drummer josh devine sitting at drum kit

Josh Devine/ Cal Aurend

*This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.

Wanna change the world? We’ve all seen humanitarian or global agency offers to help you help a child by becoming a child sponsor. Many of us have signed up to help change a life in that way, but how many of us actually ever get to meet the child we sponsor? How many of us get to visit their community? How many of us find a way to help those communities become more self-sustaining? Well, Josh Devine did meet his sponsored child, and now he’s helping bring about awareness to change lives in a small community in Rwanda. And you can be a part of it.

Josh Devine is a drummer. He’s been drumming most of his life—actually since he was three. Who knew that a childhood dream of becoming a drummer would take him all the way to Rwanda and introduce him to boy named Evaride, and help him fall in love with the notion of changing lives?

“I’ve just kind of been drumming my whole life really I got through school and then decided, really this is what I wanted to pursue. Then despite what the One Direction drummer calls “ridiculous odds” he somehow managed to do it. “To get to the level of where I am now—-I’m absolutely blessed and absolutely love it.”

So the drummer is taking what he loves and loving people with it. Actually, he’s loving a whole community. Josh Devine is leading by example and using the platform he’s been given to make a difference.

jeff gilbert and josh devine lean forward against a truck

Jeff Gilbert and Josh Devine

Josh met Jeff Gilbert, from Food for the Hungry (Referred to more often as “FH” because they do so much more). He met Jeff when he attended a friend’s show in LA. “Jeff got up on the stage and started talking (about FH). It was almost like a light bulb went off. You know how people talk about how a light bulb goes off above their heads? It was kind of that moment for me, it was like ‘Dang I should really go and speak to this guy.’ So I just went and talked to him about it afterwards and from that moment we just became like brothers.

Jeff Gilbert, agrees and explains how it all came down. “Yeah Food For The Hungry invited me to participate in that tour and that night one of the tour staff said, “Hey Jeff, one of the guys from One Direction is here and wants to meet with you.” I’m like, “Okay, that’s random.” I met Josh and he shared his heart saying, “Hey listen, this absolutely resonates with everything I want to do.’ One Direction was getting ready to take a hiatus and he said, “I know that this needs to be a part of whatever I do next, whatever that might look like, and this needs to be a part of it.” So One Direction drummer Josh Devine sponsored a child.

A month later he was traveling in Dubai and a family member forwarded something special. He received a letter from Evaride, the child he was sponsoring, and the letter managed to change his life. He contacted Jeff on Facetime in tears ready to get involved.

It wasn’t long until Jeff began working on a video project called “The Hardest Places”and asked Josh to join him. “I decided I would love nothing more than to see Josh’s influence support these people in Rwanda. It was a very beautiful, organic unfolding.”

The next thing you know Josh and Jeff were on a plane to Africa.

“I never actually thought when I first sponsored a child that I’d have such an awesome experience or even contact with him. I thought it would just be one of those things that you pay some money toward and hopefully ever so often you get an update saying ‘he’s doing great’ and I thought it was a really cool thing having actual hand-written letters from him. It was awesome and he was so thankful and it was mind blowing and then to actually go and meet him, face to face—that made it real.”

To Josh, Evaride was no longer just a face on a piece of paper.

“He was a breathing human being in front of me with hopes, dreams, desires, and craziness going on in his life. The most important thing that really struck me was how happy he and his whole family and his whole village were, despite their conditions that they’ve been in. They live every single day as if it’s the greatest gift they’ve ever been given.”

Josh Devine’s appreciation for his own journey and his new found appreciation and love for Evaride’s community and, for that matter all the people of Rwanda, is palpable. Evaride’s community is now graduating from FH’s program as they are considered recently to be “self-sustained”. So now there are other communities that need help. Josh is now committed in a unique way to raising money for a small village in East Rwanda on the border of Tanzania that only recently started partnering with Food for the Hungry, and now Josh has decided to giveaway his One Direction drum kit to raise $70,000.

josh devine sits at one direction drum set

Josh Devine/ Cal Aurend

That move doesn’t surprise Jeff anymore but at first he was shocked. “They had a bunch of immediate needs— about $70,000 worth of needs that would include building schools, digging wells, and getting them up and moving. When we got home we were talking about how to raise 70 grand. ‘What should we do?’ And Josh thought, ‘Why don’t we just give away my drum kit and see if we can raise 70 grand doing that?’ I was like, “Are you kidding me? Are you sure? Is that really something you’d want to do?” And he just says, “I’d love nothing more.”

Fans can enter to win One Direction’s world famous drum kit, now through December 31st. You can go on to thehardestplaces.com/sweepstakes and make a donation that’s going to help make a difference.

According to Jeff Gilbert, thehardestplaces.com is the epicenter for promotions to help Rwanda and to giveaway the drum kit. “If you give a dollar, then you’re entered in one time. If you give five dollars, then we’re going to enter you 25 times and ten dollars is going to enter you 100 times and if you sponsor a child, we’re going to enter you 250 times.”

When Josh Devine reflects on his time in Rwanda, you can feel his heartbeat through his voice, and he laughs, “We spent a lot of time in the back of a pick-up truck and I loved it. It was probably one of the best things ever. I got to play soccer, or football as it should be called, with Evaride. We sat down and had food with his family and got a real chance to connect on a personal level and show him that we’re not just faces from a faraway land. That we’re tangible people that they can reach out to and we’re here. Hopefully they know how loved they are.” Indeed, and there’s no doubt more people will feel loved if Josh has anything to do with it.

To learn more about The Hardest Places and to win the drum kit, go to www.thehardestplaces.com.

Follow Josh Devine on Twitter.

Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter.

Follow Chester Goad on Twitter.

Learn more about FH (Food for the Hungry)

Meet Evaride on the Hardest Places Video

Listen to more of the interview here.

*This piece also appears at Huffington Post.

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader and Host of the Leaderbyte Podcast on iTunes.