Meet Gique Jacob Cramer
Tell us about your background & how it led you to where you are today.
"Ever since I was little, kindness has been my #1 priority. Why? Because, for as long as I can remember, this philosophy of "making the world a better place" has been engrained in my lifestyle, trickling down from my wise grandparents to my parents, and from them to me and my brother! I love my family deeply... we're like an inseparable circle of misfits and oddballs that love each other unconditionally, and I admire the way they all exemplify perpetual compassion, love, and care for others. So, when my grandfather passed away, I was truly heartbroken. His death opened my eyes to the reality of vulnerability of the elderly in their final and most precious stage of life. I knew I had to do something productive to aid the grieving process, and I wanted to do something to make him proud. As a naive tween growing up in a relatively sheltered environment, I had never experienced any real hardships, definitely nothing like death, and I did not know how to cope. Life went on for me, and I went through my first year of middle school like any other kid. Yet, as the year came to a close, I realized that I still had this lingering, grief-induced feeling of sorrow. In an attempt to overcome this sorrow while also making a difference in the lives of other senior citizens, I began volunteering at my local nursing home in honor of my dear "Gramps."
I vividly remember sitting stiffly and awkwardly one day in my local nursing home during my early tween years. Twiddling my thumbs, I was trying my best to avoid eye contact with the residents, uncomfortable in the presence of what appeared to be an alien assemblage of strangers who could pass for my great-grandparents. This was my first real volunteer experience in any nursing facility, and I felt truly disconnected and forlorn. As a relatively shy and timid adolescent, one who would hide in the bathroom stall for thirty minutes after embarrassing myself in front of a group of friends (yes, that actually happened), I felt awkward, and I knew that interacting socially with a bunch of unfamiliar faces was certainly not my forte.
Yet after that first visit, something drew me back. To this day, I still can’t put my finger on what it was that appealed to me about the nursing home. Maybe it was the friendly atmosphere, or getting to talk with the seniors, or even the feeling of excitement after receiving a "fancy" laminated volunteer ID badge with my name and photo on it. Regardless, I’m so glad 12-year-old Jacob decided to give it a second chance. In fact, after that day, I became a regular volunteer, and I actually enjoyed it!
Over time, I began volunteering more and more, becoming accustomed to the residents. I even bonded closely with many of the residents, and I was excited to have memorized many of their names and life stories, as well as learning lots of additional (and somewhat unnecessary) bits and pieces about them, like their favorite ice cream flavors and astrological signs.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed my volunteer work in the nursing home, it pained me each week to go into the residents’ rooms and have a friendly conversation. Why? Because it exposed me to their loneliness, their fragility, their desperate longing for a friend. As a volunteer, I loved being able to be that someone who would provide them with the temporary feeling of love and belonging, but at age 13, I knew that I was in no position to provide for these residents what a true family could provide them: unconditional love and support. It was unbearable seeing so many residents with no family to visit them, no one to love them, no one to even send them a letter or make an effort to keep in touch. All too many, of them were genuinely isolated and alone.
So, I decided to do something to make a change beyond my local nursing home. I sat down down in my living room one day to write a some handwritten cards of kindness to send out to nursing homes across the country. Then, after I told a few friends about the idea, they encouraged me to take my initiative to the next level, and soon, after creating a website (lovefortheelderly.org) and harnessing social media to get the word out, Love for the Elderly was born.
What motivates your work?
"I'm always trying to approach my projects in new, creative ways. I try to never look at any two problems the same way, and if I ever get stuck on something, I like to take a break and return to it later so that I can revisit the issue with a fresh outlook. Obviously, being the director of a nonprofit can indeed be tiresome at times – especially when it comes to the routine administrative tasks. Nevertheless, my drive is constantly being refueled when I see the impact my organization has on the lives of the elderly! It always make me smile to see a photo (or an in-person reaction) of a senior smiling and tearing up from one of my organization's programs, and it really gives me a strong motivation to continue doing what I'm doing."
What does being a gique mean to you?
"To me, being a gique means combining passion with innovation. I'm always looking to create new things and develop new projects, and I try to ensure that my creativity is always being embraced 110%. As a gique, I try to fluidly engage myself in social entrepreneurship that I'm passionate about, whether it be through inspiring people through my self-designed website layout or through my organization's social media graphics that truly tug at your heartstrings!
Any words of wisdom?
"I try to stay positive and optimistic in everything I do. It's critical to look for new possibilities and not get frustrated when somethingdoesn't go as planned. With my nonprofit, I've had many bumps in the road – which includes the small things like an event not going how I expected or an error in a media outlet publication – but overall, as long as you are passionate about what you're doing, you'll be able to find the path to success! Anyone, regardless of age, can start something big!
So many elderly people have no one to care for them, no one to look after them, no one to love them. 16-year-old high-school student Jacob Cramer, wanted to change that when he founded Love For The Elderly in December of 2013. Love For The Elderly is a global nonprofit organization whose mission is as simple as striving to provide "love for the elderly!" Cramer had always been passionate about giving back and helping others. He eagerly wanted to make a difference, and began thinking of what he could do to touch the lives of the elderly, a group which he felt could greatly benefit from additional tender, loving kindness. From this small idea, Love for the Elderly was born! Today, we operate as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with one simple mission.
Learn more at http://www.lovefortheelderly.org/