Improve the World (and Yourself) One Grateful Child at a Time

Imagine saying good-bye to your big house and luxury car so you can live among the impoverished. That's exactly what one person did, and he's never regretted his decision.
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Imagine leaving every creature comfort you have to embark on life in a developing country, dedicating yourself to helping the poorest of the poor -- the forgotten children of that nation. Imagine saying good-bye to your big house, luxury car, designer clothes, and technological gadgets so you can live among the impoverished. That's exactly what one person did, and he's never regretted his decision.

Scott Neeson left his job as an executive of a movie studio to open an orphanage in Cambodia. Before doing so he took a trip to Cambodia and was blown away by the conditions the orphans there live in. With no food, shelter, or parental supervision, these children fend for themselves on the dirty streets, doing everything from digging through trash for recyclables to resorting to prostitution just to survive. Scott knew he had to do something to help as many children as possible.

So he started Cambodia Children's Fund (CCF) and opened an orphanage where he takes in children who have nowhere else to go and gives them the one thing they need the most: hope.

Since opening the orphanage, Scott has learned one key lesson -- when you give you get. And many people, both his friends and strangers, have visited his orphanage to spend a week or two helping out, trying to make the children's lives a little better. Some may ask, "Why would you spend your free time going to a developing country and staying in a dirty place with kids with diseases and emotional issues?"

Realize that when you go -- or do anything else selfless for another -- you receive so much in return. Taking a few weeks and giving of yourself is so much more rewarding than sitting on a beach with an umbrella drink. Yes, when you give you get -- meaning you get a lifetime experience and event you'll cherish forever, not just another moment in time you'll forget. And while this concept applies to any kind of giving act, from rescuing abused animals to cleaning a beach to helping a local senior citizen, when you're helping children you're helping the future. When you rescue one child you're really rescuing a part of yourself. You see in that child the incompleteness of your childhood and the hurts you endured, and you start to heal.

So ask yourself this key question: What do you see in your life that you really want to do that is important? Do you want to help children in a foreign land? Do you want to tutor youth in your own neighborhood? Do you want to give a young unwed mother a chance at a better future for herself and her child? Whatever it is that touches your soul, that's where you need to start.

Unfortunately, many people never get past the dreaming phase. They feel deep down that they'd like to help, but they never take that first step. They get that uneasy feeling that they're stepping out of their comfort zone and into something they possibly can't handle -- physically, emotionally, or mentally. But in fact, when you see how other people live, you gain a greater appreciation for your life. You also gain a closer relationship yourself. You tap into a part of yourself that you never met. Since you're not put in these situations every day, these are learning lessons that are hard to come by, but completely life changing.

If you feel ready to take the plunge and follow your soul's calling to help another, here are some principles that will help.

Prepare by reading and researching the work of others: Chances are you're not the first person to have this idea or this desire to help. Therefore, do some research into what you're about to embark upon and see what others have done already. Read articles written by and about them, scour their websites for information and encouragement, and glean whatever words of wisdom or preparation you can. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. If someone has found resources, discovered success tips, or gained years of experience to share, then there's no reason why you can't follow in that person's footsteps. Learn from them to make your intended path easier... and more enjoyable.

Travel or work with a humanitarian group: Whether your calling takes you overseas, to another state, or simply into the inner city of your locale, you can find some humanitarian group that can help you. These groups have ties and often resources in the area already and can make embarking on your journey less scary. There's safety in numbers, and you can lean on your fellow humanitarian group members for support when you feel overwhelmed. Of course, you can do whatever you want on your own as well. You don't need to work with a group. But if you have reservations, a humanitarian group will help buffer you by acting as a support system to help quench your fears. You can find these groups online very easily. If doing something like Scott appeals to you, go to to find humanitarian groups that travel to help children overseas.

Just do it and the fear will diminish: The old saying, "Just do it," is so appropriate here. In 99 percent of people, any fear they have subsides the minute they take the first step and just do it. There's comfort in doing, because doing something - any small step at all - distracts your mind from any fears you may have. And that first step builds momentum that will see you through the remaining steps. Just as physics tells us that a body in motion stays in motion, a person in action toward a worthwhile goal or cause stays in action. So do whatever first step is necessary -- do research, make a phone call, buy a plane ticket, etc. Take that first step and the rest will come naturally.

Change the World, Change Yourself: Helping children is one way to make a huge difference in the world. It's also a way to dramatically change yourself. Realize that you don't have to uproot your entire life like Scott did to make a difference. Simply giving a few days or a few weeks of your time to help someone else will create tremendous change -- both in the people you help as well as your own soul. As with many things in life, it's the small things that add up to incredible transformation. So listen to that little voice telling you to do something and follow your calling. You'll be glad you did.

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