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One World Children's Fund: An immeasurable impact November 21 2011

Ok, I admit it. I got a little teary-eyed at the One World Children’s Fund Annual Benefit Luncheon held in San Francisco last Friday.

But it’s not my fault.

When CNN hero Elena Durón Miranda started talking about her experiences working with children in Argentina, my eyes welled up with tears. It wasn’t just her stories; it was her sincerity and the earnest manner in which she told the audience that education is how we begin to break vicious cycles. Durón Miranda founded the organization P.E.T.I.S.O.S. after witnessing children in the town of Bariloche scavenging the landfills for food to eat and materials to sell. Horrified by what she saw, she decided to find a way to provide education and support to these children.

P.E.T.I.S.O.S. is one of the many community-based organizations supported by the One World Children’s Fund, an organization dedicated to helping the 120 million children without access to education, the 300 million children who don’t have enough to eat, and the 150 million children without homes. These numbers are staggering. Even one uneducated, hungry, or homeless child feels like one too many, but hundreds of millions?

One World was able to provide support to 15,000 children in the last year alone. These figures are important when discussing what’s been done and how much more there is to do, but the fundamental point is the point that Durón Miranda made when she said, “A number will never be able to explain the transformation of someone’s life.”

A transformation like the one Michealene Risley, a One World board member, described when she showed enormous strength and courage in telling her own story of abuse while talking about the struggles children around the world face because of sexual violence.

“I refused to let my life be defined by what happened to me,” she said as her voice rang out clear and strong across the hushed auditorium.

Risley then told the story of a beautiful little girl in Zimbabwe who had already faced the brutal and horrific experience of rape. She was two. My heart broke and I wanted to get up from the table and rush somewhere, anywhere, to shield the many thousands of children like her who are subjected daily to these terrifying and horrific experiences.

But not just to shield them. To also educate them, love them, and believe in them like Girls to Women, another One World community-based organization. A video clip showing a montage of little girls and young women announcing their intentions to go to Stanford to study formed a lump in my throat because I was so touched to see the one thing all of these girls had in common: they believed in themselves. Education and love had empowered them to see themselves in a different light, and that's not something that can be measured.

So if I got a little teary-eyed, it was two-fold. One because it breaks my heart to think of these kids out there trying to squeeze happiness out of the miserable situation they’ve been thrown into and two because it’s inspiring that there are people out there who do more than just stand on the sidelines with a broken heart. They reach out. They step forward. They DO something.

What’s so great about the One World Children’s Fund is that it enables individuals around the world to step forward in a myriad of ways. You don’t have to drop what you’re doing and fly halfway around the world to help. Currently supporting 28 projects in 16 countries, One World believes local people have a much better sense of how to solve the problems in their communities and is committed to providing support to volunteers in the U.S. to help fundraise, advocate, and support these existing community-based organizations. Wherever you are, you can support these projects and these children in many different ways.

At Greenlight Apparel, this is exactly the type of approach we support. We don’t believe in throwing money at the problem. We believe in educating and empowering people to stand up in the midst of a system that continually pushes them down. This is why our business model moves beyond just avoiding sweatshops and using environmentally sustainable production methods. We’re committed to supporting microfinance and education programs because…well, because they work.

One World recognizes this. An occasional handout is not what these children need. They need education and support. They need more than someone standing on the sidelines crying for them. They need someone like Durón Miranda to provide them an opportunity beyond scavenging in the landfill. They need people to believe in them.

We do.

To learn more about One World's projects and champions, visit their website at www.owcf.org