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Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

6 May

photoLast week at Feed The Children we went One Day Without Shoes to bring awareness to the fact that shoes can save children’s lives by preventing debilitating diseases. All our staff in Oklahoma joined together with our partner, TOMS to go shoeless and remember stats like this: Over 270 million preschool-age children and over 600 million school-age children live in areas where these parasites are intensively transmitted. They need treatment and preventive interventions.

One condition, called podoconiosis, is very debilitating, causing extremely painful swelling of the feet and legs. Podo affects more than 4 million people in at least 15 countries. (Source: WHO, 2013)

Podo can be prevented by wearing shoes and practicing good foot hygiene. Feed The Children gives shoes along with health education to children at risk of podo.

It was even more moving because I’ve met the precious child that I walked in honor of. Meet my buddy Oscar in the picture above. Because of donors like you, he gets shoes. I know because I’ve put them on him myself. Oscar just began school recently in his community in Honduras.

Last time I saw him, I heard from his mother that she’s so proud of him. He’s doing great in school, getting high marks on his papers. His mom said she’s so thankful for the impact that Feed The Children has had on his life. Though spending one day without shoes of course will not solve the great problems of the world– we have so much more work to do– I am glad I participated for the second year in a row. My feet were quite dirty by the end of the day but in my house I had clean water to wash them in.

When I woke up the next morning, I thought twice about the blessing that my shoes were to overall health and wellbeing. And I said a prayer for Oscar. If you want to know more about what you can do to get involved with this wonderful campaign, follow the updates over at TOMS. We’d love to have even more organizations, individuals and corporations join with us next year in one day #withoutshoes


One Book at a Time

25 Oct

For those of you who know me well, you know that I’m not the kind of person who sits down and reads long books for pleasure.

I enjoy keeping up with the latest business and political news online and in magazine form, but I’ve never seemed to have the attention span for books. I get bored easily.

Often when my wife wants to me to read something she’ll give up waiting on me to do it on my own and just read it to me.

But all of this to say, I still value the importance of a good book. There have been books I remember from my childhood that shaped my becoming when I was in school such as the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein or made me laugh like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.

I never remember a time in my education when books weren’t a part of my classroom experience. Or even as I studied in college and graduate school, a time when I couldn’t afford the necessary materials to read the assigned texts (thank goodness for student loans!)

But for many of the children we serve in our Feed The Children programs around the world, books are a rare and special gift. Classroom walls in the developing country aren’t lined with bookshelves. Often if students have books they are tattered, torn and can not leave the school grounds.

In May, while on a site visit to a Mayan community in Guatemala, our team gave each child in our program a new book from our friends at Disney. It was a joy to watch the light come into the eyes of the kids, many of whom had not ever had a book at all to call their own much less NEW!


Then, just this week in the middle of the city in Nashville, TN, I attended a student motivational assembly at Buena Vista Elementary with our partner agency, United 4 Hope. To strengthen the work of this school’s reading and mentoring program, FTC distributed books to 4th grade students. Many of these kids never owned a book of their own either.

I watched as teachers gave students a permanent marker to write their name inside their two books and squeals of excitement came from all around. I even had the opportunity to read to a group of girls a chapter. The way these girls carried their books showed their pride.

1380779_10151926930593798_1988863740_nWhile it is important to feed hungry children food– which is what most people associate with FTC– I am seeing more and more that education is an important counterpart. We must feed the minds as well . . . one book at a time.

Whose Shoulders Are You Standing On?

21 Oct

photo copyLast night, at American University I was given the 2013 Alumni Recognition Award after being nominated by several of my peers. It was truly one of those once in a lifetime moments and meaningful to have my wife present alongside me and several close friends. I’m still smiling every time I think about what a lovely occasion it was.

This week as I was telling my parents about receiving this honor my dad, a man of few words (so when he speaks you have to pay attention) said something to me that caused me to stop and think.

He said, “Son, did you ever think you’d be in a position like this? Coming from a small South Georgia town of 15,000 people, a town where few people ever leave to move elsewhere . . . as the first person in your immediate family to ever attend college much less graduate school. Did you ever think you’d be able to be in the position where you are today, traveling all over the world, helping children as you do?” Then he paused, “You owe a lot to your education.”

And it is true. I would have never dreamed of this life happening to me and I am a so grateful for my education for bringing me to this moment.

Furthermore, I know I wouldn’t have received such an award if I’d hadn’t said yes to Feed The Children 16 months ago.

Feed The Children has what I believe to be one of the finest missions in the world: providing hope and resources to those without life’s essentials.

I spent much of my first year listening, learning the unique culture in the organization and its strengths, weaknesses, and wounds, and identifying what foundation and structure was needed to help us achieve our vision.

During these months, my American University education has proved exceptionally valuable. I often thought of the countless ways my coursework at American opened my eyes to the complexities of global issues and instilled in me values of needed to address the world’s deepest social ills in ways that bring the most good to the most people while treating them with the highest levels of dignity and respect.

And not that I didn’t use my international affairs degree in my previous places of employment, but now as I lead a global non-profit, it is a real joy to think I’m putting my education “to good use.” I’m standing on the shoulders of American University as I work and seek to lead and grow professionally everyday.

American University in particular the School of International Service, I’m proud to continue to be a part of your alumni family. I hope I’ll continue to make you proud.

What about you? Whose shoulders are you standing on?