Fighting Cancer With Poetry

Everyone is mindful of, even afraid of; death. The fear does not exactly stem from the fact of death but of the unknown beyond and…

Everyone is mindful of, even afraid of; death. The fear does not exactly stem from the fact of death but of the unknown beyond and the realisation that your imprint on earth may soon be forgotten. Les Brown was right when he said “…The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled…” Justin Izlar defies this, because although of blessed memory, his writings live on through the non-profit organization FightingCancerWithPoetry and  continue to inspire, comfort and educate many people to this day- even beyond the grave.


Cancer represents struggles and poetry represents creativity

I remember when I was saddled with the task of interviewing Christoph Jenkins, Founder and CEO of FightingCancerWithPoetry, my mind had a quick pause. How indeed do you fight cancer with poetry? Well, a review of the extraordinary work they do is in order. At the organization, various events are organized where talented individuals showcase their poetic skills in a wide array of poetry recitations and spoken word performances wherein all donations are passed on to help researchers battling cancer. Further, many young people are unable to express their struggles to others as they feel misunderstood or unable to properly express their thoughts. Writing liberates, and to ensure that this liberating power of writing manifests, several workshops are set up to teach young people how to write poetry and other forms.

Christoph Jenkins, Founder/CEO of Fighting Cancer With Poetry, Inc., Sheila Izlar, mother of Justin Izlar, and Dominic Weeks, actor/poet portraying Justin Izlar in a docu-series, are being interviewed by WUSA9 Morning Anchor Andrea Roane.​

But beyond the limited ambit of the organization’s name on a Prima Facie basis, Christoph went on to explain that in actual fact, Cancer represents Struggles and Poetry represents Creativity. Thus the message which is being passed across is fighting struggles with creativity; a path that Christoph and his team believe will lead to true liberation.

Christoph Jenkins, Founder/CEO of Fighting Cancer With Poetry, Inc., and the his wife, Shannon Jones Jenkins pose for the camera during a social session prior to the start of a Poet​​ry Jam Fundraiser.

But this is a non-profit and indeed Christoph’s job often involves networking and sourcing sponsors for the organization. As someone who has worked for non-profits in the past, I understand that this is both time-consuming and quite selfless as you don’t expect to get paid. In light of the challenging field that Christoph has chosen, surely there must be an extra push that keeps him going despite the hurdles. He explains to me that indeed what he enjoys most about this career is the learning behind it all. What I described as challenges, are to him the experience that has grown him in personality, confidence in speech, and business acumen: areas which may have remained dormant but for the opportunity to lead this organization. However, I retorted that, the mere fact that you learn is surely not enough to overcome the challenges; as I probed further I discovered what his motivation and push was. He notes “…I’m inspired by the people we reach when we do these events, the awe inspiring looks from the audience, people that appreciate everything you are doing, it makes all the hard work and sleepless nights worth it…” Upon discussing with Christoph, I could readily tell that for him, the biggest goal is to leave a legacy and ensure that in his way, he left the world a better place- surely this is noble.

The First Family of Fighting Cancer With Poetry, Inc.(From left to right: Bruce Jenkins, Christoph's older brother, Valeria Battle, Christoph's mom, Jessie Lee Kelsey, Christoph's grandmother. Shannon Jenkins, Christoph's wife)

On an advisory level Christoph shares that your other business ideas do not have to be totally sacrificed. The important thing is to find a balance, and this requires discipline, but a discipline you must have to lead a non-profit organization. He also notes that you should not jump into heading a non-profit just because it looks good on a CV, but one must be passionate as without passion “…sustainability is obsolete…” He mentions that you must stay mindful of the purpose behind why you started the non-profit, as that becomes the push to get you out of bed every morning. Now, my personal favorite advice from Christoph is that “…If what you are doing is predicated on what makes you happy and no one else, it won’t last…” thus always seek the wider picture and live to serve, then you find peace.

 FCWP Poet Frankie Soto posing with two of his family members who came to support him as he performed at on of the Poetry Jam Fundraisers

For concluding remarks, it’s never too late to want to inspire people and the medium need not be perfect before you start. Justin Izlar wrote, and a non-profit was born.

What will you inspire?

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