Shelene Bryan was a Hollywood producer but she freely admits, "My lens back then was severely limited." Like many good Americans, she and her husband, Brice, signed up to support two children in Africa for $50 a month. As far as Shelene Bryan knew, they were supporting child # GBB 8348 and child # GBA 8453.
But curiosity got the better of her. Shelene had this burning need to find out if GBB 8348 and GBA 8453 really existed, and if their money was really getting to these two children. So Shelene hopped on a plane and flew to Uganda - unannounced. She found her way to a village named Gaba, near Lake Victoria, and said, "Hi, I'm from America and I'm looking for these two children." She showed the local lady the pictures and the numbers. As the woman stared at the pictures, Shelene started to wonder what on earth she was doing in the middle of Africa alone. But then the gracious woman said, "Sure. Follow me."
Two miles deeper into the jungle, Shelene Bryan arrived at the door of a tiny hut no bigger than the size of her walk-in closet at home. When Shelene pulled back the tattered bed sheet covering the door, a child darted at her with her arms wide open, saying "mzungu" (white person in the local dialect). She knew exactly who Shelene was. Shelene didn't recognize Omega at first because she had grown since her photo was taken. She said simply, 'I'm Shelene' and Omega replied, 'I know'. She hugged her in amazement, realizing this little girl was real and her $25 a month was keeping this beautiful little girl fed, clothed and in school. Shelene Bryan went on to tell Omega that she would get her anything she wanted, and Omega replied with a huge smile, "a bed!"
The next day Shelene took Omega into the city, where she had never been before, and with just $20 bought her a bed, a sheet, a mosquito net, a blanket and new shoes. She says she felt like Oprah. That's the power of American currency in poverty-stricken third world countries.
Shelene Bryan also found child # GBA 8453, Alonis, a beautiful young boy alive and well, and very aware of who she was and the difference her $25 a month was making. "It was like finding my own son", she says.
Shelene Bryan's life was forever changed that day. She describes her transformation like this: "I was reduced to my knees, taken out of my comfort zone - and brought face to face with compassion. I made a promise to Omega and Alonis that I would never forget them or their friends. I would go back to my home in America and advocate for these children."
So Shelene Bryan gave up her Hollywood career and started Skip1.org. The concept is simple. Skip just one manicure, car wash, latte, movie, pack of gum, etc. Something small that you don't really need or wouldn't really miss. Then donate the money. Shelene believes Skip1 is not about one person making a big donation. It's about lots of people making small ones, something they can easily skip, and help change the world instead.
Since 2003, Shelene Bryan has traveled back to Uganda three times. Omega and Alonis' village now has a thriving farm, a health center and a number of bicycles used for transportation in and out of the remote area. Next on the list is a clean-water drinking well, which Shelene hopes to have completed by Summer 2011.
Today Skip1 supports children in need in Peru, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. And that's only the beginning. Shelene Bryan plans for Skip1 to support efforts for food, water and sustainability to children in need throughout the world. She says there are no borders when it comes to loving a child, and there is no work more important, or gratifying, than caring for them. Watch Shelene's story below.