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The D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution

A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water.
"What are you doing son?" the man asks. "You see how many starfish there are? You'll never make a difference."
The boy paused thoughtfully, and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean.
"It sure made a difference to that one" he said.

This parable from Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, Half the Sky, illustrates how we can individually make a difference by effecting just one degree of change. Even the smallest measure can produce dramatic results and we can indeed be the change we wish to see in the world. This is no better demonstrated than by the portraits of women entrepreneurs in Kristof's NY Times article The D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution. These women have been finding creative ways to help the world’s most vulnerable people, many of them also women.

Read about Elizabeth Scharpf, who upon learning that menstruation prevented women from attending work or school, designed a company that would manufacture inexpensive sanitary pads for Africa and Asia, to be distributed by women themselves on a franchise system. Or Maggie Doyne, who at 23, has built an orphanage in rural Nepal and is now focusing on education with an opening enrollment of 220 students.

As World Pulse Board Chair and global activist Kathy LeMay so eloquently states in her book The Generosity Plan, one does not need to be Bill Gates to be a philanthropist. "Philanthropy belongs to all of us because the world needs all of us to participate."

Whether it be through our time, talent, treasure and taking a stand, we can all make a difference. Join me in cultivating an ideology of altruism and spreading this culture of social engagement — it may only be an incremental improvement (with screams of vexation along the way, says Kristof — something I can attest to) but it is progress and therein lies the power of one.


Darcey's picture

thank you Janice

thanks for posting this- I will take a look at the article. I loved that parable in the book because it just really shows so clearly that if our hearts are in the right place, then trying to reach out to others doesn't need to be a product of one's own ambitions- intentional or not. It reminds me that if all we do is make a decision to be there for ONE person as we are able, then it is enough. If we are that ONE person that is being helped and given a hand as I have been in the position of in the past, then I know it has made a life-changing, and saving, difference to me.

When I went to the Women & Power conference at Omega last month, one of the things that has really stayed with me is when someone (I think Amy Richards...but not positive..) said "STOP apologizing for the little that you think you do". If we all do a little, then it all adds up. There is no reason for us to say 'yes, I wanted to help, but I was only able to...'- there is no need to apologize. Like the little boy in the parable who knew...whatever we do, may be little, but there is never a need to apologize..only to stand firm in the knowledge that we are participating in life as fully as we are able in that moment.

Thank you again- you helped to begin my day in a lovely way...and that helps to save my day as I go about in the somewhat monotonous day of diaper changing, meal prep, craft doer, hair untangler and complaint dep't....

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
— John Lennon

JaniceW's picture

Love your photo

It's been a while since I looked through PW so am not sure when you posted the "new" image but it made me smile as soon as I saw it. Your day may be monotonous but I just know that with the diaper changing etc..., you are creating a nurturing and loving environment for your children in which they can thrive.

The piece about not needing to apologize is so spot on. We women seem to always feel that every little infraction must be addressed and atoned for, but it also speaks to how empathetic we are (which takes us to your piece about your daughter being a teacher).

As you said, as long as we are fully participating in life and not causing harm, we have no need to apologize. Thank you for sharing, and enjoy your day of motherhood and MotherKind.

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