Tahoe woman makes global impact with ‘Humankind. Be Both.’ message
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Michelle Jezycki gets a phone call from a woman asking how to order a bumper sticker she saw on a car in New Hampshire.
The text on it stating “Humankind. Be Both.” is a simple, yet powerful message, the woman says, serving as a gentle reminder that people should actively try to be nice to one another.
Jezycki could be considered a Jill of all trades. After graduating from Incline High School and earning her degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, Jezycki moved to Washington, D.C., where she ran a program to help abused and delinquent children.
Throughout the next few years, Jezycki also became a human resources consultant and worked in the U.S. Senate for 10 years.
A LONG JOURNEY ACROSS THE WORLD
Although it sounds like her life was quite busy, Jezycki also found time to run triathlons and soon launched a business called Tri The World, which became the official travel partner for endurance athletes around the world.
Tri The World takes care of all of the little details, such as making sure your bike is packed and arrives safely, and setting up reliable transportation to get athletes to various Ironman and other endurance events across the world, including places like Fiji, South Africa and even here at Lake Tahoe-Truckee for events like the June 24 XTERRA Tahoe City or the July 22-23 Donner Lake Triathlon.
Along with being triathletes’ travel agent, Jazycki is a certified coach and captain of a 73-foot boat that she keeps in a marina in D.C.
However, now that she is in a career with flexibility, she recently decided it was time to move back to Lake Tahoe.
“Tahoe’s always had a special place in my heart,” she said in a recent interview with the Bonanza. “I’m not working for the federal government and I have all of these portable jobs; we thought, why not move back?”
So Jazycki and her partner packed up and came back out west, relishing in the fact that Reno-Tahoe International Airport is so close to home for her to easily hop on a plane and keep up her consulting work.
Through a chain of events, one of Jazycki’s clients happened to be the president of the American University of Nigeria. The educational institution was having trouble retaining students, as they were going to America to build their skills and not wanting to go home, especially with the recent political and economic turmoil.
Therefore, the university needed to integrate English-speaking faculty into the Nigerian college to give students a reason to stay and get a local education. The university hired Jazycki to perform an assessment of its human resources department, but during her stays, she realized that Nigeria needed a lot more help beyond the college.
“The university was very engaged, open to new ideas, and willing to learn. They wanted to hire me full-time and move to Nigeria,” says Jazycki.
BRINGING THE MESSAGE BACK HOME TO TAHOE
However, she wasn’t ready to make that kind of commitment, instead opting to come back to Lake Tahoe. Still, Jazycki goes to Nigeria at least six times a year and says she uses the long flight back home to decompress and reflect on her recent experience.
On one of her trips to Nigeria, Jazycki started volunteering with the Feed and Read program, in which kids participate in an educational lesson and then are treated with lunch.
“ISIS has blown through these villages and left a lot of these kids as orphans,” Jazycki says.
Local women were soon hired to cook community meals, and the children who had nowhere to go ironically begged for more schooling.
Thus, “Humankind. Be Both.” — a company now based in Incline Village — was born.
“With Humankind, I literally see where the money goes — I’ve seen it and lived it,” Jazycki says, referring to the funds that “Humankind. Be Both.” receives to support the Feed and Read program.
Jazycki soon put two and two together and turned the message into a bigger project.
“When I’m filling out paperwork at the doctor’s office and they ask for my ethnicity, I always put ‘human’ or ‘other.’ We all bleed the same,” says Jazycki.
Since the project’s inception, a school in Clovis, Calif., adopted the phrase as its motto, and it was also featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show as a way to implement practicing kindness into classrooms.
Although other entities have borrowed and marketed the phrase, Jazycki is OK with it as long as people aren’t capitalizing off of it.
“It’s all about getting the message out,” she says.
‘I THINK KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS’
“Humankind. Be Both.” messages are certainly starting to spread — you can currently see stickers dot the windows and walls of the Incline Village Post Office, IVGID Recreation Center and Glasses Wine Bar, among other Tahoe locations.
Jazycki also sells golf caps, pullovers, greeting cards, sticky notes, and other novelty items with the message on them. As a hobby, Jazycki also made scented pillar candles to give to friends and families for holidays. She tested making one out of a recycled wine bottle and posted it to Facebook for feedback, which gained a positive response.
“Making them is therapeutic for me,” says Jazycki. “The pillars are time-consuming; we like wine, and we saw another wine candle company doing it.”
Jazycki does all of her candles by hand, and for every product sold, she only keeps the cost of the materials (excluding time and labor), and gives the rest to charity.
She tells a story of a women’s golf club in which one particular player was slow and hard to golf with; no one ever wanted to be paired up with her.
One day, another woman wearing a “Humankind. Be Both.” pullover decided to partner with the slow golfer and found herself practicing levels of patience and support she normally doesn’t have. Both ladies had a wonderful time golfing together.
“One lady caught herself portraying better behavior when she wore the ‘Humankind. Be Both.’ shirt, which is exactly what it’s all about,” says Jazycki. “I’m getting the names of agencies that emulate people that are walking the talk of humankind, and then I look closely at how the organization is structured because I want to make sure the funds are going to the right places.”
“It’s a gentle reminder that we are more alike than we are different,” she adds. “If we can remember that and be kinder and gentler; think about what a difference that can make.
“I think kindness is contagious — that’s my hope.”
Kayla Anderson is an Incline Village-based freelance writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.