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Erin Heatherton takes up a beautiful cause

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Updated: July 15, 2012 2:54PM

Up until I turned 16, I was just your average teenager living in Skokie. My life changed instantly when I was discovered by a model scout while on a campus tour of the University of Miami. One day I was playing on a high school basketball team and dreaming of going to college and becoming a doctor, and the next day I started a very different kind of education. Traveling the world as a model and Victoria’s Secret Angel has taught me a lot about myself and about the power of my choices. I’ve learned that no amount of success can fill the void of doing what truly makes you feel passionate. While my modeling success gave me a voice, I still felt a strange emptiness and was eager to find a greater sense of fulfillment.

Luckily, since becoming an Angel in 2008, I’ve had the wonderful experience of working with photographer Russell James, who’s world-renowned for his photography and for his work as a philanthropist and founder of Nomad Two Worlds. Over the years, I’ve admired how Russell balanced his personal passions and his career, and he discovered that I was yearning to get involved in an important cause. In a series of fortuitous events, my work with Russell and Nomad Two Worlds led me to Hugh Evans, co-founder of the Global Poverty Project.

Shortly after our introduction, Hugh started drawing graphs and explaining his mission to eradicate the world of extreme poverty and build awareness in the U.S. I had never heard someone speak so passionately and proactively about such a vast global issue. Unbelievably, 1.4 billion people on our planet live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.50 a day. I was so captivated by Hugh’s passion to educate the public and give them tools to get involved and make a difference. In my heart I felt I found that missing link in my life, a way I could use my voice to make a difference in the world.

And so I began a new chapter of my life with a sense of responsibility. I want to spread the word of the Global Poverty Project’s mission to end this poverty epidemic within a generation. I want to ignite the same passion in others as I have found in myself. I’m only 23, and while every day brings a new challenge, a new lesson and a new self-discovery, I now know that I’m on the right path. I know that I can make a difference in the world.  

Erin Heatherton donated her $1,000 fee for writing this column to the Global Poverty Project.

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