My mom grew up in poverty in Appalachian West Virginia, and the plight of those living in that region has always been close to my heart. Imagine not being able to finish high school because you didn’t have shoes or a coat. Imagine having to eat whatever your father was able to shoot. Imagine having no electricity or running water. Those are the conditions my mother had to face, and those are the conditions many live in every day. 

We have so much, what can we do to help? My fellow blogger, editor, and dear friend Jackie Wilson has a burden for helping the people of Appalachia, and she wants you to get involved as well. I’ve invited Jackie to guest post today here at Mom for Less to tell you more about the Monkey Do Project, a project designed to help those in need.

You know how sometimes you get something in your mind and it sticks there, poking at you every now and again like a deep splinter in your big toe until you give it the proper attention that needs? That’s been happening to me for about 30 years now.

As a child, I would travel from my home state of Indiana to my parents home, the hills of Southwestern Virginia, passing through some very depressed areas of both Kentucky and Virginia. I would see shacks and trailers and dirty kids wearing t-shirts and shorts playing in the summer. I would see outhouses out back and pigs roaming free in yards, rooting around by sad little gardens. I would see old people, wrinkles creased deep into their faces as if pressed on with irons, rocking slowly on porch swings and fanning themselves with a piece of paper, one leaning over to spit tobacco off the porch, the brown juice running down his or her chin.

It wasn’t until young adulthood that I realized that these scenes made up part of Appalachia, and even years beyond that when I had a full realization of exactly what made up Appalachia. It was a weird dichotomy puzzling the two together in my mind—the beautiful, peaceful scenery that always made me feel grounded and at home, with the poverty that seemed like a slice of normal there.

Today, in 2012, there are still some parts of Appalachia that are 150% above the average U.S. poverty rate. If you look at a cluster map, the red areas of distressed Appalachian counties look like clusters of measles, instead it’s a representation of a group of counties the government has labeled as “the most economically depressed counties [that] rank in the worst 10 percent of the nation’s counties.” Some of these are exactly where I passed and witnessed those things as a child.
I know what some of you are thinking, “This is America. Get up. Get out. Get a job.” Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Some of these areas have been left devastated by the coal and mining companies who destroyed their land and then left when there was nothing else, leaving people without jobs and homes and in some cases without safe drinking water. Some of these people are tobacco farmers, a dying industry (as you can imagine) and have been left to find other ways to support their family. Some of the people in these areas have no roads to their homes because it’s too expensive for the government to cut through the mountainous rock to build them. Some people have no food or even running water. And, although a great deal of people walk everywhere, many don’t even wear shoes in the summer because they have to keep them in good shape for the cold of the winter. So, you see, it’s not just all lazy people who won’t help themselves. It’s not people trying to live off of “the system” because for many, there is no system. At all. And this is happening right here in our United States of America. The Land of Plenty. The Home of the Free.
A little part of me always knew I was supposed to do something about it—to help those people of Appalachia that I saw as a child. Those that make up a stretch of 205,000 square miles over 13 states, around 24.8 million people. Some, including me, would say my need to help is a “calling.” So, I recently created the Monkey Do Project. It’s just getting off the ground, but I would love for you to learn more about the project, the people in the Appalachian region and how we can help.

Follow the Monkey Do Project on Twitter as @MonkeyDoProject and on Facebook at Rock the Sock Monkey.

Jacqueline Wilson is a published author and founder and editor of–a site dedicated to celebrating and connecting parents 35 and up. She also blogs on her observational parenting humor site,, Writer Ramblings on Parenting Imperfectly. Wilson is currently working on the Monkey Do Project to help Appalachian region families where they deal with a 150% poverty rate over the U.S. average. Jacqueline escaped the corporate world and now spends her day juggling between being a work-at-home mom and a stay-at-home mom. She apologizes for any organic juice spilled on the business documents you receive.