Awakin Calls » Linda Cruse

Linda Cruse: Humanitarian

Feb 13, 2016: Of Marmalade and Machine Guns

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She's visited 40 countries in 15 years, with just one suitcase.

Inspired by the "power of one," Linda Cruse's all-encompassing friendliness, explorer's spirit, and desire to serve has brought her to every continent amid its catastrophic moments of crisis-- from the earthquake in Nepal to the tsunami in Thailand, two super-typhoons in the Philippines, and the Pakistani earthquake.

She's been described as a cross between Florence Nightingale and Indiana Jones. Yet her life didn't always hold such high sights and intentions. In 1996, while driving on a motorway in the middle of the night, Linda suddenly went blind.

"I thought I might die, and I made a vow to myself if I survived, I would change my life," she recalls.

A couple hours later, her sight returned. Yet the unexpected episode chiseled a question mark across her life's intentions. The single mother of two later learned that temporary blindness can be caused by stress. A trained nurse working in pharmaceutical sales, her life had become a vigorous treadmill. So she stuck to her vow, and reorganized her priorities in new and unexpected ways.

In 2000, she traveled to China's backcountry as a Project Trust volunteer, drawing from her nursing training to teach hygiene. She went on to serve in a Tibetan refugee camp and joined a wave of relief workers supporting victims of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. Before long, she developed a trademark ability to broker powerful partnerships between large businesses (intending to help poverty-stricken communities, but not always knowing the best way) and small, local nonprofits. Since then, Linda has has found herself igniting business leaders to "Be the Change," working across the spectrum, with everyone from rural refugees to international volunteers to the Dalai Lama, Sir Richard Branson, and Prince Charles. 

With a lens of giving a "hand-up" rather than "handout," Linda carries a deep desire to connect with the humanity in every situation. Her 2012 book, Marmalade and Machine Guns, chronicles the sweeping continuum of sights, sounds, and souls that such an intention has brought before her -- from being held at gunpoint to contracting hypothermia to uniting a panel of entrepreneurs to restore a tsunami-devastated tourist industry.

She lectures and speaks worldwide, wearing hats ranging from being a nurse and magician, to international aid worker, disaster management specialist, author, inspirational speaker, "Emergency Zen" thought leader, and social entrepreneur. In 2014, Linda was appointed a Senior Fellow and Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Canterbury's College of Business and Law in New Zealand.

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