By: ERICA HOWES
4811km away there is a village called San Miguel, Ecuador.
It was there I met children whose smiles seemed like they could stretch halfway across the world.
It was there that one girl showed me more often than not,
the people who are the happiest,
Are the same people who had to teach themselves how to smile.
She wore her scars as proud as freckles that only helped to light up her face.
You’d never guess that instead of counting sheep at night,
she counts the number of meals she’s had in the past week on her own two hands.
She is the one in three children who suffer from malnutrition.
But she is not just a number.
She is a girl.
She lives in San Miguel, Ecuador.
She’s seven years old.
Her name is Maria.
I don’t understand,
When people ask me what it was like to see those who had nothing.
In Ecuador, I saw people who knew exactly what they needed, didn’t always want more, and they were happy.
You want to see people who have nothing?
Walk two blocks down the street to your local grocery store.
Pick up a magazine,
Plastered with pictures of men who see women as some prize they can win and then throw away.
Or women who wear so many layers of cover-up, that will never cover up the fact that money, may be the only thing they ever loved.
That is what it’s like to have nothing.
And yes I traveled to Ecuador and saw people who earned as much money in a day as we keep in our back pocket.
But they always have faith.
It’s for them that I’ve written prayers on too many pages of poetry to count.
But they don’t start with “dear God” and end with “Amen.”
They start with “Please God,”
help men who don’t understand how to give,
help women who’s main goals are to fit into a tighter pair of jeans rather than just to live.
And help children, who are given a gun rather than a pencil.
A beating rather than a meal.
Help children who never get the chance to be kids.
I don’t write because I think all my fairytale wishes will come true,
I’m not that naive anymore.
I write prayers on post it notes, scribble them into prose of poetry on every piece of paper I can find.
I write because someone has to.
I write because we’re all made up of stories that make us who we are.
There are too many stories that have been through too many surgeries that we just see them as a number.
246 million children are forced to work before the age of 17.
3 million people live on less than $2 a day.
22 thousand children in developing countries die every day due to poverty-related causes.
We are all one.
One person on this earth,
and maybe one day our one will become part of a statistic we didn’t know existed.
So let’s start caring now.
I don’t know a lot about world politics,
And maybe I don’t know a lot about this life.
But I know that our hands our meant to fit together,
I know that helping people is what we’re here to do,
So we can’t let big numbers fade the faces of those who need our help.
I know that 1 in 3 children suffer from malnutrition,
And I know that girl.
She’s seven years old and her name is Maria.