500 or Less

Do you ever wish you could make a real difference in the world, but you just don’t know where to start?

Or you’d like to make a donation to some worthy cause, but you wonder where your money will actually end up. And what if you only have a little to share? Will a small donation even matter?

I hear these kinds of things all the time. I also get requests for specific items that need funding. “If you find something that needs doing,” friends will often say, “let me know. I’d rather fund a project than just send money.”

To which I say: Fair enough.

For anyone who struggles with the doubt of giving…look no further, my big-hearted friends. Because in today’s post, you will find seven, count ‘em: seven, real world ways to make a tangible difference in the lives of some amazing orphaned children. And all for $500 or less! There is truly a little something for everyone.

I sat down with my friend Clifton Shipway today here at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission in Banbasa, India, and we made a list of the most urgent small projects that need doing around the orphanage. These things are easy to put off and have been on our wish list for a while. So here are a few ways for everyone to get involved, with an item for just about every pocketbook. Here we go.

* Update: In just a little over 24 hours, all items were claimed and the renovations will begin soon. If anyone would like to make a general donation to the Small Projects Fund, click the button below and we’ll put your money to good use. Thanks everyone! *

1. Small Boys’ Bunk Beds – Cost: $500 SOLD!

No one really knows how old the current beds are; they were built forty or even fifty years ago. Whatever the truth, they are beyond tired. And ridiculously small. For example: Gordon (pictured above) is nearly as tall as me (6’ 2”) and his feet stick comically off the top bunk’s end. Eight stackable beds will be built in our workshop with metal frames and plywood support. $62.50 buys one bed. Or buy ‘em all. Think of it as buying a good night’s sleep for a group of hardworking, handsome orphaned boys.

2. High Pressure System Tank – Cost $475 SOLD!

This is a critical item here on the farm that is beyond necessary. Our current tank is 25 liters and is simply too small to meet our daily demands. (It’s the sad looking white cylinder in the picture above.) What we really need is a 325 liter beauty to help keep the water pressure up and to take some of the pumping pressure off the pump. When the tank gets low, the pump kicks on…and currently, our pump has been running every 30 seconds or so, which is wearing parts out at an alarming rate. What do you say? Any tankers? We’d be beyond tankful.

3. Pressure Washing Hose – Cost: $310  SOLD!

We used to have one of these, but it got used to death. For washing out the pool (instead of hand scrubbing as shown above), for pressure cleaning moldy concrete walls, for cleaning cement walkways. A hose of this kind keeps us off our knees and onto more important tasks. A good one costs 26,000 rupees or a little over 300 US dollars at today’s exchange rate. If you’re into efficiency, cleanliness, or you simply like intense streams of water, this is the project for you.

4. A Short Cement Walkway – Cost: $220 SOLD!

This one is mostly for Auntie Violet who walks from her hostel to the dining hall twice each day. (That’s her in the picture on a relatively dry day.) When it rains, as it does most days this time of year, the stretch of bare ground she has to cross turns into a muddy soup that is not the ideal walking surface for an elderly woman with a formerly broken hip. When complete, the raised cement walkway will keep her feet and the rest of us out of the mud for many monsoon seasons to come.

5. Two Wheelbarrows – Cost: $100 a piece TWO SOLD!

Ideally we’d have two but one would be amazing. We’re always moving things around the Mission, but most of the time we just use what we can find. Just this morning we grabbed some handmade play carts to move bricks…or we grab blankets…or enlist the tuk tuk. But really, wheelbarrows would be ideal. One hundred dollars buys a heavy-duty industrial model that can take whatever the mission can dish out. All thanks to you!

6. Tin Sheets – Cost: $80 SOLD!

We have a covered walkway from the nursery/small girls’ hostel to the dining room—but one section of it leaks. That’s because we scavenged the final tin pieces and tried to make due with a patchwork of small scraps. Now it leaks like a sinking ship, all for the lack of a little new tin. Eighty dollars dries up one small corner of the world. For anyone looking to be the change, this could be your chance. Who’ll stop the rain?

7. Small Girls’ Hostel Mirror – Cost: $30 TWO SOLD!

21 teen girls share a single bathroom here at the mission, and their full-length mirror recently shattered. For anyone who can appreciate the dire need that this item represents, know that your donation will be looked at every day by every young girl with the kind of intense scrutiny we in the west usually reserve for our cell phone screens. If you have a teen girl or were one (or know one), you know this is not a frivolous luxury.

All totaled these seven projects come to 1655 dollars.

If you’re interested in claiming your part of the improvement bonanza, let me know in the comments below, send me an email at john@johnmarshall.com or message me on Facebook. All projects will be proven with a photograph and personalized message just for you. 100% of money raised will be used as intended. If we get flooded with more interest than our stated need here, we’ll propose additional projects for your consideration. No one will be left out!

In a world of swirling need, five hundred dollars (or less) can’t stop climate change or cure cancer or end famine…but it can get an orphaned child a new bed, or keep a proud lady’s feet dry, or keep the water flowing for an entire orphanage.

Best of all, I’ll personally watch these projects happen and send you the results. No waste, no wondering, no worries.

Anyone ready to take the plunge?

Just a picture of me jumping like a boss into a jungle river. Cost: $0

  • Barbara Wirth
    Posted at 10:37h, 13 July

    Dear John,
    (That makes me giggle) You continue to amaze and inspire me. Your writing draws me in to the life of these beautiful children. It’s great that you have found a creative way to have folks feel the difference they can make at Good Shepherd. Your words and photographs make us feel a part of your community. I’ll be sure to send what I can soon, but I wanted to thank you for sharing your love and generous spirit. Hugs from NH!
    Much love,

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 11:29h, 13 July

      Thanks Barbara. Hugs back atcha from India.

  • Marty coulter
    Posted at 10:44h, 13 July


    I’ll buy the pressure washer! And a mirror! I think they need at least two of them, so someone else can purchase one also.

    How do we send the money? Through PayPal?

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 11:32h, 13 July

      Hey Marty. You are a legend as usual. Pressure washer…check. Mirror…check. I’ll send you a link. Hope all is well in Florida and that you are managing to stay cool. It is positively broiling here today. This would not be the time to visit. Malika sends her love and so do I. Thanks again.

  • Kirsten Elstner
    Posted at 12:24h, 13 July

    I’ll take a wheelbarrow and a mirror, from me and Jack … 🙂

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 07:03h, 14 July

      Sold to the lady and her son in Maryland. Thanks so much, Kirsten.

  • Susan Miller
    Posted at 13:03h, 13 July

    Hi John- so great to hear from you about these projects.
    I’d like to donate another $100 USD for a cooler- sounds like you need it!
    Susan in Novato CA

  • Natalie Graham
    Posted at 14:08h, 13 July

    Hi John! I have been enjoying all the pictures you’ve been posting lately, especially the ‘Tarzan’ tribute pics. 😀

    I’d love to keep the rain off Sheetal’s head (along with all the other kiddos in the nursery/small girls hostel, so sign me up for a sheet of tin for $80, please!

    I also wanted to ask you if it would be possible to take a nice portrait picture of Sheetal since her birthday is coming up soon… I”d love to have a nice photo of her to print off, frame, and put along side Ali’s picture up on my ‘family love’ photo shelf. Sheetal is going to be 11 in a month if I remember correctly – an official ‘tween’!! Growing up so fast (right along with my daughter)… Also, if you or Katie have any suggestions about a nice b-day gift you think would suit her well, let me know. Since you are over there and know the kids and what they enjoy, I figured I’d get some inside intel. 🙂

    Thank you for all you do for GSAM and the other organizations that help kids like the ones at the Mission. It’s always a joy to see posts from you pop into my inbox.

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 07:04h, 14 July

      Natalie, the tin will be purchased in your name. And I’ll personally do a photoshoot with Sheetal and send you the results. That’ll be fun. Thanks so much for getting involved with this little project and in Sheetal’s life. I’m so glad she has you.

  • Trisha L. Stone Wenger
    Posted at 17:37h, 13 July

    Hi John,
    We’re a very tall family and empathize with the need for a long enough bed! We’ll buy 2 stackable beds for the boys. Please send me the link to pay. I still hope to meet you someday and continue to admire what you are able to do for these children. Also love to Jamika from Trish (Auntie Brenda’s sister) and family in Atlanta, GA .

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 07:05h, 14 July

      Two beds…coming your way. Thanks so much, Trisha. Only four beds remaining and then everything’s done!!!! I’ll say hi to Jimika for you. All the best from India. And hi to Brenda from all of us.

  • Allan Goodman
    Posted at 17:47h, 13 July

    Hi John,
    Another great initiative from you and Clifton. I’d like nothing better than to provide a bed for the small boys dorm. Maybe you could also do me a favour and take a photo of Vishal sitting on one when they made. I’ll add that to the others I have in his album. You should put this type of thing down to do every 6 months or so. People will always give if they can.
    Allan and Wendy.

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 07:07h, 14 July

      One Australian bed…done! And I’ll definitely get the Vishal picture for you guys. Hope to see you back this way some time soon. All the best.

  • Maureen Foley
    Posted at 23:15h, 13 July

    Hi John,
    Gary and I would love Auntie Voilet to be able to get to her meals with dry feet so can we please help you on that one. Must be pretty muddy at the moment.
    How is that ugly bathroom going along?
    Love to you and all the family there. Keep that big heart going John.
    Give me details for payment.
    Love Maureen

  • Avis Harrison
    Posted at 23:45h, 13 July

    Hi John.,
    God bless you for all of your tireless work. and glad that I could be a part of this! Iom a friend of Wendy Elwell’s and she’s told told me much about you and all your good works! I’d love to help with the short cement walkway!

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 07:13h, 14 July

      Hi Avis. Thanks so much for reaching out. The comment right above you asked to sponsor the walkway…but would it be alright if we applied your contribution to the High Pressure System Tank? That is without a doubt the most urgent item on the list and I have half the money for it already. Hope this is okay and again, thanks for getting involved. Love from India.

      • Avis Harrison
        Posted at 07:59h, 14 July

        Yes for sure! Do what is most needed and glad that i could help’

        • John Marshall
          Posted at 23:42h, 17 July

          Hey Avis, Sorry for the delay. Just sent you a Paypal link to your email. Cheers and thanks for the support!!

  • Tony Nicholas
    Posted at 02:01h, 14 July

    Hi John,
    Great to hear from you at the mission and your fundraising projects. Put me down for a bed, please.
    Love to all,

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 07:10h, 14 July

      One bed, Tony, coming up. I’ll send you a link soon. Thanks so much for being a part of this.

  • Wendy Elwell
    Posted at 10:05h, 14 July

    Send me a link for a bed please! How many left?

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 10:10h, 14 July

      With your donation, that leaves three left. Thanks so much Wendy. Your friend Avis also stepped up. Love it when we all come together. I’ll send you a link via email.

  • Robin Dupre
    Posted at 12:12h, 14 July

    Hi John – send me a link and I’ll fund a bed. Great work!

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 22:32h, 14 July

      Thanks for the donation, Robin. Your donation pretty much pushed us over the top! Will send the new bed proof as soon as they’re made. All the best.