THE BLOG

Why Food, Water and Shelter Are Not the Most Important Things a Child Needs

04/15/2015 11:09 am ET | Updated Jun 15, 2015

This post is part of the Relay for Kids in partnership with SOS Children's Villages. Each time you share this post, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per action) to support children worldwide affected by crisis. Scroll to the bottom to find out more.

When we think of what a child needs, we think of food, water, shelter and of course, love. Access to education, health care, safety and freedom are also crucial. However, after meeting countless children around the world when I travel, I've come to realize there is one thing a child needs the most: hope.

Hope is not quantifiable nor can it be bought, but it is truly powerful. It helps children withstand even the most terrible of conditions. It feeds their souls when their stomachs might be grumbling or gives them the strength to endure a bad day. Even if you don't feel loved, hope makes you feel there is a chance that one day you will be. Having hope might make the difference in making it through the night when you feel the world has forgotten you and that nobody cares what happens to you. A hopeless future is terribly bleak and can make you think there is no way out, that you're trapped -- and it can drive you to desperation.

I'm not minimizing how essential the basic necessities are. They are crucial for survival, yet too often many children learn to live without the essentials. When I've visited tent camps in Haiti, delivered donations in Latin America or volunteered in a poor town in Colombia, I realized that those that still hoped for a better future seemed stronger and happier, no matter the tough conditions they were living in.

They weren't looking for pity, but they did long for things to get better. They had dreams. They were still children who just wanted to play. It didn't matter if it was a simple game of peekaboo in the middle of the rubble two years after the earthquake in Leogane, Haiti, or whether it was a game of soccer in a dirt field in Baru, Colombia.

It shames me to admit that I might have forgotten the names of the children who have inspired me to advocate for them, but I haven't forgotten their faces, their smiles, their tears when I hugged them or their words. A young girl in Chile once told me that when people visited her rural school, it made her happy, but that when she realized they forgot about her later on, it made her very sad. I was a teenager studying journalism and I realized that aside from trying to help, I had to share the stories of those who need us because we can't forget these kids. Now that I am a mother, I feel it is my duty.

For millions of the world's 2.2 billion children, it is hard to keep hope alive in their souls. They are growing up in war zones, with no access to water, their siblings dying before they reach 5 years of age is common in Sierra Leone, and they see the constant struggle for survival. They might keep their joy, but it gets very hard to believe that they will be able to have a better life once they realize the odds are against them -- or if they believe nobody cares.

There is progress, but we still have a long road ahead of us. Every child counts, and we can each do something to improve the odds for children around the world. The task might seem overwhelming, but I still share what Aaron Sherinian, the UN Foundation's Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, once told me: that anybody can be a philanthropist. You don't need to be a millionaire to help. Anybody can donate their time, wherever they are.

Actually, you can help right now with just a minute of your time. When you support the Relay for Kids, you can help provide food, shelter and medical care to a child in crisis. Please help me in spreading the word.

That way we can help make it so children won't give up, no matter how sad, how hungry, how scared and how cold they might be today. In the process, we can help them feel full of hope instead of despair and give them strength while things change.

By sharing, you make a difference for kids in crisis: From March 23 until April 24, each time you 'like' or share this post via the social media icons above or comment in the section below, Johnson & Johnson will trigger a $1 donation (per social action) to SOS Children's Villages, the world's largest organization dedicated to orphaned or abandoned children, up to $30,000*. $1 provides food, shelter and medical care to a child in crisis. In addition, you can also Donate A Photo** and Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 when you upload a photo for SOS Children's Villages -- you can help raise up to $20,000 in seconds with the click of your mouse or snap of your smart phone.

Johnson & Johnson, SOS Children's Villages and The Huffington Post created the Relay for Kids to support children around the world who have been affected by poverty, conflict, disease and natural disasters. Visit www.sos-usa.org/relayforkids to learn more.

*Blogs must be shared between March 23 to April 24, via Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, reddit, Tumblr and Google+ from the Huffington Post. Each share will trigger a $1 donation up to $30,000. There are no limits on how many times you can share a post.

** via the Donate A Photo app for iOS and Android. Johnson & Johnson has curated a list of trusted causes, and you can donate a photo to one cause, once a day. Each cause will appear in the app until it reaches its goal, or the donation period ends. If the goal isn't reached, the cause will still get a minimum donation.

Editor's Note: Johnson & Johnson is a sponsor of The Huffington Post's Global Motherhood section.

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