Food for the Soul
An Interview with Joyce Endaya, finding humanKIND.
We first met Joyce through Feeding Tampa Bay, where she was the Civic Relations and Corporate Partnerships Manager. Just recently, Joyce left her Feeding Tampa Bay family to start a new journey. We have a feeling you’re going to love this.
What is finding humanKIND?
Finding humanKIND is a collection of stories and portraits, meant to inspire kindness and empower change, gathered from the beautiful people we meet on our cross-country journey. We’re out to prove there is more good in this world and everyone is capable of making a difference, all it takes is a little bit of kindness.
How did you first decide to take this trip?
Last year, Todd and I were on a road trip through some small towns in Illinois. I’ve never seen so many cornfields and windmills in my life, so we spontaneously pulled over for a cornfield selfie. Having a blast, we immediately decided to plan our next road trip. With so many states to travel and so many things to see, we couldn’t agree on what states to visit first. Then the lightbulb went off! We looked at each other and said, “Why not do all of them?” Todd and I returned home, gave our notice, sold all we owned, and moved into a 100 sq ft travel trailer with our two puppies – Lucy and Ruth. This was the beginning of our biggest adventure!
What inspired finding humanKIND?
The inspiration began 7 years ago when I made the incredible leap of faith, right before college graduation, to do something on my bucket list before real life hit hard. Like all 23 year olds, my mind was about to explode from the pressure of graduation and the expectation to figure out all of life’s questions yesterday. With nothing but a few clothes in my backpack and some courage in my pocket, I jumped on a plane and journeyed through Africa for 8 months to work in orphanages. What was I thinking, right? All I knew was if I didn’t seize this once in a lifetime opportunity now, I may regret it forever. So, why not?
During my time in Ethiopia, I volunteered for a non-profit to build schools in remote villages. It was an indescribable, eye-opening experience, as the villagers were so grateful and generous despite they had nothing but a mud hut and a little food. However, the build wasn’t so great! It was pretty difficult for my twig of an arm connected to a 4’10 ½, 90 lb. body to fling concrete mud on the wall. So, I decided to do what I do best: explore and get lost. Within minutes, I had a trail of super cool kids following me through the hills. As we made it to the top, a sudden sense of complete peace and certainty, something I’ve never experienced before, came over me like a blanket. My mind no longer wrestled with life’s what, when, and how. There wasn’t a voice, but I could hear the words in the depth of my soul, “Joyce, you’re just here to make a difference.” My heart has never felt such peace in all my life. This was my calling from above, my NorthStar.
Fast forward to the next 5 years, my NorthStar led me to some incredible experiences including my first job out of grad school – Feeding Tampa Bay, a local food bank. To say the least, the mission and the selfless, kind people I met have shaped me into the woman I am today. They’ve inspired me to take this leap of faith: to travel the country in pursuit of kindness. I could speak volumes about the food bank’s greatness, but I will save you from that and mention two beautiful souls who laid the foundation of finding humanKIND.
First, Ms. Bonnie, CEO of Kingdom Kids Tampa, foster mom to over 100 children, and the most compassionate woman I’ve ever met. Rain, flood, or hurricane, Ms. Bonnie arrives to Feeding Tampa Bay bright and early to gather food for all the hungry children in her community. Her strength, determination and love encouraged me to pursue one goal – to share the stories of the Ms. Bonnies’ of the world. If you want to know what selflessness looks like, meet Ms. Bonnie.
And last but not least, my mentor and work dad, Thomas Mantz, CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay. His encouragement and support, not just as an employer, but as a friend, I will never forget. His guidance was the constant reminder I can accomplish all things with passion and courage. I will greatly miss Thomas and Feeding Tampa Bay, but will take all the love they have given me on this journey and for many years to come.
What is finding humanKIND’s goals and how will you know when you’ve accomplished it?
finding humanKIND is a never-ending journey to discover kind stories and inspiration from all the amazing people we meet. Todd and I will happily pursue finding humanKIND for however long it makes a difference in the lives of others.
Do you have a route-in-mind and what will you do after the trip?
We would love to travel all the contiguous states, but with so much to see and so little time, our goal is 40 states. The general routes are mapped out, but we’re planning to be spontaneous! We’ll follow the road to the coolest must-eat joints (we’re total foodies), explore colorful, little towns, or go anywhere our pups tell us to! After the trip, who knows? We’ll go wherever the road takes us, literally and figuratively. Maybe pick our favorite city and settle down or keep traveling the world? We’re excited about all the possibilities!
How do readers follow your journey?
You can follow finding humanKIND’s blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more kind stories. We hope finding humanKIND inspires you to create your own journey of kindness by making a difference in your community. It doesn’t take much – be compassionate to strangers, become a mentor, volunteer, or donate – all it takes is a little bit of kindness.
Follow the journey at findinghumankind.com