Aaron Jackson is Planting Peace

Aaron Jackson is Planting PeaceDestin activist harvests hope one child at a timeBy Zandra Wolfgram

At 29, Aaron Jackson has 102 stamps on his passport. But if you ask him, he’s only just begun his journey. The president of Planting Peace, a non-profit organization formed to help impoverished countries through sustainable initiatives, is relentless in his grass-root efforts to make the world a better place.

When a college degree in golf management did not pan out for the Fort Walton Beach High School graduate, he slung on a backpack and set out to see the world. It didn’t take him long to see “not everyone grows up on a beach resort.”

After learning the ropes at Homeless Voice, the largest non-government funded homeless shelter in the United States (based in Orlando), Jackson teamed with Pensacola physician Chuck Presti to provide medical care in Haiti. While there, he met John Dieubon, the co-founder of Planting Peace, and soon after, they formed a charity in order to open a children’s center for Haitian street kids. That was 2004.

Seven years later, the philanthropic duo has established nearly a dozen orphanages, planted more than a million trees and dewormed tens of millions of children in Haiti. We spoke with Jackson at his Miramar Beach home office about his passion for “planting” world peace.


Meet one Destin man planting seeds of hope, making a global difference. Photo by Scott Holstein

EC: How did you fund your first philanthropic project? As a new charity and being young and hippy looking, no one wanted to give me any money. So I had to get a job as a golf caddy and used those funds for the first orphanage.

EC: Did you eventually get funders? About a year into the charity, we started a home for kids with HIV. We lost the sponsor, so I was faced with closing it or give up my house. So I gave up my house and moved into the homeless shelter. I lived there about six years.

EC: Where does Planting Peace stand today? Next month we will open our seventh orphanage. We have four in Haiti and three in India. (They also opened four others in South America.) We have a school in Haiti. 

EC: But helping children isn’t all you do, is it? No, we have a rainforest conservation program in which we buy land and preserve it. We have a 50-acre rescue farm outside Orlando for abused farm animals. We are also re-launching our environmental cleanup program. But the deworming is what people know us for. For about a penny a pill you can deworm a child of parasites. We’ve dewormed seven million kids this month alone.

EC: How can locals help your cause? Our goal is to buy one million doses for $10,000. We’d love to find 100 people to give $100 a month to that fund.

 Aaron Jackson (left) with some of the Haitian children who call his orphanages home.Aaron Jackson (left) with some of the Haitian children who call his orphanages home.

EC: Why do you think you’ve engaged in Planting Peace with such an “all in” passion? I guess it’s just my calling. And I think it’s common sense. Kids are dying of starvation, so let’s help them. Why go off and get a golf degree when kids are dying of the most basic things?

EC: What kind of advice do you have for someone who would like to make a difference? I think people always over complicate something. To open an orphanage, it literally took flying over there, finding a house and going grass roots with it. I just thought of it as making my own home. We started out small.

EC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? You hate with anything to see resistance. Right now Haiti is one of the hungriest countries in the world, where 80 percent of the population has intestinal parasites, and we’re struggling to get the medicine in to correct that. If anything, the government should be calling us and asking us to come in. Instead, they don’t call us and give us hell at the border. We could be deworming a lot of other places if it weren’t for that.

EC: Do you have a philosophy you live by? Where there is a will there is a way.

For more information on Planting Peace, visit PlantingPeace.org.