Steve Sosebee grew up in a small town in northeastern Ohio with his sisters and their parents. His father was a high school teacher – his mother a nurse. Unbeknownst to him, Steve’s life purpose began to be shaped when he was just five years old in 1970. Despite the federal legislation passed in the late 1960’s, the Sosebee’s town remained segregated. Steve’s father worked tirelessly for desegregation and fair housing – fighting for social justice – for minorities, especially blacks who weren’t allowed to own property.
Those efforts led to the family home being fired upon and the need for his sisters to have police protection going to and from school, His parents would not be deterred – instead instilling in their children a powerful message that they should always fight for social justice – that it was a responsibility.
Outside of that, Steve grew up in a typical Midwest Americana lifestyle – swimming, going for ice cream, playing baseball, and building snowmen. After high school, he enrolled at Kent State University where he studied International Relations with an emphasis on the Middle East. In 1988, at the age of 23, he and a group of like-minded students traveled to Palestine, in particular the West Bank. There, they were able to see first-hand how the people lived and the challenges they faced. It was a trip that would change his life forever.
He was determined to take what he’d learned and seen back with him to the States and ‘do something with it’. Upon returning to Kent State, he took a course in the History of the Middle East. Steve’s frustration grew as his professor taught only one perspective of the region. Every story has two sides and Steve pressed his teacher for the chance to share the knowledge and insights he had gained. When the professor finally relented, Steve created a presentation including many of the pictures he’d taken on his trip. As he entered the building on the day he was to present, he was accosted by the professor’s nephew who grabbed and destroyed the entire presentation. That attack made it clear how difficult it was to change minds – it was a similar event to the assault on his home and family early in his life.
Steve returned to Palestine in 1990. On this trip, he met a ten-year-old boy – Masoud Abu Sneineh – who’d suffered significant grenade injuries, losing both of his legs, his right hand, and an eye. Steve became determined to make arrangements to take Masoud with him to the States where he could receive adequate treatment for the boy’s devastating injuries – medical services not available in his home land. Steve’s efforts paid off – Masoud received the treatment so desperately needed. During the process, the Ohio man who spoke no Arabic and the 10-year-old who spoke no English became friends.
By 1991, in the U.S., Steve had created the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. The PCRF is a non-political, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to help children in the occupied territories who needed medical care. Sosebee returned to Gaza where he began the work of making his vision reality. It was then that he met Huda Al-Masri, a Palestinian woman whom he fell in love with at first sight. They married and worked as a team to build the PCRF.
Today, the PCRF is a four-star rating from the international Charity Navigator group for the sixth consecutive year. More than 1,200 children have received treatment by traveling to the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates, medical care which they otherwise wouldn’t have. Thousands more have received medicines and care without having to travel. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund has made a difference in countless lives because of the efforts of a fearless brand – Steve Sosebee.
Fearless Brands are driven by the conviction of their beliefs, passion, and purpose
Steve Sosebee certainly has his views regarding the politics and cultural challenges of the Palestinians, Israel, and other countries in the region. He does not let those beliefs come in to play as he continues his efforts to provide humanitarian services to children who otherwise would not have health-care. Rather, Sosebee maintains his focus on the pursuit of social justice instilled in him by his parents some forty years ago.
Steve now has children of his own – two girls. Sadly, Huda died of leukemia in 2009. Sosebee continued to work every day with a broken heart, having lost his life mate, his soul mate, his partner in PCRF. His uniquely powerful perspective, was to focus on the gifts he’s received from Huda – family, the type of love that few experience, a powerful bond on both a professional and personal level, and a deep commitment to continue their work in her honor. Last year Sosebee remarried. His wife, Dr. Zeena Salman, is a pediatric oncologist and volunteer at PCRF, and they are expecting their first child together.
Sosebee’s efforts have resulted in creating the Huda Al Masri Pediatric Cancer Department, a pediatric cardiac surgery program in the Gaza Strip, a Child Sponsorship Program and hundreds of volunteer surgery missions to the Middle East.
Regardless of one’s race, religion, culture, or politics, there is much to learn from Steve Sosebee about building a brand and achieving success.
Live a life of conviction – It’s his conviction that drives Sosebee’s pursuit of social justice, providing care for children, and persistence in his passion and purpose. It’s conviction that is at the very core of a fearless brand. Conviction results from embracing our passion, discovering our purpose, being persistent and accepting our attributes, both positive and negative, exactly as they are. That is the definition of a fearless brand. Sosebee’s conviction ensures that he will not be deterred by those who disagree with his purpose, by the politics of the region, or by simply losing interest. That is the power of conviction – the power of a fearless brand
Remain humble – Steve Sosebee goes to great lengths to remain in the background, to be the quiet power behind PCRF. It’s not out of fear (see above). Rather, it’s out of a belief that his purpose, the pursuit of social justice, the incredible benefits provided to the children, and the spread of goodwill is where the focus should be placed. What could be more productive than that?
Spread love, especially where there is none – Love is the common thread tying all of Steve Sosebee’s efforts together. Love of humanity. Love of humans – especially children. Love of social justice. Love of goodness. Some will laugh at this concept. Others realize the power of love in life, in business, in everything. Not one doctor or hospital has ever charged a fee for the services they provide to the children in need. Love. Countless people throughout the Arab world see the goodness and caring of so many Americans and begin to realize that there is commonality as humans – that there is love. Try starting from a basis of love – you’ll see results almost immediately.
Steve Sosebee didn’t begin his journey with the PCRF with any intent of becoming famous or in any way revered. He certainly didn’t set out to become a fearless brand – heck, he likely doesn’t even know what that means. It’s not the brand that’s important – it’s the results. Sosebee lives a life of conviction – life as a fearless brand. We can too.