Pay it Forward Project

Women Helping Women

Changing the World One Family at a Time

I am part of a pod of six coaches who call ourselves Good Trouble. We have been together over two years now. Recently the pod took on a project that began with a friendship between me and Mara, a young single mom I met in 2018 in Belize when I was travelling there. Over time it has grown beyond where I can handle it myself.

As the friendship with Mara continued after my return to the states, I became more and more impressed with her courage and her commitment to getting her three children educated in a country that has low graduation rates and high poverty. I started out contributing a few dollars a month to help with school expenses. When Covid hit, Mara, who worked in the tourist industry, was laid off and has had no income since. My contributions increased as the need increased.

It becarme too much for me to take on myself. What to do? 

I created The Pay It Forward Project, Women Helping Women, to draw in more of my community to help this brave little family. It’s a call to women (and men) who at one time were in need, got on their feet with the help of someone who had resources to help, and are now thriving and able to pay it forward.

Until now, Mara, who has become like a daughter, to me, lived in a poor section of a high crime area outside of Belmopan, Belize. We have looked with her at how to make this project more widespread without compromising her privacy or safety, so we call her Mara, not her real name.

See below for news of the breakthroughs Mara has made and updates on how our Pay it Forward community as helped.


When we first met, Mara and I talked about how important it is to have family and women friends to talk to. She said she doesn’t have that where she lives.

I didn’t understand at first. How can you not have a support system? 

But now I see that when I was a struggling single mom I had the support of my mother, sister, other family members and understanding friends who could help when I needed it most. Mara, however, lives in an area where there is little support anywhere, even from family. 

 I’m borrowing words from another women’s empowerment initiative that helped me understand:

"At one point or another, you’ve needed support. And if you were lucky (or privileged) enough, you were able to get the support you needed.

Unfortunately, there are many women who don’t have anyone that they call when they need support, especially financial support.

It’s called “Network poverty.”"

That means there's no one in their immediate circle that they can reach out to for financial assistance or emotional support in times of need.  -The Bodyful Healing Project 

So now we have become that support system. In Mara's words:

"Thank you for everything. One day I know I will do something good for someone. Pass it on. You show me that you don't have to go to school to learn how to have patience, understanding and forgiveness. There's people out there who do care."

The Big Vision

One of my biggest worries during another bout with cancer this past year was not abandoning my little family while undergoing treatment and not being able to work. Good Trouble stepped in to help. They adopted Mara and her kids too, a boy ,15, and two girls, 13 and 9. As a group, Good Trouble not only supported me in my commitment to this family in ways I had never dreamed possible (giving me the gift of facing my limited thinking in the eye.) 

And they began to formulate a bigger vision.

  • Stabilize: safe housing, money for the kid’s schooling and daily living, literacy training, learning a trade for Mara and coaching her as she grows.
  • Sustain: plying that trade to bring in a sustainable income to support the family
  • Pay it forward: Mara helps another single mom get on her feet. And it grows over time from there.

I am blown away by the heart, commitment and expertise of each person in the pod. I wondered how I would sustain doing much of the financial contribution, fundraising and support coaching myself.

Now there is the power of our small but growing Pay it Forward community who send $10 - $25/month. Others send larger, one-time donations. Each contribution makes a huge impact. Plus, my Good Troublers contribute leadership, ideas, outreach, and direction as well as financial support. 

We are all learning about systemic poverty, inequality of education, and the power of the human spirit embodied in the fierce mama named Mara. We are learning. 

Mara says:

"I am more than grateful that you love me for me. Not only because you support me, but whenever we talk, you give me things to think about. I am grateful for that." 


Latest Developments: 

Last Thanksgiving, a neighbor who had been escalating menacing behavior, killed the family’s new little puppy with his machete and threatened more. We knew something had to be done to get the family out of there. As long as their safety was at stake, Mara could only think about survival. We talked about options and came up with the idea of finding a rental house in Belmopan close to her daughter’s high school and near possible job opportunities. If we could find a way for Mara and the family to live in safety for a year, she could get on her feet.

She could move from survival to sustainability.

If she could find a house for $450US/month, all it would take is 9 people willing to contribute $50/month for a year to make that happen. 

Mara has found a 2-bedroom house with a fence around it in a safe neighborhood for that price. (Belize dollars are 2:1 U.S. dollars.)

Thanks to generous contributions, we were able to pay the security deposit and first month's rent. She moved the last week of January.

Within one week of moving, she found a part-time job cleaning for a local shopkeeper. 


Most urgent needs as of February 2023
!!!!! Six Home Angels !!!!
We need 6 more people willing to contribute $50/month for 12 months to take care of rent for Mara's safe house for the next year. We are doing Ready, Fire, Aim on this one. We have three committed and need six more by February 25.
You can do a one-time gift or press the "Donate monthly" option once you enter an amount.
Things we, in the US, take for granted but are sorely needed by Mara's family:

Above, one of two mattresses the family sleeps on now

All costs below in US Dollars

  • Bunk bed and mattresses for the girls. Bunk bed frame $500, Foam twin mattresses, $100 each
  • Mattress for existing bedframe for the boy. $100
  • Mattress for Mara's double bed $350
  • 2 sets of sheets, $30/set
  • Dishware -- several cups and plates were broken in the move via a guy in a pickup truck. She has 3 cups and 4 plates left. $40 for service for 4.
  • Washing Machine $600 - $700 unless we can find a used one. (Good used stuff, I have found, is hard to come by in BZ.)  
Daily needs
  • Food $200/week - this will provide mostly flour, rice, beans and some fruit with a little meat. 
  • Medicine for Mara's chronic health condition $50/month
  • Gas for cook stove and motorcyle (the family's only means of transportation. $50/month

Education needs

  • Books and uniforms per daughter per year, $300. (Paid for this year. Will be needed again late summer 2023)
  • Tuition: $500 for boy in trade school, $300 for high school girl $200 for grade school girl (Paid for this year. Will be needed again late summer 2023)
  • Sometimes a treat for birthdays or school field trips
  • Adult literacy training for Mara (Need to find program and assess cost)
Seen by Dina Torres at Tuesday 7:39am
Mara's daughter Graduating from 8th grade
See article about graduation rates in Belize
You can do a one-time gift or press the "Donate monthly" option once you enter an amount.
Some of the things we have accomplished so far:
  • Kids educational expenses for the last 3 years
  • Daily expenses since Covid hit
  • Supports under old house to stabilize in hurricane season
  • Cement block "bathroom" at old house with plumbed toilet and shower
  • Emergency funds for doctor and hospital visits
  • Outreach to community resources (of which there are few. We have one organization that empowers girls and women that may be able to help with tuition.
  • And much more....
I am seeking
100 women and men who, like me, have once needed support in their lives and who are willing to contribute $10- $50 a month to rebuild her economic foundation, develop more skills to become self-sufficient, and step into her brilliance as a community leader. We're looking at raising $1200-$1400/month to support a family of 4. Also ideas, Belize connections or anything else you have to offer. 
  • Buy food
  • Pay utilities
  • Take care of school tuition and uniforms for her 3 growing children (yes, public schools require families to pay for tuition, books and uniforms. Sometimes even toilet paper.)
  • Take care of phone data purchase for schoolwork and possibly internet hookup in the near future. 
  • Have something available for doctor visits if the need arises (and it does with 3 kids!) Belize has no insurance. Mara has a couple of monthly prescriptions that come to about $50/mo.
  • Pay motorbike license and insurance (her means of family transportation)
  • Buy sheets, towels, dishes
  • Once in a while treat her family to ice cream
  • Create a stable foundation that is not survival-based to make it possible to create a sustainable living
Your contribution will automatically make you a member of the 
Pay it Forward Project. In exchange, you will:
  • get updates on Mara's life and family
  • be able to correspond with her directly if you wish
  • see pictures of her and her family
  • be her support network
Mara's promise:
To pay it forward and help another woman one day,
just as you and I are doing with her.
You can do a one-time gift or press the "Donate monthly" option once you enter an amount.


As I’ve gotten to know Mara and others in her country, I am acutely aware of my good fortune. I have food every day, a comfy bed, transportation, work that I love, and support of family and friends. There is nothing like seeing someone else’s sparse living situation up close and personal to give me perspective.

I am filled with gratitude for my blessings, for my friend Mara who shows me what courage and love look like, for her sweet children, and without reservation, for each of you who clicks this LINK and becomes part of the Pay It Forward Project. Thank you. I am way out of my depth here, but you are helping me find the way.