A few years ago, Kevin Durant delivered a memorable speech when he received the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.
Durant looked towards the audience and smiled at his single-mother-of-two, and said, “You woke me up in the middle of the night in the summertime and made me run up the hill, made me do push ups, screamed at me from the sidelines of my games at 8 or 9 years old.”
He continued as tears filled his eyes, “we weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street, put clothes on our back, food on the table. You’re the real MVP.”
Every child needs — deserves — this type of love. Yet, not every child gets it. Instead, turmoil plagues the lives of millions of innocent children throughout the world.
Take Guatemala as an example—a country where nutrition and clean water are hard to come by for thousands of children—not to mention, the risk they face of ending up as a victim of human trafficking. I have hiked far into the Guatemalan hills to find babies and young children who are sick and dying.
As a mother, my heart has literally been ripped from my chest as I have witnessed countless children suffer, on the verge of death, all because they simply do not have food to eat or clean water to drink.
A shocking 80 percent of all indigenous children in Guatemala are plagued with chronic malnutrition. A report published by the UNICEF and the U.N. Commission against Impunity in Guatemala shows that every day, over 20 Guatemalan girls are kidnapped and sold into slavery. The country’s sex trafficking industry is estimated to be worth $1.6 billion a year.
Guatemala isn’t alone.
The statistics for malnutrition and child exploitation are growing globally. In a study on worldwide malnutrition, UNICEF estimated that “Nearly half of all deaths in children under five are attributable to undernutrition”—that’s 3 million young children dying every year from lack of basic food. This kind of poverty often deprives young girls of a proper education and drives them to work in the cities, where they are vulnerable to horrendous forms of exploitation.
Children in poor nations are far more likely to end up being trafficked and sexually exploited than children in wealthier countries. UNICEF estimates that 5.5 million children have been trafficked around the world and suffer violence, exploitation, and abuse.
The numbers overwhelm and discourage us, but how can we make a difference?
The answer is a lot simpler than we may think: it all begins with one child. If each one of us reached for the hand of one tender child, we could start a ripple effect that would touch the globe.
There are millions of children across the world who just need one person to believe in them. On my most recent visit to Guatemala, I saw the child my family sponsors—his name is Jefferson.
I started sponsoring Jefferson when he was 8 years old and first met him when he was about 11 years old. He came from a poor Mayan family deep in the jungle, and his opportunities were limited, at best. But sponsorship changed that.
Now, at 17 years old, he is one of the top students in his class, and he told me he hopes to one day be an accountant. A little bit of compassion changed Jefferson’s destiny.
Mother Teresa was right: If we look at the masses, we will never act. But if we look at the one, we will. This is why I believe in child sponsorship.
Noel Yeatts is an advocate for social justice and humanitarian needs around the world with over 20 years of experience in humanitarian work. Noel is an author, speaker, and the Vice President of World Help, an international, Christian humanitarian organization.
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