In Chapter 12 of 13 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, micro-philanthropist Adam Carter answers "How Have You Grown Closer to Your Mother as She Has Moved into Retirement?" An only child, Carter shares how the bond with his Mom has grown over time, mainly through traveling together internationally. After his mother retires to Guatemala and begins volunteering, Carter and his Mom bond as peers and learn from each other working on micro-philanthropy projects together.
Adam Carter is a micro-philanthropist currently living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is the founder of the Cause and Affect Foundation which raises small amounts of financing to provide direct-to-source project funding for individuals and communities in need across the globe. To date, Carter has traveled to over 80 countries. He earned an MA in International Development from George Washington University and a BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Michigan.
Erik Michielsen: How have you grown closer to your mother as she’s moved into retirement?
Adam Carter: Well, my mother and I have always had a very close relationship. I, like yourself, am an only child, and so I always had a very strong bond with my mother. And our relationship has really evolved over the years which is something that really has warmed my heart because I think this started—once I started to travel after college, I think my mom realized that she needed to—in order to see her son, she needed to kind of get out there and start crossing continents, and so we’ve had—we’ve met up and traveled in Spain, in Nepal, in Italy, in Brazil, in India, in Central America, so that’s been a wonderful dimension, but beyond that, my mom got to the point where she was able to retire.
And she realized that she wanted to lead a more fulfilling life. So she retired to Guatemala, and she’s currently living there, and she’s speaking Spanish, and she’s volunteering with a variety of organizations, and she’s really found her heart’s calling. And to me that’s been extremely rewarding because it shows that this relationship between mother and son is not—you know, I think when we’re little we have this idea that, okay, our mother is there to teach us, and that as we get older we will always be looking to our mother, you know, the mother guides, the mother teaches, and while that’s still the case, all of a sudden, I think we can see that we’re learning from each other, and that my mother is, you know, I’m helping guide my mother, and my mother’s learning things from me, so I think it’s a wonderful circle there where a parent is able to create something in a child where that child becomes an adult with a meaningful life that can then help teach and guide the parent.
So that’s been wonderful, and what’s been extremely rewarding about this is being able to participate with her in some of these projects with Cause & Affect. Being based down in Guatemala, and working with these organizations on her own, my mother is a perfect scout, as you will. She’s on the ground, and so, for example, when I recently went down there in February, she had been traveling with one of these projects to some of the rural villages in Guatemala and she came across this family that just—it just broke her heart to see the living conditions that this family was living in. It was a father and his two children, and the mother had died five years earlier, which presented a real challenge because this is a part of Guatemala where most of the men go off to do seasonal work, agricultural work, in other parts of Guatemala. He wasn’t able to do that because he couldn’t leave his two little kids in the house alone, so they had a real financial problem, and their home, as a result, was really just a shack made of kind of wood and mud, and there was a lot of bugs and mosquitoes and rodents. It just was not a safe place. They were cooking in—they were cooking over a fire in the house, which was very bad with the smoke inhalation. It was just one tiny room, which was not a place for this family.
So it was my mother and I, and we were able to find a local organization that helps build houses for families like this. And we were able to help finance it so that they could live in a new home, and three weeks later, there it was—a 2-bedroom house. You know, obviously, dispartan, you now, but real floors, windows, some security, safety, health, so that was wonderful for my mother and I to be in a position where we’re working together, because much of what I‘ve put into Cause & Affect, the reason that I got here is because she instilled that compassion in me, and it’s really just been a means of me directing that compassion that she instilled in me outwards. So to be able to do it together as a team has been very rewarding.