Afros Really DO Change Lives!

I totally just remembered something today! I remembered that months before I ever started wearing an afro, there was yet ANOTHER afro that changed my life and made me want to save the world. It was this one:

Justin Ugene Children International

Dude, what is wrong with me!? Maybe some strange afro spell was cast upon me in my sleep, causing me to be inexplicably enlightened by all things fro-ing. Is there a Diana Ross fairy sprinkling magic afro dust on people in the night? STOP, in the name of love! Actually, don’t stop… perhaps that’s EXACTLY what the world needs now.

Anywayz, thought I’d share this post with you. I wrote it back in May, during my preafroescent stage, and it was originally published on Spa Week Daily when I was the editor. Cut to scene:

I Adopted A Child From The Philippines. During A Manicure.

Okay – so I didn’t exactly adopt her. However, I am now the proud new sponsor of a little girl in the Philippines, whose name I do not yet know. She’ll be getting three meals a day, water, clothing, medicine and an education. Because of me. Forever. I am just as surprised as you. Here’s how it happened.

It started out like any Friday night… I was on my way to a manicure after work. A man with a giant afro and a clipboard made piercing eye contact with me in Union Square – UGH. It’s happened a million times before. He was en route to make me feel guilty for not supporting some very worthy charity organization. I have no time. I’m a busy New Yorker. Blinders on, keep walking. Leave me alone!! But for some reason, this guy was able to pierce through my New Yorkerness and he had my attention. I decided to be nice and entertain him, entertain myself, and just chat – but it’s not like I was actually going to DO anything.

Justin, the aforementioned afro-and-clipboard-sporting man on a mission, represents Children International, a nonprofit organization that operates a one-on-one sponsorship program to help impoverished children worldwide become healthy, educated, self-sustaining and contributing members of society. CI has been around since 1936, checks out perfectly with the Better Business Bureau, and at 7pm, Justin hadn’t gotten one person to sign up all day. He saw my deep, inner compassion for this nameless, faceless, foreign child, and he stuck with it.

“Let me ask you this. If you had ONE less dollar in your pocket each day, would that make a difference in your quality of life?” Justin asked. Hmm. That’s less than half a subway ride. I slowly shook my head.

“Okay, if you had SIX less dollars a week, would that change your life?” My lunch alone is usually $10 a day. I shook my head again.

The program is $25 a month, and now it seemed like pennies. Justin showed me the list of countries they sponsor: India, Honduras, Zambia, the Philippines… “Pick someplace you want to travel!” he suggested.  Hmmm… I do want to travel everywhere in the world, and it would be pretty special to have a child like this to visit. But no. I couldn’t just randomly pick a country and hand off my credit card on the street.

“You’ll be that child’s favorite person in the world!” Justin continued. “Just think: when they get Facebook one day, your photo is going to be right there under ‘family.’” Social media geek that I am, this kind of hit me. He said they’d draw me pictures and send them to me in the mail. I’d get letters from my child’s family thanking me for changing their lives, and one day, I could even go visit! Or perhaps fly them to New York for an NYU college education? It’s been done before.

But let’s not get carried away… I’m not rich (yet), and for him to think I was going to make a permanent decision like this on the fly was crazy! “I can’t do this right now! Please stop it!” I pleaded. “I really love the concept but I don’t have the money right now and it’s cold and I’m on my way to a manicure and it’s just too much pressure to make a decision like this!!!”

He interrupted softly: “Michelle. BREATHE. It’s okay. Are you ready? Deep breath in…”

I stopped in my tracks. We looked each other in the eye, and together we took a nice, long, sweet inhale.

“Now, deep breath out.”

And we slowly let the air out.

We repeated this exercise three times. There, right there in the middle of Union Square, two strangers breathed deeply and in sync. I was calm. My head was cleared. I was smiling.

And so, naturally, Justin came along with me to my manicure appointment.

“Ten minute massage for you?” my manicurist asked Justin, whom I introduced as my new friend. It was then I learned that Justin had never gotten a massage before. I insisted he get one! Oh, the health benefits and relaxation! Just like Justin’s job is getting people to sponsor children, my job is to make sure people are getting massages. And so he did, while I started my manicure and let all of this information sink in. He’d been working for Children International for over six months, and on that day it lead him to experience his very first massage. It was destiny.

I thought… and thought. Here I was, spending $10 on my weekly manicure. That could mean shoes, medicine and dinner for a week for someone. I’ve been going through some personal renaissances lately, discovering more about myself and a deeper meaning to life, and then it hit me. Yes. YES! YESYESYES YES! I feel eternally lucky to have grown up as fortunate as I did, and millions and millions of children are suffering every single day. I wanted to help one of them. I had never wanted anything more.

After Justin’s chair massage, he sat down next to me with that post-massage happy glow. “Wow. I definitely want more of those.” I had changed him. And you know what? He had changed me.

“I am going to sponsor a little girl from the Philippines,” I stated, and I had never been more sure of anything in my life.

Best spa day EVER!

I can’t wait to find out who she is! I should find out within the next few weeks and will be sure to update you. Check out the CI community,, for blogs and photos from sponsors and children around the world. And when I do go to visit my little girl in the Philippines, I’m definitely bringing her some fun nail polish.

TELL ME! Do any of you sponsor children through an organization? How do you like it? Or, have you been considering it?


PS. From the now: My little girl is Abegail… (meet her!!) – and her 10th birthday is coming up! I’m going to send her a card and a lifetime supply of stickers. We’re only allowed to send flat things, no packages. Any other ideas??

PPS. You should do Children International too. Don’t make me have to show up in an afro to convince you…

24 thoughts on “Afros Really DO Change Lives!

  1. So, you fell into the paternalistic trap of child sponsorship organizations. For what it’s worth, they intentionally make it hard not to fall for it. With celebrity spokespeople, clips of crying children, and language that implores you to give up just one little cup of coffee a day to SAVE A LIFE!?!?!?, how can a well-meaning person resist?

    But the decision you made to sponsor a child ultimately serves one person: you. Because it makes you feel good. But you’re not looking at what that sponsorship actually looks like on the ground for this child, her family, and her community.

    This pretty much sums it up: “Child sponsorship advertisements distort our image of the Third World and perpetuate many negative stereotypes. Children are depicted in deprivation and degradation, as passive victims whose parents are unable to cope. All we see usually is one poor helpless child or family; we are never offered explanations of the causes of their poverty.”

    Check out this website for some more things you may have overlooked when deciding to do this:

  2. I hope this would be obvious, but you can never be sure, especially with someone who writes a hopelessly offensive blog, so just to remind you: the afro did not change your life. A man did. But good job on essentializing him to his hairdo.

  3. Maybe you should read up on Slacktivism. This is what you are doing. It goes along hand-in-hand with white privilege, microaggression, and all the other things you are learning about.
    Slacktivism is all about making the “do-good-er” feel good without actually doing anything.

  4. I keep waiting for the moment where you realize the error of your attention-desiring white-privileged ways and every single post you refuse and just dig deeper and deeper. With this post, I give up. You are clearly a narcissist–unable and unwilling to change your ways. All you really want is adulation and, barring that, acceptance. You won’t get it, though. And you’ll never understand why, even though people tell you why, over and over again.

  5. Why do you make everything about you? You try to get yourself into a situation so you can talk about how great you are? You are an idiot. And not attractive. Give up. You are doing this to try to become famous. You never will be. I wouldn’t fuk you with someone elses d or if you were the last woman on earth. You are an ugly loser who craves attention. Also, you are fat.Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Is this person going to leave you because you are an idiot or because you you are obsessed with yourself, you are a below average fat girl looking fot attention cause that is what Jews do.

    • Okay, wow. That is SO uncalled for. Granted this woman is a attention seeking, offensive, narcissistic, ignorant soul, ripping on her physical appearance is completely unnecessary and only showcases your lack of intelligence. She is no were near fat. Why not expand your vocabulary so you can vocalize your anger in a more productive way? Do you really think she’s gonna change her mind because some random person says she’s fat? No. And your anti-antisemitism is absolutely disgusting.

  6. You are ugly. Do you want to seem interesting? Walk around with a paper bag instead of an afro. The ugliest afro girl is better looking than you . You look like a pig with an afro and also without. You cannot make fun of anyone white priviledge.

  7. You look like someone trying to get noticed. Let me tell you there are attractive and talented people in the world and you are neither so give up crooked teeth fat girl!

  8. Alright, save your hate speech for somewhere else, Lou, Saheed, Yolanda 1985, Leo, and Cloudia (who are probably all the same person anyways, based on the writing style). Michelle, I hope you’re able to not take any of this shitfuckery to heart. Thoughtful questioning, suggestions, and even flat-out frustration has a place here. That shit does not. Get a life.

  9. since when has name calling ever fixed a problem, or even better since when does racial profiling/characterizing people off of stereotypical ill-informed information ever did anything positive for this world.? “you are a below average fat girl looking fot attention cause that is what Jews do….,” what type of bull shit is this? excuse my language but wow, ignorance is bliss. I’m black and I know this world is unjust (ie. the business world/ coorporate america, etc.,) but I was raised to look passed any unjust actions in the world and do your best no matter what. people will see what they want to see/ hear what they want to hear no matter what so why not give it your all? In my seventeen years of life I can truly say I’ve been through a lot but that doesn’t matter, what we go through makes us stronger….I’m sorry to ramble but the point i’m trying to make is hate is a disease that only love can cure and the fact that grown adults can’t see that, truly hurts me….my mom once told me if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. To me this saying only has one flaw; ignorance and the solution to this is knowledge… the difference maker and learn from your mistakes because when you know better thats when you do better

  10. JEEZUS!!! michelle, ignore the trolls. not only are they unkind (pig in a afro, really dude, really?) but it’s not true. you know full well it is not. you should really consider moderating the comments and not letting everything thru. people getting all extra for no reason. I personally don’t see anything negative in this post. I didn’t know it was considered negative to help others. i’ve always wanted to sponsor a child. keep your head up michelle, don’t get discouraged. you can’t please everyone, the important thing is to stay on the path and keep learning. keep growing. know that you are changing for the better.

  11. I am cracking up here reading all the hate. People please go look in the mirror and allow this beautiful spirit her growth. Michelle, good for you for sponsoring a child. Don’t listen to the garbage, evolution is happening, and its making you feel good, embrace it, love it, use it and enjoy the journey.

      • Aida, what a horrible tiny world you must live in. How about waking up and taking responsibility for who you are ,minus the skin color and gender, and do something with yourself? Its humorous to watch people blaming “whitey” or whothehelleverfitsrightnow for their pathetic life. Honestly, can you live a day without the finger pointing in the other direction?

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