11/29/2013 11:58 am ET Updated Jan 29, 2014

The Gift of American Engagement and Global Generosity

What ignited your passion for change?

It was the encouragement of an eighth grade teacher in the 60s, after a heated classroom debate around civil rights, that led me to make a conscious decision to really step out and use my voice to help effect positive change. So it's no surprise perhaps that I find myself with a long career in communications and advocacy, serving with such remarkable organizations as Save the Children, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and now InterAction and its 180-plus members, large and small, faith-based and secular.

For those of us in our field, it's our privilege to help raise the profile of U.S.-funded overseas development programs -- truly one of the greatest success stories of our time. These programs are supported with the generosity of the American people either through direct donations to charitable organizations or through the one percent of the U.S. federal budget that supports international assistance.

Take a look at the gifts Americans share with marginalized communities each and every day throughout the world. In Ethiopia, we are helping save the lives of moms and kids by training frontline health workers to deliver prenatal care and childhood vaccinations. In Pakistan, we are helping build schools, train teachers and making sure boys and girls get a quality education and hope for a brighter future. In Bangladesh, we are providing American know-how so that families can expand their small businesses and crop yields and so that communities can become sustainable and self-reliant.

Americans should feel good about our generosity and our joint successes. We are compassionate people, helping support millions of people whether here at home or in distant places we will never know or visit.

I have seen the real and lasting difference our gifts are making. While traveling as a USAID representative in Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest states in India, I stood in a tiny, isolated village among a circle of milkmaids in saris of every color who had gathered to tell their story (through an interpreter) to a Wall Street Journal reporter. Thanks to a USAID-funded program, the milkmaids had been trained and equipped to deliver life-saving health information and supplies as they made their daily morning treks around the maze of mud huts. Before this training, children and their parents in this community had no access to basic health care, no doctors or nurses nearby, and no means of transportation to clinics that were hours away.

Through this Huffington Post series for #GivingTuesday, InterAction members have shared many of their own personal stories -- heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. A colleague at Jhpiego, a global health affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, shared with me a story of a mother who had survived through South Sudan's brutal civil war, but almost lost her life giving birth to her second child. "I thought I was going to die," said the woman. After excessive hemorrhaging -- a leading cause of the nearly 300,000 deaths of mothers each year, a frontline health worker, trained and supported with U.S. funding, gave her misoprotsol -- three tiny white pills that saved the mother's life.

Mothers and fathers, no matter where they live, want the same thing -- all good things for their children, a good education and the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life. This is not an isolated wish; it's universal. When we help families help themselves, the ripple effect of an entire village undergoing transformation begins, affecting present and future generations the world over. On this #GivingTuesday, join the movement of generosity, and set self-reliance into motion.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll be featuring posts from InterAction partners all month in November. To see all the posts in the series, visit here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here. For more information about InterAction, visit here. To see what InterAction is doing for #GivingTuesday, click here.

And if you'd like to share your own #GivingTuesday story, please send us your 500-850-word post to