The First Annual Smart Cookie Awards
May 2007
Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark

President and CEO of ACCION International
Mother of Justin, 24, David, 21, and Ana, 19

"I started working for ACCION International 20 years ago in Central America, where I lived with my family for three years. Spending time in the region, I saw how important microfinance is for developing Countries, because it gives people the chance to use small loans to start their own businesses. Delia Fom tela from Lima, Peru, is a typical ACCION borrower. Twenty years ago, she started with a loan of $30 to sell olives and cheese from a pushcart. Today she rents out 17 small apartments, and her daughter runs the neighborhood minimart. Women are really the focus of microfinance, and giving them the opportunity to start businesses that they can run while taking care of their children is one very powerful way to help them improve their families' lives. It isn't charity‑it recognizes the power and dignity of each individual."


Actor; supporter of the Alliance for Quality Education
Mother of Samantha, 10, and Charles, 4

"In 2001, on the first day of my daughter's kindergarten, arrived to find that massive budget cuts had taken place over the summer, so the public school I was taking my daughter to was very different from the one I had toured earlier that year. An assistant principal, the music teacher, and the art teacher had been let go; some of the kids were in trailers because there weren't enough classrooms. That day, I went to a protest that had been organized by the Alliance for Quality Education, and I liked what I saw. We fought the cuts and were able to repeal most of them, which made a huge difference for my child's school. Now we go up to the state capital to lobby and have face‑to‑face meetings with politicians. When I work with the alliance, I know I'm doing something for my children and the 1.1 million other schoolkids in New York City."


Founder and president of Keep a Child Alive
Mother of India, 8

“If you donate money to Keep a Child Alive [KCA], we guarantee that 'oo percent of that money goes to our AIDS clinic sites to pay for antiretroviral drugs for children and their families, because what children need more than anything is their own parents to raise them. You know, we all spend our money on nonsense, when lust a small amount can save lives. Think of the power of what your money can do. My inspiration [for KCA] was an African woman, Ann, who came into a clinic in Mombasa, Kenya, that I had funded with proceeds from my first project, Red Hot and Blue. She walked into that clinic, which was then only providing general medical care, and she said to us, 'I'm not leaving until I get the drugs you have for children with AIDS in America.' I knew that that's what I would do, too. In fact, who would I kill to keep my child alive? Ultimately we are the ones, as parents, who must act, because we cannot even fathom the idea that our children should die because there's no medicine available. That's the moment I knew that this is what I had to give my life to."