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Achieving the Unimaginable: Being More Fulfilled at 72 than Ever Before

Achieving the Unimaginable: Being More Fulfilled at 72 than Ever Before

I dropped out of college after two weeks. I was fed up with having others dictate what I needed to think about and when I needed to think about it. I made a promise to myself going forward that I would only do what I wanted to do, and do it when and at the pace I chose to do it. It’s been a powerful and, at times, confronting choice, navigating me through disparate careers in music, television, radio, finance, meditation instruction, and philanthropy to the kind of self-reliance emotionally, spiritually and financially that I wanted.

In December 2004, I released a music album and was about to support it with live performances when the Indian Ocean tsunami occurred. I was struck by the struggles of survivors there. In a matter of minutes, more than 200,000 souls had been lost and 2 million displaced. Entire villages had been wiped out. Families were torn apart. The devastation was nearly incomprehensible.

I found myself wanting to help. Someone gave me the idea of producing a CD compilation with songs by independent artists such as myself. Sales would raise awareness about the need in Southeast Asia and fund rebuilding efforts.

The compilation began a magical ride. It immediately gained support from the United Nations and the Clinton Foundation, and in their wake, tracks were donated by name artists such as Paul McCartney, John Lennon (estate), Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Ray Charles (estate), Maroon 5, and several others. This project opened my eyes to human crises on a global scale and soon led to my producing public service announcements and other awareness initiatives with NBA stars–including Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Grant Hill, Steve Nash, and more–to bring attention to the genocide in Darfur.

Why these people were a “yes” to someone like myself with no credentials or track record was a mystery to me. But I was excited by the willingness of high-profile personalities to become involved in helping others in foreign lands and so, as I turned 60, along with a few others, I founded a new non-profit, Aid Still Required (ASR), dedicated to helping the most vulnerable survivors left behind after major disasters and human crises rebuild their lives.

Over the past 12 years ASR has reached more than one billion people worldwide with the stories of those forgotten after historic tragedies. Today our focus is on developing self-reliance in five of Haiti’s most at-risk communities through schools and various educational and vocational programs for children and adults.

As it turns out, working with adults who’ve been dealt a big blow, gotten back up and dusted themselves off, and are eager to improve their lives makes me the most happy - happier than I’ve been in any other profession. I’m thrilled by the stand they take for themselves, by their stick-to-itiveness, and the pride and dignity they carry.

Most fulfilling of all is the opportunity to give at-risk children the right start, spreading out pathways before them where they can realize lives they’d never dare dream of without the support systems ASR provides. What can possibly be better than that?

Today at 72 I feel far more valuable to this world than ever, both personally and professionally. I love my life and my work. I love giving back. And I love my age. It has honed my talents, proficiencies, wisdom, and perspective; allowed me to be fully present in most every situation without concern; and opened my heart like never before.

Now, if possible, I’d like to live forever.

 

 Hunter Payne is founder and president of Aid Still Required (ASR), an international non-profit organization working with at-risk communities devastated by major disasters and human crises. ASR’s Whole Community Approach provides pathways for survivors in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities to gain self-sufficiency. Additionally, through the use of television, radio, music and social media, and with the help of high-profile personalities, Aid Still Required’s awareness campaigns have brought the stories of those left behind in Haiti, Darfur, New Orleans, and the region affected by the 2004 tsunami to more than one billion people worldwide.

 

 

 

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