual masters from all walks of life whose core message is to love everyone unconditionally.
May LOVE bless you and all of us 😊