Soar To Success: Jena Nardella

On Tuesday, October 4th Jena Nardella joined our members in the Cardinal Foley Center to present a compelling story about her journey as an author, activist, and non profit leader.



In high school, Jean Nardella was voted ‘Most Likely to Devote My Life to a Lost Cause’, but as she explains in her book entitled One Thousand Wells, “But the thing about lost causes is that they’re only lost if you leave them behind”.

Jena Nardella began her life wanting to not save the world, but love the world. She was just 21 years old when she committed herself to serving a mission and provided clean water for over a million people in Africa. She did this by founding Blood:Water, a nonprofit dedicated to partnering with leaders in Africa in order to educate its people and end the HIV/AIDS and water crises. Since it’s launch in 2004, Blood:Water has raised over 28 million dollars!

We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to listen to Jena Nardella’s speech, which began with the first time she fell down a mountain. This moment for her meant more than just a few scratches, but instead allowed her to recognize the sheer shock of her own carelessness. She understood at that moment the danger of getting too comfortable and that although we all live in a culture of instant gratification, patience is what justice requires.

The main premise of Jena’s speech was based on this quote:

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

After the presidents emergency plan for AIDS relief, in 2001 it was discovered that 3% of americans would be willing to help, and after hearing about this statistic, Jena wondered, as the world moves on, do we have the will to stay with the commitment? With social media the way it is now, people began to simply ‘scroll’ through causes, and want immediate results for their actions. But, as Jena explains, the challenge is to live out the actions, as they require the commitment to be present.

“We are not called to change the world, we are called to love the world”



How did you get from where we are sitting as students to where you are now?

“I don’t think that your life starts after college, so pay attention to what you have already done in your life to lead you to your passion.”


How many people work in your organization?

” We have 10 people on staff at our Nashville office, but we partner with African organizations in order to outsource jobs.”


What was the thing that kept you going when you wanted to quit?

“It’s not about the cause but about the people. Building relationships gave perspective, as I would see others who have much harder lives than I do.”


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