This post is part of a series on childhood poverty in the United States in partnership with Save the Children and Julianne Moore. Moore leads the organization's Valentine's Day campaign, through which cards are sold to support the fight against poverty in the U.S. To learn more or to purchase the cards, click here.
Have you ever really thought about what it means to grow up in poverty in our country?
I'm not just talking about growing up in a family that struggles with poverty but in an entire community where every family is struggling.
That means kids who only get junk food because their parents can't afford fresh groceries, who go to schools where the libraries have more empty shelves than full ones and who don't have safe places to study or play after school.
Nearly one in four kids in the U.S. grows up like this.
In a country as wealthy as ours, why do we allow this to happen? How can we expect all our kids to succeed when almost a quarter of our kids don't have the basic tools of life, like books to read and food that helps them growth strong and healthy?
A few years ago, the cast and crew of American Idol started a campaign called Idol Gives Back. We brought together an amazing group of musicians, actors and corporate partners to raise money for kids living in poverty in the U.S. and around the world. All together, we've raised more than $185 million dollars. That's amazing!
I can't begin to tell you the personal satisfaction I get from knowing that we used music -- my life's passion -- to help the lives of so many.
I'm very proud of the work we've done, but we can't just depend on big events to fight poverty; all of us need to be doing it every day.
A couple of years ago for Idol Gives Back, Morgan Freeman and I visited Mound Bayou, a small town in the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest regions of America. These were great people with great kids, living in a part of the country that had been forgotten by the rest of America. How unfair is that? Why should these kids have less of a shot at making it because of where they were born?
Spending time with these kids got me thinking about how poverty for them isn't an issue on TV or in the newspaper; it's a dark cloud shadowing everything in their lives.
This is why I think the work of Save the Children U.S. Programs is so important. They're working on the ground in these communities, providing services to make sure kids have access to books and other tools to help them learn, are eating nutritious food and have safe places to play. Essentially, it's everything these kids need to have a fair shot in life.
Julianne Moore, my fellow Artist Ambassador for Save the Children's U.S. Programs, is leading a Valentine's Day project for the organization, selling limited-edition Valentine's Day cards designed by some very well-known and fantastic children's book artists and illustrators.
With Idol Gives Back, we used our love of music to help fight poverty here at home. This Valentine's Day, you can do the same thing around your love of art and around love itself.
We can all do something to help in this fight: sending one of these Valentine's cards, volunteering or even just talking to your kids about how other kids live so that they can help be part of this fight.
But there's no excuse to not do anything.