Westport is a town of remarkable people, doing amazing things.
But this might be the most inspiring story of all.
Jordan Teske grew up in Westport. After graduating from Staples in 1999, she studied business at SMU. Junior year in Madrid, Copenhagen and London (interning at Parliament) whetted her appetite for international travel and world service.
Returning home, she interned in Washington for Congressman Chris Shays. But paying jobs were tough to find. She needed money, so she cleaned bathrooms at the Ritz-Carlton.
“That was the most humbling experience,” Jordan recalls. “I had a business degree, but I was the lowest paid employee. But I loved getting to know the staff in the basement.” She worked from the ground up — literally.
She worked 3 jobs at once, biking everywhere because she could not afford public transportation.
Somehow, Jordan found time to volunteer at a Virginia center for abused children. She asked why she had been lucky enough to be born into a loving home, while these kids had so little. Her dad said: “Don’t ask why. Ask what you can do about it.”
Meanwhile, in a pawn shop, she fell in love with a gorgeous necklace. But it cost $100, and she did not have that. On the advice of a friend, she began making her own jewelry.
Her designs were successful. Friends bought them; then strangers. Jordan developed a girls’ jewelry line — and created a fictional character to go along with it.
Soon she had Jordanka, a plucky heroine who is adopted by royalty, and saves the orphanage in the Czech Republic where she once lived.
On a trip to Romania, Jordan realized the extent of the Eastern European orphan crisis. She met a doctor and his wife who help gypsy orphans, and incorporated their story into her next project: a children’s book.
More trips — to Zambia and Uganda — opened her eyes to the needs of orphans. Jordan had found her passion.
“We all have a mission here on earth,” she says. “I’m not an artist, but I couldn’t afford an illustrator so I drew my own illustrations.” They’re bright, beautiful — and 3-dimensional, incorporating fabric and jewelry.
Jordan is not a writer either, but she wrote a book that will spark children’s imaginations, challenge them to think of the plight of others, teach them the importance of kindess and determination, and educate them about the world.
The Adventures of Jordanka — 70 pages, with more than 100 illustrations — is now on sale. Proceeds will help orphaned, abandoned and institutionalized children living in the Czech Republic.
And Jordan will be there to help too.
Just before Christmas, she lost her job with a film production company. She sold virtually all her belongings, and this week moves to Prague. Her dream is to actually open an orphanage there.
“You have to follow your dream, no matter what it is,” Jordan says. “I believe in this so strongly. I know it’s going to work.”
(The Adventures of Jordana is available at www.jordanka.com. Jordan can be emailed directly: email@example.com.)