Born and raised in New Zealand, Emily’s humanitarian aid work took her
on an adventure around the world and changed her life. Faced with her
toughest challenge, she decided to gently rise up, rally likeminded
people and bring hope, happiness and real change through education to
children around the world.
I was brought up by parents with a strong social conscience and the
energy and motivation to help people in need. Thinking back now, that
must have had a strong impact on me.
So when I travelled to Cambodia in 1998, fresh out of University with
law and political science degrees, it was a natural decision to
volunteer for the local United Nations election monitoring operation.
That was the beginning of 10 years of volunteering and professional
work, primarily with the United Nations, taking on diverse roles in
elections, juvenile justice and peacekeeping operations in Nigeria,
South Africa, East Timor, Kosovo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi and Haiti.
During that time I met my inspiring and likeminded husband, Emmanuel
Rejouis. Born in Haiti and raised in France and the USA, Emmanuel was
later described by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as
''a true citizen of the world'', who ''represented the best of the
international civil service''. We married and had three beautiful
daughters, Kofie-Jade, Zenzie and Alyahna.
In 2009, we moved to Haiti for a position with the United Nations
peacekeeping mission and there our lives were struck by a tragedy,
literally incomprehensible. On 12 January 2010, Haiti shook violently
with a magnitude 7 earthquake and over 300,000 people died including
Emmanuel, Kofie-Jade (5yrs) and Zenzie (3yrs). Our youngest daughter
Alyahna (1yr) was resuced after 22 hours under the rubble, injured but
Shortly after the earthquake, and in honor of my family, I established
the Kenbe La Foundation Charitable Trust to provide educational
opportunities for children in need in Haiti. “Kenbe La” is Haitian
Creole and means “never give up”.
As an initiative of the Kenbe La Foundation Charitable Trust I
established Purple Cake Day on 1 March 2011. Purple Cake Day celebrates
children, empowers them to learn about children around the world and
supports them to take action for those in need. In 2011 the celebration
focused on learning about and helping children in Haiti. It was
inspired by my daughters; Kofie, who from an early age reached out to
children living on the street, wanting to share her things with them,
and Zenzie who, when I asked her a week before the earthquake, what she
wanted for her 4th birthday, said,…”I want a purple cake, two purple
cakes!” Zenzie did not live to celebrate her birthday.
From a Haiti focus in 2011 to global focus in 2012 and beyond, Purple Cake Day is
increasingly becoming a recognized and well supported day of action.
People of all ages are getting involved, celebrating children around
the world, learning about those in need and fundraising to bring real
change, through better access to quality education opportunities.
I am grateful beyond words for the support and love that have surrounded
Aylahna and myself after our tragedy. Many people asked what they could
do for me and I asked them to support something I believe in - the
innocence, compassion, determination and potential in children around
the world. Our children are our future - so let’s celebrate them and
give them every opportunity to be the best they can.