Exclusive Alicia Keys Blog: "You Can't Truly Be Happy Without Helping Others"

The iVillage Guest Editor writes exclusively about her passion for helping others with her charity, Keep a Child Alive

What an incredible week it’s been! I’ve loved being an iVillage Guest Editor. Thank you to everyone at iVillage and to all of you who’ve joined us this week. It’s been an honor to share my world and thoughts with you. My last blog is on finding your calling to give back to others.

Muhammad Ali once said, "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." I believe that with all of my heart. Most of us do deep down. So often, I think about all the people in the world who are left alone, most especially children. I think about how many babies have barely been held or have enough food or even a warm home. I KNOW how blessed I am to have the love I do and the life that I lead. Many of you moms reading this who’ve just kissed your kids goodnight know what I mean. You’re thinking, "How did I get to be so lucky?" If your life is filled with so much joy, how can you ever repay the "rent" that Ali talked about?

One of the best ways (I think) is to make service a part of your life. You can’t truly be happy without helping others in some way. It’s not about worrying about how much we can't do -- what's more important is that we do as much as we can. Giving back is as essential to our being as breathing. When a tragedy strikes -- like a hurricane or earthquake -- we rally to help those in need. Something very deep and primitive inside of us is called upon and we feel compelled to take action.

I wasn’t looking to start a charity when I first discovered that my calling was in the fight against AIDS. I was only 21 years old and I was visiting Africa for the first time ever in my life. I met all these pregnant women who were heartbroken that they would pass HIV onto their children. They could not afford the anti-retroviral medications that would not only save their lives, but would keep the disease from spreading to their child during birth. Thanks to major advances in treatment, an HIV-positive pregnant woman can have an HIV-free baby if she is given these medicines during pregnancy. But less than half of women actually have access to such treatment. Learning about this broke my heart. What a profound tragedy especially considering it is preventable! I couldn't turn my back.

So knowing very little about the charity business, I co-founded Keep a Child Alive to help get the number of babies born with HIV down to zero. We operate clinics in Africa and India giving treatment, food, education and orphan care to hundreds of thousands of families affected by HIV. Our goal, along with the rest of the AIDS movement, is to create the first AIDS-free generation in more than 30 years. By doing this work, a part of my life I didn’t know was missing suddenly started to feel complete. It gave me a purpose that I never want to let go of. There is something indescribable about knowing you're making a difference in just ONE life.

So if you’re out there today, and you’re feeling down, or like there’s something missing in your life, find a charity that really connects with you and your life experience. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Read to the elderly. Donate blood. Be a big sister to someone. Get a group of friends together to run/walk against cancer. Write your representative and organize a petition to change a law that’s unjust. Join KeepAChildAlive.Org (click here to see a performance at Keep a Child Alive's 2011 Black Ball fund-raiser with blues guitarist Gary Clark, Jr.). Find your philanthropic passion. Start a movement. You’ll soon see a little giving back is all it takes to make your world fuller and our world more hopeful.

For more information on Keep a Child Alive, click here. And click here to find out more about Keep a Child Alive's 9th Annual Black Ball fund-raiser, being held in New York City on Nov. 1 and hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and featuring performances by Beyonce, Carole King and Alicia herself.

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