One cold evening a young woman came to my door. Someone had dropped her off. She had her five children with her, the youngest about three and the oldest no more than ten. They were hugging their "Mamma." She was crying. She was about to be evicted, she had no money and no food, and her power had been turned off. She just didn't know what to do. Could I help?
Of all the people who I've tried to help over the years, that woman and her children stand out. Their picture is printed in my mind. They are the faces of poverty, the people who are lost in the shuffle.
We talk about the "haves" and the "have nots." In the world I see, the "haves" are not the ones who eat caviar and drink champagne. They are not those with two cars, or even one. They are the people who can pay their bills. I see people whose water is turned off because the bill is unpaid. How can you live without water?
And worst of all, how can your children live without water in the home? I see kids who are almost begging for food because they're hungry. And because of their hunger and poor nutrition, they get sick. These are kids who go to school with holes in their shoes. How much can they learn when they're hungry, or sick, or embarrassed, or preoccupied with the situation at home?
These kids leave the only home they have in the morning, where the adults are desperate because they just don't have enough. The parents don't have a great education. In many instances there is just a mother, who has to manage on her own. If the parents are lucky enough to have jobs, they probably pay minimum wage. If there is only a single mom, she can't go to work and leave her children at home alone. If she does find someone to look after them, she probably still needs to find transportation to get her to work and back. When she gets home, she's probably too tired to spend much time with her children or be involved in what's happening in their world.
In so many instances, the children in these families see fighting; they see abuse. The parents, who are often desperate because they just don't have the basics, may be violent, toward each other and toward their children.
These are the people who move me every day. They aren't numbers or abstractions, just real folks, real families. It's great to talk about "breaking the cycle of poverty," and lots of my energy goes into programs designed to do just that. But designing programs, and making them work, takes time, and during that time the kids of today, through no fault of their own, are suffering the effects of poverty. So I try to help those children and their families so their poverty doesn't destroy them. I know I must do everything in my power to make sure that doesn't happen.
This post is part of a series co-produced by The Huffington Post and Points of Light to honor Loreal Paris' Women of Worth initiative. Women of Worth honors incredible women who are making a beautiful difference through their dedication to philanthropy and their passion for improving the world. The 10 women being honored this year were selected from thousands of nominations. Each of the honorees received $10,000 for her charitable cause from L'Oreal Paris. To learn more about Women of Worth or to submit a nomination beginning April 2013, please visit womenofworth.com.