01/01/2012 07:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

In Guatemala, $200 Can Change a Life


At Santa Tomas Milpas Altas, we arrived to a small village of kids. Many were without families, while a few had moms. We shared snacks and played games, so that we could identify a few who stood out to support. We also had the help of the local organizer who has tracked these kids and their family situations since they were born.

A number of these kids would leave that morning with different lives. Our commitment of only $200 a child would fund their education, health care, and basic needs. (If you'd like to join us, you can make a donation of any size at

I looked around that yard at the kids and wondered what they were thinking. One of my earliest memories as a little boy was coming out of church and having a wealthy couple stop us to talk to my mom. This was a time when my dad was unemployed and we were eating what we called "welfare cheese" given to us by the government. Dad was too proud to take welfare or food stamps, but food he would accept.

As this couple chatted with my mother, I couldn't hear what they were saying, but they kept looking in my direction and smiling, so I guessed they were talking about me. I was conscious that they could or maybe wanted to help us. So as my mom spoke to them I smiled and consciously tried to be cute and well behaved.

As I walked into this group of kids, I wondered how many were conscious of these moments having some level of importance to their future, and how that was being reflected in their behavior. It was hard not to cry.

Soon enough, we identified the 10 we would help -- a combination of our interactions with the kids and the recommendation of our host. One boy led a group of us in a game he created. Another had such charisma. He saw our host walking around pointing out kids and came right up to us and said, "If you are picking out good kids, pick me!" He got into the pack right away. I told the boy what my Dad used to say -- "Never be afraid to ask, the worst anyone can say is no" -- and congratulated him on his instincts. Here is the picture of our 10.


As we took down the names of the 10, another 5-10 gathered round, sensing that they were about to be passed over and wanting so badly to be noticed. I asked the host to take their names and pictures as well, in hopes that we may be able to raise the money to sponsor them, too.

What happened next really broke me. A mom came up with her tiny daughter and tugged on my shirt.
"Can my daughter be included?" she asked.

All I could think about was my Dad and how that was exactly what he would have done for me -- what he did do for me, time and time again. He put himself out there, fearlessly and shamelessly, asking for help for his son.

I immediately added her child's name to our list. But before I turned around, six other mothers were there (see the picture). Needless to say, I got their names too -- we are looking to raise money to support their children.

Even with all these additions, we still only selected about a third of the 80 or more kids who were there for snacks and games.

It's heartbreaking, but we can only walk one step at a time. Two hundred dollars a child.