What Will You Give Up to Help Those in Need?
Author, TED Talk speaker, producer, and founder of Skip1, Shelene Bryan has once again teamed up with longtime friend, Emmy Award Nominee, and New York Times Best-Selling Author Candace Cameron Bure (Board Member at Skip1, “Full House”) for her organizations annual “Skiptember” month-long challenge to help bring awareness and funds to children and families in desperate need around the world.
September is Skip1’s birthday month and each year they challenge everyone who is able to skip one thing they plan to buy for themselves and donate that amount to the charity on the day in September that coincides with their birthday date. Founding Skip1 with the promise that 100% of all public donations go to the care and feeding of children and families in need, Shelene started Skip1 knowing people would gladly skip something small, a latte, a manicure, a movie rental, and give a donation in that amount to her organization if they knew skipping it would help children and families in need.
After experiencing firsthand how a small amount of money bought beds, mosquito nets, flooring and even a few bikes for an entire village in Uganda after a life changing trip, Shelene made it a part of her mission in life to provide assistance to needy families in any way she could. Lacking clean kitchens, ovens stoves, cooking utensils, plumbing, electricity and shelter, Shelene and Skip 1 found ways to inexpensively build and stock sustainable kitchens in a wide variety of these communities, ultimately helping improve the lives of malnourished children and their families.
Faith Filled Family Magazine is thrilled to present this interview with Shelene Bryan to discuss Skip1 and how the program helps children around the world.
Faith Filled Family Magazine: Shelene I heard about your organizations annual “Skiptember” which is a month-long challenge to help bring awareness and funds to children and low income families in desperate need around the world. Can you tell me more about “Skiptember”?
Shelene Bryan: “In lieu of a traditional gala like many charities host, we decided to Skip it and instead use social media to have our gala online. We call it #SKIPtember. We are inviting everyone to join us in September to skip on the day they were born. For example, my birthday is November 20th, so September 20th is my Skip day. On September 20th I’ll skip whatever I want, a lunch, a latte, a new pair of shoes or a car wash. The amount doesn’t matter. You’ll take what you would have spent on that item, and instead, donate it at Skip1.org. Then we are asking you to share that skip on your social media platforms to allow others to get involved. You will never miss it, but the children will never forget it. If your birthday is on the 31st, skip any day of the month. Actually, you can skip anytime. One hundred percent of all public donations will go to the food and water projects here in America and around the world. Skip something-Feed a child.”
Faith Filled Family Magazine: What was your trip to Africa like Shelene? I watched your video about going to Africa to meet your two sponsored kids. What an incredible story.
Shelene: Bryan: “Our family had sponsored a couple “refrigerator kids” to teach our children how blessed we are living in America. We got a little boy and little girl from Africa. One night I was having a party and friend of mine brought a woman I had never met. She pointed at the pictures of the two little children that hung on my refrigerator and said, “You fell for that?” How do you know those kids aren’t 40 years old and that aren’t just taking your money?” I responded, “I don’t, I guess I’m just having faith that the money is getting there.”
“That night I went to bed, and I said to my husband Brice, “I’m going to Africa, we need to see where our money’s going.” He said “Cool, let’s spend $3,000 to see where our $38 a month is going.” So, I ripped the pictures off the refrigerator, I got a passport and all the shots, and I told no one I was coming. I was going to be Diane Sawyer and bust this thing open if it was fake.
I flew from LAX to Heathrow, from Heathrow to Entebee, Uganda and I showed up in this little village called Gaba and I said “Hi, I’m from America, I came to meet my two children AR212 and GR479. This gracious woman said, “follow me”. She hiked me into what looked like the back lot of a movie set, mud huts the size of my walk-in closet, with a bad looking sheet for a front door. She said, “This is Omega’s house” (that was the little girl on my fridge). “Go ahead and go in.” As I pulled the sheet back, a little girl darted at me. She said “Mazunga” which means white. I said, “Omega? I’m Shelene.” She said, “I know.” As I was hugging her, I’m thinking, “Wow, she’s real!” Then my eye caught the Christmas card photo of our family, imbedded in her mud wall. I was so overwhelmed, I said, “Omega, I’ll get you anything.” She got a big smile on her face and said, “I’d love a bed.” I’m thinking, “Cool where is Target Jungle out here!” So, we took her and Alonis, our sponsored boy, into Kampala and I bought them each beds, sheets, a mosquito net for the Malaria, a blanket and a pair of shoes for $20.00. I felt like Oprah over there. I went back to their village and bought a bed for everyone. They were $3 a bed! And in that moment, I was thinking “if my girlfriends back home in Los Angeles knew I was skipping a manicure-pedicure and keeping these kids alive, fed and in school, they would skip it too. So, when I got back to America, my husband and I founded Skip1.org. We all can skip one thing once in our life for the sake of someone else.”
Faith Filled Family Magazine: Shelene, what is your goal with “Skiptember”? I love the name, that it reminds us to skip something we love, in order to help needy families.
Shelene Bryan: “Our goal is to raise $130,000 in September to build a kitchen at a new high school being built in Rwanda.”
Faith Filled Family Magazine: How do you hope to make a difference in the lives of all of these kids?
Shelene Bryan: “By building kitchens at schools and orphanages in remote villages, it allows a child to at least get one good meal a day. I realize I’m not going to save the world, God is going to do that. But I can leave each child I meet a little better.”
Faith Filled Family Magazine: How has Skip 1 found ways to inexpensively build and stock sustainable kitchens in a wide variety of these communities, ultimately helping improve the lives of malnourished children and their families?
Shelene Bryan: “By partnering with local churches and schools on the ground, I call them my mercy networks, we are able to come along side of them by hiring local labor to build these kitchens or renovate existing ones. All because people like you and me are willing to Skip something for the sake of these children.”
Faith Filled Family Magazine: Shelene, how has Skip1 been going since it got started?
Shelene Bryan: “Amazing. September 1, 2021 will be our 12th year, we are a very small 501c3, taking and completing one project at time, because people like you are willing to forgo a small luxury to save a life.”
Faith Filled Family Magazine: How has God impacted your life Shelene, through Skip1?
Shelene Bryan: “He’s taught me that the gift belongs to the giver. I was also shocked to know how much God cares about us caring for the poor. Did you know there are 161 verses in the Bible that concern the poor? He taught me it’s very dangerous to take our eye off the needy. Verses like: Proverbs 28:27 “whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.” Proverbs 21:13, “Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.” You see, I’m not worried that anyone reading this article is going to fail at anything, my fear is you are going to succeed at something that doesn’t matter.”
Faith Filled Family Magazine would like to thank Shelene Bryan for giving readers insights on her program Skip1. We would also like to thank Shelene for the work that she does and how her organization helps children who are less fortunate. We hope that this interview inspires others to help children in other countries who are less fortunate.