Pay it Forward Project

Women Helping Women

I've launched Pay It Forward to empower a woman I know, Mara* from Belize, a developing country where many live in poverty every day.  Mara is smart, honest, ambitious, careful with her money and has dreams of creating a future that is sustainable for herself and her three children. I met her at a guest ranch I stayed at before it shut down. Her kindness to me ignited a friendship that has continued to grow.

Mara’s dream is to create work that covers her electricity and cooking gas, buy food, and also pay for school tuition, books, uniforms and lunches for her three children who are the light of her life (about $1200 US/month). She is single parenting without financial support or childcare help.

She 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, unlike myself who has been fortunate to have my mom, sister, other family members and understanding friends who could help when I needed it most, that Mara lives in an area where there is little support anywhere, even from family. 

*Mara is not her real name. We want to protect her safety as the area she lives in can be iffy. Also, we want to make sure the help we give her remains with her. 


Although I’m initiating this project myself, I’m borrowing words from another women’s empowerment initiative, the Bodyful Healing Project:

"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.

For a while I coached Mara pro bono around rebuilding her future so that she doesn’t have to rely on unpredictable employment that is a long distance away.

She was in the process of looking at things she could do right now like cleaning and washing clothes. My husband Bill and I helped her buy a washing machine. Other friends helped get her a motorcycle when hers was stolen. It is her only means of transportation, and, before Covid hit, used it to transport neighborhood kids to school for a couple of dollars.  See photo at right.

Mara was learning to step out and ask for business, to let people know she is available and to ask for referrals. She has named her company DMCK Home Services. The initials stand for the names of her children, the oldest of whom died. However, right now, during Covid restrictions, people are reluctant to hire anyone to come to their homes. People are just starting to have vaccinations available. Dina and her two oldest are now vaccinated. (In Belize, you have to pay for vaccines.)

Mara’s long-term goal is to start a little grocery store for the people of her area who cannot pay regular grocery store prices. She has a place under her house where she can make shelves and sell staples like rice, flour, sugar and some fruits and vegetables. Once she stabilizes and can save a little, she will be able to buy her staples from the wholesaler down the road and her fruits and veggies from local farmers to start her small store. She is working on her business plan.


Most urgent needs as of July, 2022
  • New beds and sheets. The old beds are over 10 years old. Sheets are fraying and torn $200 per bed. 4 twin beds. Sheets per set: $30
  • Basics as mentioned below under My Vision 
  • Refrigerator $450
  • Medicine for chronic health condition $30/month
  • Fence for yard safety IN PROCESS
  • The stilts that hold up Mara’s little home are rotting. $1075 to replace DONE !!  
  • Door for outdoor toilet  DONE!!  
  • A dress for Mara to wear to her daughter's 8th grade graduation and a dress for her daughter. $65 DONE!!

School expenses for kids - (in Belize you have to pay to go to public school.) 

We're figuring about $3000 altogether. We have raised $600 for the upcoming school year so far.

  • Books and uniforms per child per year, $300.
  • School lunches and transportation per child per month, $120/mo for 2 high schoolers, $50/month for grade schooler
  • Tuition: $500 for boy in trade school, $300 for high school girl $200 for grade school girl
Seen by Dina Torres at Tuesday 7:39am
Mara's daughter Graduating
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.
The Vision: 
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 (or more if you are able) to make it possible for Dina to ride out the pandemic. After that, she will have 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 a bit more than the subsistence $800 mentioned above. That's enough to:
  • Buy food
  • Pay her water and electric bills
  • Get basic services for her home like electricity, cooking gas and water
  • Take care of school tuition and uniforms for her 3 growing children
  • 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 and towels, maybe a cupboard for her 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


  • Literacy training for more future employment opportunities
  • Training in a trade or business development
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 pushes this LINK and becomes part of the Pay It Forward Project. Thank you.