PORTLAND, Maine — Career paths are rarely a straight line, but rather take us in one direction before a bend in the road sets us off on another passage. Jon Nappa already had a successful career as a writer and producer for television and movies when he decided to try his hand at writing a fantasy and adventure novel for teenagers. While doing research, he stumbled upon a book published in 1875 called Storm Warriors – which told the tale of lifeboat work on the Goodwin Sands, a shifting sandbar off the English coast where frequent shipwrecks occurred within view of the coastline. He ended up writing about those events, those shipwrecks, and the brave souls who entered the stormy seas to rescue the survivors. His book, and the heroes who did this work, are also called Storm Warriors. For Jon, these historical events raised powerful questions – and completely captured his imagination. Those questions would serve to guide the next steps of his professional career.
“I decided to explore that story further and to explore the question of what does it take before any of us are really willing to risk our lives for another?” says Nappa.
The story took off with a modern audience, and prompted him to muse, “What’s it gonna take for you to mobilize YOUR lifeboat, your gifts, your talents, your skills in service of those crises that are all around you if you were looking if you were open to that?”
As he pondered his next steps, Nappa had to ask himself the same questions his readers posed to him after reading Storm Warriors. It was the story of Ruchira Gupta, told in Nicholas Kristof’s best-selling book “Half the Sky” that caught his attention. She is the founder of Apne Aap, an organization working to abolish sex trafficking in India.
Nappa reached out to her, offering to tell the story of her work, at no cost to her.
He recalls preparing for the trip. “A couple of days before it was time to go, I got really cold feet. Because I’m a husband and a father and I have four children, at the time they were younger than they are now, still very much dependent on Dad’s provision and love, of course, as was my wife. I suddenly got scared, not for myself, but for those, I was responsible for. And so that question came back to me, you know, ‘What does it take before you are willing to risk your life to help others?’ I realize you are not just risking your life, you are risking those who depend on you as well. And I almost backed out. But the thought that came to me during my times of personal reflection and meditation was, ‘Well, what if it was your daughter? And I thought if it was my daughter? There isn’t a place on this planet that you could keep me from. I would never stop until I found her. If she was suffering those indignities, you know? So I decided, what occurred to me is: They are your daughters. They’re your sisters, they’re your mothers, they’re not just labels, they’re real people. They have real stories, and they have real worth. And it’s worth the effort. And it’s worth the risk. So I made that decision, and I’ve never regretted it. It was life-changing.”
That journey led him to put together a plan in 2017, to officially create an organization he now calls Storm Warriors International, committed to telling the stories of non-profits, based here in Maine, and the work that they do. Storm Warriors donates custom videos, website creation, and social media support all free of charge to the recipient organizations. Nappa employs a small core of multi-talented staff, all of whom wear many hats – writing, producing, directing, and editing -- and has since formed recommendation committees around the state and into New Hampshire – engaged community members who help to identify deserving organizations who could benefit from their story-telling services. He recruits extra help as needed.
For Nappa, this work is a calling. “We need to see the signal flairs, we need to see the burning tar barrels on the ships – on the decks of the sinking ships, we need to hear the cries of the afflicted, and we need to dare to get into the boat. And we all need to mobilize our gifts and our talents and our skills in service to do that.” Storm Warriors International plans to work with 15 non-profit organizations this year. If you would like to learn more about them, and the work they do, you can visit their website at https://www.stormwarriors.org/.