Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 Woman of the Year: Esther Hewlett


Awakened to her Life’s Work because of Pearl S. Buck

As a junior in High School, Esther Hewlett got the opportunity to travel to Malaysia as a foreign exchange student.  While she did not know it at the time, the trip would open up her world in ways that far exceeded what life had been like growing up in Geneva, Illinois.  The Asian culture and people resonated so much with her that when she returned to Illinois she read everything about that part of the world that she could.  In her search to become well versed in the subject, she was introduced to the writings of Pearl S. Buck and became an immediate fan.

Ms. Hewlett admired Pearl S. Buck for her ability to “bring together the two worlds” and for her uncommon way of looking at the world. “She is just a fascinating character to me. She was quite visionary for her time. People listened to her, people were reading her books and she had a way of introducing people to another part of the world.” Hewlett remarked.

Esther and Eva in Taiwan in 2012
Forty-five years ago, Esther was finishing up her sophomore year at Stanford studying Chinese. She was familiar with the Pearl S Buck Foundation and decided to write to Pearl S. Buck to see if she could get involved in anyway. Within the month, not only had she exchanged letters with Pearl S Buck and the Foundation staff, she was on a plane to Taipei, charged with the task of conducting a research study to see if there were Amerasian children to support a Pearl S. Buck Foundation office in Taiwan.

She worked alongside Eva Fong, a social worker, and communicated back to the US office that yes, Taiwan could support a Foundation office. After reading the reports on the work Esther did in Taipei, Pearl S. Buck sent Esther two inscribed books at the end of that summer in 1968 and invited her to visit sometime.

The trip proved more than a statistical study for Esther. “Seeing the difficult situations that existed for these Amerasians, I realized that I could be a part of the solution and that was very empowering. It had never occurred to me before.” Esther explained.

Today, Ms. Hewett is recognized for her activism and humanitarianism and credits Pearl S. Buck for the inspiration to do the work she does. “My activism and humanitarianism have been very much influenced by Pearl S. Buck. She awakened me to my life’s work,” Hewlett said. That life’s work includes being a founding donor of the Global Fund for Women which advances the rights of women and girls worldwide by increasing the resources for and investing in women-led organizations and women’s collective leadership for change. In 2002, Esther Hewlett founded Youth Philanthropy Worldwide (YPW), to engage youth in philanthropy and social change at both the local and global level. In 2008, the organization merged with Youth Re:Action Corps and is now known as New Global Citizens. Its mission is to inspire youth to be engaged global citizens with programming to provide students with a global perspective, an opportunity to create change, and the skills needed to thrive in a global knowledge economy.

Esther finds it remarkable that someone that she never got to meet in person has had such an influence on her life for the past 45 years. As Esther reflects on being honored as the 2013 Woman of the Year, her mind goes back to the moment when Pearl S. Buck said yes and took a chance on her and now realizes what a pivotal point it was in her life.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity presented with this award and feel extremely honored to be connected to her in this way.” Hewlett expressed. Esther Hewlett will be honored with the 2013 Woman of the Year Award on Wednesday, November 13 at Pearl S. Buck International in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. More information can be found at

Pamela Carroll
Marketing Director 

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