Jessica Gomes swaps the catwalk for a close-up of poverty

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The world is used to seeing Jessica Gomes – model, actress and the face of David Jones – immersed in the glamourous high fashion scene.

But last year, she tossed off her high heels and swapped the catwalk for the dusty streets and mountain trails of Peru – and discovered that the threads of our shared humanity run deep.

As one of our newest ambassadors, Jessica relished the opportunity to see World Vision’s work first-hand in some of the poorest communities in South America. The daughter of a Portuguese dad and a Chinese mum, she described the experience as “humbling”.

“The trip was such an eye-opener for me,” Jessica said on her return. “We live such a ‘cushy’ life in Australia and I’m so glad I got out of my comfort zone.”

While in Peru, Jessica visited communities where World Vision is helping to improve children’s health and access to quality education, and empower women to increase their incomes through small business training.

“The education that World Vision gives children and women changes their lives,” Jessica told Marie Claire magazine.

“They teach women how to set up a business, like alpaca farms, they teach them how to make money from knitting and weaving, and they teach them important health and hygiene skills. Giving women this knowledge gives them power, and it’s so inspiring to see.”

Despite the language barrier, Jessica developed instant connections with the women and children she met in Peru. She joined in reading and puppet shows in the classroom, and shared a feast with a group of mothers who have turned their baking and craft skills into a thriving business.

Even though these women were living such very different lives to her own, Jessica was struck more by what they shared in common.

“The reality is, all humans are suffering from similar issues – family, money, relationship, politics, health and social issues. All the mothers I met just wanted their children to have a chance to do better than they did.

“It just made we want to be a better person and to be aware of how doing a little good can make such a significant difference.”

Inspired to give back 

“When you help someone and see they are benefiting from it, that is the best feeling in the world.”

– Jessica Gomes, World Vision Ambassador

Since returning from Peru, Jessica Gomes has used every opportunity to inspire others to support World Vision’s life-changing work in poor communities.

And when disasters struck Vanuatu and Nepal this year, the model was quick to use her presence on social media, including 169,000 followers on Instagram, to encourage people to donate to our emergency appeals for Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and the devastating Nepal earthquake in April.

Most recently, she signed up for World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. With the support of her many fans, Jessica passed her fundraising target and gained a new appreciation for things many of us here in Australia take for granted – like food and freedom.

A personal reflection on womanhood 

“Women are the passage of life. We are sacred beings in this world, no matter what race, what religion, what class, where we live. We are the future, and we are important. We are all the same. We are one people and one love.”

 – Jessica Gomes, World Vision Ambassador

Jessica penned these thoughts to accompany this beautiful image captured by World Vision photographer Ilana Rose, who travelled with her to Peru.

This photo and Jessica’s reflections featured in the Strength in Adversity photo exhibition, held in Sydney in May 2015, alongside more of Ilana’s photos from around the world and contributions from fellow World Vision ambassadors Melissa Doyle and Jules Sebastian.