I remember playing the fortune teller game as a kid. We would take a piece of paper, write cute messages and fortunes on it and then fold it origami-style to predict our future. I was surprised to find out that this childhood game of ours transcends international borders and was just as popular in my hometown as it was throughout the world, from Eastern Europe to Southeast Asia, where our Vietnamese colleagues reminisced about playing it when they were kids.
Of course, our paper game couldn't foretell my future or that of my childhood friends, but with the opportunities that came with growing up in a thriving community in the U.S., the outlook was bright. I had access to a quality education from early childhood through college, which led to rewarding work experiences and, ultimately, to my dream job of leading a humanitarian organization that helps make this world a better place for children. And I am fortunate enough to be able to provide even greater opportunities for my three children so that the possibilities for their future are endless.
But for too many kids in America and around the world, their future is all too predictable. Girls and boys who live in poverty, like William, whom I met in South Carolina when he was 18 months old, often miss out on the essential early learning every child needs to succeed -- in school and life. This means they're at a much higher risk of starting school behind their peers and never catching up. This can have a devastating effect on their future. Research has shown that when kids fall behind early on, they are more likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent or even end up in prison.
That's why, as the summer is winding down and going back to school is on the minds of most parents and kids, Save the Children is launching an annual campaign called Invest in Childhood: See the Future Unfold, which is focused on the importance of getting an early start on learning. The centerpiece of the campaign is -- can you guess? -- a digital version of the paper fortune teller! We have dubbed it the Future Teller because it shows how we can transform the way the future unfolds for children when we invest in them in the earliest stages of life. Quite literally, our Future Teller reveals how investments big and small can make a lasting difference in a child's life: Investing as little as $3 can provide a baby's first book, $5 can send a child to school and $10 can stock a home library.
William is proof that investing time, effort and resources in kids while they are still babies and toddlers -- and before their brain is 90 percent developed at age 5 -- can have a big impact on their future. When I visited him in South Carolina, William was thriving. Rather than falling behind his peers, he was right where he was supposed to be in his development.
Whether they live in the United States or across the globe, all parents want what's best for their child. But many parents, like William's, either don't have the means to pay for preschool or have access to it. That's why William's mom, Jessica, enrolled him in Save the Children's early childhood education program, which is supported by generous partners like Johnson & Johnson. She and her son have benefitted from having caring experts regularly visit their home, providing parenting support, bringing books and engaging William in play and learning activities to ensure he develops the essential skills he needs to succeed in school, setting him up for a promising future.
Save the Children trains teachers and works with kids and parents from America to Vietnam to Mozambique to give them the tools they need to shape the futures of their children.
We work with dedicated preschool teachers like Sung Thi Kim, who teaches in a remote Vietnamese farming village, where most families live without electricity or running water. She goes out of her way -- visiting her students at home to help with homework and turning rice and corn into teaching tools when school supplies are scarce -- to ensure that children like 2-year-old Thi Ly don't miss out on early learning opportunities.
In Mozambique, Armando Francisco has become a preschool teacher in a rural community that has never before had any early childhood education programs. He not only teaches kids in the classroom but works with his 5-year-old daughter, Vania, in the afternoon and evenings to help her achieve her dream of becoming a teacher like him.
Together we can help all children reach their dreams. We can't predict the future but we know that when we invest in children like William, Thi Ly and Vania we transform the way their future unfolds.
To learn more about Save the Children's Invest in Childhood: See the Future Unfold campaign and get involved, click here.
Editor's Note: Save The Children is a partner of Johnson & Johnson, which is a sponsor of The Huffington Post's Global Motherhood section.