Last week, on one of the morning television talk shows, a philanthropist told viewers he belonged to a “movement” that raises funds annually for some of the poor in Africa. Over the next week, each member of his family would live on $1.50 a day.
He admitted that living on $1.50 a day, though it becomes a little easier, if done as a group, was still very hard. He concluded that when people experienced the difficulty, they were more likely to donate funds.
While this strategy may be interesting, “giving back” to others in another place by the more fortunate is more readily done, and is becoming increasingly popular. Indeed, some may add, helping others has become an important act in today’s world.
Barbadian Julia Robinson – from Bakers Corner in St Thomas, Barbados – who now lives in Maryland, United States, has been “giving back” for more than 18 years and certainly would be the first to admit she is rich. Not in the monetary sense; but through her strong desire and actions to ensure as many as possible Barbadian children enjoy growing up.
She is the chief executive officer of the nonprofit organization Robinson Smiles Hope Foundation Inc. that aims to put a smile on children’s faces and give them hope of a better life, regardless of their nationality.
Robinson grew up as member of a family of 13. Her mother Nicene Edwards was a single parent and a labourer who migrated to the United States to better her life and those of her children. Robinson, who would join her mum in the late 1970s, readily admits being now very comfortable speaking about her past. The practice, she says, has made her secure in the work of her foundation.
“It is not where you begin in life, but where you end that matters,” she says. “Growing up was tough, but it gave me invaluable life skills. I now better appreciate the role of struggle and hard work. I know that no matter what people say, it is possible to become whoever you want to be.”
Robinson, who sees her marriage and raising of a son as among her achievements, also confesses that her experiences strengthened her spirit and resolve. It is perhaps therefore no accident that this Oprah quote is on the foundation’s website:
I know who I am, and the thing about power is that it’s connected to a source that’s obviously greater than myself. Any time you can connect to the source and understand that that’s where all of your energy, your creativity, your joy and your triumph come from, I consider that to be authentic power. When you’re channelling that type of power, the sky is the limit. “That’s the kind [of power] that nobody can define. To me, that’s really what matters the most: knowing who you are, whose you are, so that you always have [power].
In the past, the Robinson Smiles Hope Foundation has made a contribution to the Barbados Child Care Board, the Children’s Ward of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and the Salvation Army . . . . Interestingly, the Barbadian community was never directly canvassed. However, Barbadians in Washington and elsewhere will now have the opportunity to give back to Barbados by supporting the foundation’s first planned fund-raiser.
The grand, four-hour, June 14 $50 affair, entitled All White Summer Affair, will be held at the Barbados Embassy in Washington, and begins at 4 p.m. The programme includes dinner by celebrity chef Neal Forte, and will feature music by 929 Starcom’s DJ Ian Cupid Gill, an active supporter and facilitator of the foundation’s work in Barbados. Anyone who wishes to contribute to a needy child in Barbados may make donations directly to the foundation.
In May, Robinson will travel to Barbados for Child Care Month and also to make a presentation to Holy Innocents School, her elementary alma mater.
Here is how Robinson help story began:
“It was Christmas eight years ago when I felt sad as I listened to the music of the season. I began to wonder, and wonder, why I was unhappy? Is it because I never got toys at Christmas? It was then that I decided I was not going to allow another child to grow up feeling that way. I decided to do whatever I could do to make a difference.”
Robinson and her husband Al, from South Carolina, collected contributions from all those who were willing to give, and sent them to Barbados. And while the horizons and goals of the foundation have expanded, some of the beliefs of Robinson remain the same.
“If all my Facebook friends gave me a bar of soap, or an item for a back-to-school supply pack, we would have more than enough to donate.”
Maybe we will all become our brother’s keeper sooner rather than later.