Justin Bedard, 28, is the executive director of the JUMP! Foundation, a nonprofit focused on global citizenship and youth development. He spent his childhood in Asia and Canada before returning to Beijing to start the JUMP! Foundation in 2006.
As a co-founder of the Western Academy of Beijing Wild Outdoor Education Program, Bedard began creating experiential outdoor programs throughout the school year designed to build leadership and growth through physical and adventurous activities. The initiative grew into the JUMP! Foundation, which has developed leadership programs throughout the world from Beijing to South Africa to Uzbekistan.
1. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Lilongwe, Malawi, and grew up in Yogakarta, Indonesia; Calgary, Canada; and Beijing, China.
2. When did you start getting interested in community development?
As long as I can remember, community has always been a core value of who I am and why I do what I do. The development of communities – mine and others – has always been something that has driven me. Perhaps it’s because my father is a development worker by trade. Perhaps it’s because my mom is a Montessori schoolteacher. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in and surrounded by cultures that have a strong sense and value of community. Perhaps it’s a combination of all of these factors.
3. How did you get to where you are now?
First, my parents. They have always supported my passion for youth development work. When moral support and advice is needed, they step in. If financial support is needed, they step in sometimes.
Second, the network of friends and contacts I’ve developed while going to high school at the International School of Beijing. The board of directors of JUMP! consists of two classmates from ISB and others that I have met through the international school networks.
Finally, lots of hard work, lots of risk and lots of failures – lots of learning.
4. Where did the concept of JUMP! come from?
The initial JUMP! program was developed as a pilot leadership training program for the Western Academy of Beijing in the spring of 2006. With the success of the initial program, schools and organizations started to ask for similar programs for their youth. In 2008, a group of international facilitators gathered around a picnic table in Capetown, South Africa, and decided there was a need to create a training program that would develop a sense of global leadership in tomorrow’s youth. So we started an organization to build the pilot program into a global leadership program.
5. What’s your typical day like?
The best part of what we do is that nothing is really typical. We are endlessly innovating and creating new programs, connections, partnerships and business. The obvious things include lots of emails and phone calls, organizational and project team meetings. When we are facilitating a program in an international school, travel is usually part of the day – so lots of time in the emergency seat exit of an airplane. Then, during our programs, we spend lots of time challenging youth through hands on games and team initiatives. So I basically get to play games all day long. For our JUMP! Experiences programs, I get to travel to places like Istanbul and Cairo and support youth in exploring another cultures. It’s hard to find a typical day.
6. How does being a TCK benefit your career?
Most important, the global connections. It would be rare for me to arrive into a city and not have a friend who is there to give me a place to crash or a business connection. I can safely say that a considerable amount of JUMP’s development has been fueled by my TCK network. Also, I believe the unique global perspective I was provided as a TCK adds great value to our organization and the programs we develop.
7. What do your programs consist of?
Our JUMP! Schools programs are delivered on school campuses and filled with interactive games, challenges and initiatives that are followed by facilitated discussions on leadership and community. Topics include personal leadership, community leadership and global leadership.
Our JUMP! Experience programs are delivered off campus and are more adventure and travel based programs that explore the themes of personal, community and global leadership through physical and cultural challenges.
8. How does it feel to get the opportunity to educate young TCKs with your programs?
I love it. I love working with non-TCKs too.
9. Where in the world has JUMP! implemented programs?
Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore, Tashkent, Istanbul, Milan, Dusseldorf, Zurich, Geneva, Berlin, Washington D.C., New York, Toronto, Vancouver and a couple other places.
10. What advice would you give to TCKs who want to pursue a career in community development and education?
Access and utilize the networks that you have through your fellow TCKers and their parents.