When Dr. Jeri Dyson got word of Marriott’s #LoveTravels Challenge, she felt as if the contest were speaking directly to her. More to the point, her recent experiences with indigenous women in Fiji.
And she knew what she had to do.
It’s well known that Marriott takes hospitality seriously — and the #LoveTravels Barrier Breakers initiative aimed at diverse communities takes it to another level. It’s a powerful message of equality and support of human rights. And it’s one of the reasons why Odyssey so values its relationship with Marriott — and why it is so advantageous for Odyssey members.
Marriott announced the #LoveTravels Barrier Breakers initiative back in September 2018 as a way to identify those who actively embrace “strategies to promote inclusion, equality, peace and human rights.” Marriott’s mission — to spotlight leaders in inclusion with $500,000 in giveaways to those breaking down barriers.
Dyson was only limited by her imagination — and the contest’s 350-word max. As a speaker for the State Department’s U.S. Speaker Program, her role included addressing women on medical issues. Though each appearance is important to her life mission, one trip to Fiji turned out to be pivotal for Dyson.
The women there were struck by Dyson’s natural appearance and demeanor, apart from the glitz and glam of U.S. TV and ads in magazines, and wanted to know more about her. Dyson immediately saw an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way. In fact, her own Global Girls Global Women organization seeks to connect women of all ethnicities on issues that matter to them. So she knew just how to connect with these women.
And she told the women of Fiji to ignore what they see in ads. In fact, she and her friends back home keep it real — they know they have the same core needs as women in every culture: to be acknowledged, valued, and loved.
Dyson wanted to do more, so she decided to organize a trip with 10 of her friends so the women of Fiji would get acquainted by some real women of color — without the glitz and Photoshop of the media.
And when she learned of Marriott’s contest, she felt it was the perfect opportunity to spotlight the gifts she shared with the women of Fiji. The story she shares is twofold: She is a bone-marrow cancer survivor, and after her experience, knows a lot about using the gifts she has with the time she has.
“I thought connecting my U.S. sisters with the Fijian sisters I met, during my State Department speakers tour in the South Pacific, would be a great way to celebrate after having chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant,” Dyson says of the experience.
She tells Odyssey the connection with Fiji was her way of giving back, because she felt women everywhere could use a story of survival today.
Even the announcement of her $10,000 prize money seemed to be a sign.
“My winning status was confirmed on the eve of New Year’s Eve,” she tells Odyssey. “I received my winnings two years to the day after breaking my back and ribs secondary to bone-marrow cancer.” She says her win is confirmation of her life’s work, and in her own words, “We are all alike,” she says. It’s a winning message echoed by Marriott’s campaign — and it is a message that resonates with Odyssey as well.