Therese Nichols is making the globe a better place, OnePlate at a time.
The search for her purpose in life has taken Therese Nichols around the world. She finally found the key to her mission while having breakfast with her Dad at home in Melbourne, Australia — and it involved some of the things she enjoys the most.
Nichols told Aleteia by e-mail, “My Dad had a kind of revelation. He is a deeply prayerful man and every now and then the Holy Spirit speaks strongly to me through him and offers some pearls of wisdom.”
In the middle of breakfast on that cold, Easter Tuesday morning, Nichols’ father turned to her and said, “You need to go to Manila.”
“I was like, ‘Are you sure you don’t mean Paris, not Manila?,” Nichols recalled.
Three weeks later Nichols found herself in Manila. She had signed up to volunteer for one month with a foundation that feeds and cares for street children in that city.
Nichols said Manila was “a city that is filled with thousands of children living on the streets. They are vulnerable to the world of abuse, gangs, violence, child prostitution and alcohol. These children spend their days searching rubbish bins for food. Just to survive. Many of these children are on drugs not because they are involved in crime but to numb their stomachs from hunger.”
At the foundation where Nichols was volunteering, every week volunteers transformed a small space into a beautiful dining room with carefully set tables. That dining room would welcome 400 children every Saturday. Nichols said as each of the children received their meal on a plate, their faces lit up. “Each child was treated with dignity and love, and they felt it,” she said.
Seeing those children’s faces light up over their one daily meal was a contrast to what Nichols saw in Australia, where the food industry is a $45 billion a year business. “We are living in the golden age of the foodie,” she said.
Nichols began thinking, “Imagine if we can draw on this incredible food culture to help feed those in need in the developing world?”
While praying in an adoration chapel in Manila she realized that she was being called to do something concrete about what she saw.
Returning home, Nichols founded OnePlate, a meal sharing program and non-profit organization that provides people in need with access to food through partnerships with Australian restaurants and cafes.
Partner restaurants designate specific items on their menu as “OnePlate” dishes. When a patron orders that dish, one dollar from that item is donated to sustainable food growing projects around the world.
“OnePlate is about empowering us foodies to transform the world through our daily eating out habits and choices,” Nichols said.
Still, for Nichols, OnePlate is about more than just putting food on the table of the world’s hungry. It is about living out what she believes is God’s will for her life and doing His work.
“My love and passion for travel, food, art, culture and all things beautiful has definitely contributed to where I am today, ” Nichols said. Throughout her school years she had a myriad of ideas for her life: She wanted to be everything from a fashion designer to a human rights lawyer. She finally decided on public relations and eventually moved to London, England, where she landed her dream job doing PR for a perfume brand.
“Although I loved it and I had passion, I was still looking for purpose. I would pray daily asking God how I can use my gifts and talents that He had given to me, to serve Him and others,” she recalled.
While living in London she took the first steps towards finding that purpose when she met the Emmanuel Community and went on retreat at one of their houses. During that retreat she decided to speak to a priest about her search for purpose.
Nichols recalled, “After going on about all of my desires and dreams he finally said to me: ‘Thérèse your gift is to love. Just love. This is the most important thing.'”
“After all of my big ideas and dreams it suddenly hit me that to do little things with great love is to do something great,” she said, echoing her namesake.
That put things into perspective for Nichols. “To know that I am a daughter of the King and deeply loved therefore means that I have a responsibility to love like Christ and be His ambassador of love, kindness and joy in the world. The transforming power of joy and love is profound and is what so many people are starving for,” she said.