Social Good Fellowship & #GlobalGoals

Social Good Fellowship & #GlobalGoals

share-globalgoalsI am thrilled to be in New York City as a United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow this week during the historic adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. This opportunity comes through my advocacy efforts with the Shot@Life campaign to help all children around the world get access to life saving vaccines.

This new set of Global Goals continue the mission of the Millennium Development Goals that had been set in the year 2000 and expired this year. The seventeen goals are archingly broad and ambitious, but through the success of the Millennium Development Goals it is clear that with the right dedication, funding, and collaboration true progress can be made. Global poverty and under five mortality were cut in half over the past fifteen years. The world needs to maintain that momentum and learn from mistakes made along the way to do better. We have many of the solutions to pressing issues, often access to those resources is a barrier to the most remote populations. Environmental disasters and man-made conflicts hold back progress, and in many cases erase it. Experts believe that we can reverse damage to the environment if we act swiftly, and avoid worsening and more frequent natural disasters by doing so. Man made conflicts are as old as time, strong positive world leaders need to step in and take charge. When I think of the world working together towards the Sustainable Development Goals I think of Carl Sagan, and The Pale Blue Dot.

The United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellowship is designed to provide Fellows with the latest information on pressing global issues and then explore their intersection with technology. Fellows will have access to leading experts, policymakers, and opinion leaders over the course of the Social Good Fellowship. Fellows will also attend the Social Good Summit which brings together world leaders, experts, grass-roots advocates and new media and technology around creating a better world.

I am looking forward to delving deeper into the Global Goals this week as I learn more through the Social Good Fellowship, and organizations lay out their plans for working towards these goals. I remain hopeful that between today’s leadership and the next generation we will rise to the challenge of achieving these lofty goals, and leave the world a better place for generations to come.


How To Tell The Future

How To Tell The Future


At times wouldn’t we all love to know how to tell the future? No one knows exactly what the future may hold for them, but I am sure that I’m not the only one who wonders about it often. We learn that although we can’t predict what may happen, that what we do today will impact our tomorrows, we also learn that even then sometimes life has a way of changing the best laid plans! One thing we know for sure about planning the future is that when it comes to our kids, when we #InvestinChildhood, it pays off. According to Save the Children, kids  who are enrolled in Early Childhood Development programs are more likely to enroll in school, plan their families, become productive adults, and educate their own children than those who don’t.

Fortune favors the prepared mind.-Louis Pasteur

Infographic_31It has now been proven that early education is essential to help kids get on the right path in life. Not all children are born into the same opportunities, but if given the right tools, the playing field is leveled.  September is Bright Futures Month for Save the Children to champion the investment in childhood and provide children with the early learning essentials for a bright future. Given the right tools all kids can learn and thrive to their full potential.

It all begins at home. I am personally glad to know that the research now backs up those seemingly endless evenings when I tucked in each of my four children by reading them a book!

By the age of three children growing up in poverty without books will have heard an average of 30 million fewer words than their peers. As you can imagine they are starting off at a great disadvantage so that by the time they get into school they are about a year and half behind the kids who were read to. And they may never catch up.

The first five years of a child’s life are critical for building the foundations of success. By the time children reach five years old their brains are already 90 percent developed. If within those rapid years of growth children do not receive adequate care including being played with, spoken to, and read to, their social and emotional skills will likely be underdeveloped. Preschool is a lifesaver for the children who do not get those necessities at home, and it is Save the Children’s mission to help children in need get the early education  they need to succeed.Infographic_41

Save the Children’s Early Learning Platform, “Invest in Childhood” seeks to raise awareness among U.S. consumers of the early learning deficit that children living in poverty experience. By mobilizing our celebrity ambassadors, corporate partners and supporters, we shine a spotlight on this critically important issue to create a brighter future for children.-Save the Children

Last year during my interview with Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner  she talked about her visits with Save the Children to homes enrolled in the early education programs they support.

“When Save The Children rolls up and goes once a week to see them, they bring them books, they bring light, they bring life. And the main thing that I love to see is they bring encouragement for these moms.”-Jennifer Garner

We may not be able to project what the future will hold for us or our children, but it is within our power to prepare and lay down the foundations for them that we know can help lead to success.  We can also help to shape the futures of children in need by joining Save the Children to #InvestInChildhood by getting them the early learning essentials for a bright future. Together, we can help ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.


A strong start is a child’s best chance for a successful future. Let’s invest in childhood today – giving children the best chance for a better tomorrow. Learn more here.

Tell your own future by downloading, printing and creating your own future teller for you or your kids!

#Blogust 2015 & Words That Matter

#Blogust 2015 & Words That Matter

photo for quoteRecently the African continent celebrated its first year with no new Polio cases on record. That milestone signifies that the world is getting closer to the once impossible to imagine goal, of eradicating Polio from the world entirely, for good. Africa’s accomplishment means that vaccine programs have worked, and now the global community is down to two remaining Polio-endemic countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are getting close, but our work is not done. As long as Polio is out there in this ever shrinking world, it remains a threat to us all. Meanwhile, 1.5 million children still die unnecessarily every year from vaccine preventable diseases.

The United Nations Foundation Shot@life campaign is a movement to protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are needed most.

During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2015—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share inspirational quotes for their children. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or take action using the social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, one vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000).

As a reader and a writer, I am a natural logophile, a lover of words. Joining the Blogust’15 team this year I am thrilled that we are using words as our currency to help provide vaccines for those children around the world who need them most. As we each share our meaningful words and quotes I hope you become inspired. Inspired to action, to make a difference in the world. 

Never underestimate the power of words. Words have the ability to heal. They can pierce. Powerful worlds can start a revolution. A quote can become a mantra that guides you forward, or helps you to make sense of your world.

 Just think of those moments in your life when a passing remark crushed you, or another moment perhaps, when one made you soar.

I think of the mantras that play in my head to this day, simple phrases that my parents planted that have grown into beliefs. 

Pictured here with my brother and parents...the authors of my subconscious.

Pictured here with my brother and parents…the authors of my subconscious.


“There is no such thing as “can’t.”


“Everybody needs somebody to love.”

All these seemingly innocuous mid-conversation sentences stuck for some reason above all the others, I can’t tell you why. I can only tell you that I know that some of my words spoken to my own children will stick in the same way, and I pray that I get it right. That the positive messages stick, and grow.

Words are powerful. This month during Blogust lets use our words to give all children the chance to grow up and pass on their own words of wisdom. Immunization is one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. Shot@Life aims to decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths around the world, and to give every child a shot at a healthy life.

During @ShotAtLife’s #Blogust, every time you comment, like or share a post, 1 vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000). Take action now. It is that simple to make an impact, one word, one click, one share.

Every 20 seconds one child dies from a vaccine preventable disease. Other ways that you can help are to:

Take action to support Global Vaccine funding by telling congress you care

Become a part of the movement to prevent unnecessary childhood deaths by becoming a Shot@Life Champion.

Donate to save lives. It only takes $1.00 to vaccinate a child against a debilitating disease.

Light is Life; #ElectrifyAfrica

Light is Life; #ElectrifyAfrica
IMG_2814 copy

In rural Ethiopia a pregnant girl waits to give birth with her mother and baby brother by her side.

As I entered the antechamber of the neonatal intensive care unit at the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I was engulfed by the smell of heated milk and enfolded in a blanket of warmth. The tiniest babies I’d ever seen lay in light box incubators just beyond the glass door. Illuminated by the heating lamps that kept them alive, tiny newborns looked like glowworms swathed in cotton cocoons, brand new eyes blinked at the warm lights. A sign on the wall from 2010 read “This department has been furnished by the Republic of Turkey.” Fragile lives being kept alive in a fragile system.


A mother and her newborn at a hospital in Hawassa, Ethiopia


In 2013 this very hospital, the largest, and most advance public hospital in the capital city of Ethiopia, was left without power for seven hours. Blackouts in the city are frequent due to lack of reliable power. Time and again as I’ve learned and written about global health and development the common thread of energy poverty has woven its way through the narratives.  Lack of access to electricity limits the reach of advances in global health, potential economic development, and constrains the lives of people, trapping millions in extreme poverty.


As I learned on my trip to Ethiopia last year to report on newborn health, many women there still birth at home. Most homes in rural areas are without electricity. Giving birth at home, often without a skilled health worker is dangerous enough. Giving birth at home during the night without power to light the way, is plain treacherous. In too many cases, light is life.


Mother and daughter at a birthing clinic.

Mother and daughter at a birthing clinic.

Through my advocacy for global vaccines I became aware that one of the biggest challenges in getting vaccines to those who need them most is the cold chain storage along the way necessary for the vaccines to remain effective. In clinics where power outages are frequent and refrigerators where the vaccines are kept lose power on a regular basis, life saving vaccines go to waste.

Several years ago one of my fellow contributors at World Moms Blog , Alison Fraser, launched a non-profit called Mom2MomAfrica to help furnish school supplies to students in Tanzania. She came to realize that the students she worked with did not have electricity to be able to do school work at home, and needed to add a lighting solution to the plan to ensure real academic progress.

The factors that lead to extreme poverty are so layered and complex, but one thing is clear. Without energy true progress can not be made.

The facts about energy poverty on the African continent are startling .

  • 7 out of 10 people living in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to electricity.
  • 30% of health centers and over a third of primary schools in Africa have to function with no electricity at all.
  • 8 out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa heart their homes and cook food using open fires. Inhalation of the smoke and fumes produced from burning traditional fuels results in over four million deaths per year, mainly among women and children. That is more deaths than from malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.

Congress has the opportunity right now to pass a bill that would help bring electricity to 50 million people in Africa for the very first time, at no cost to US tax payers. You can help. You can sign the Electrify Africa Act Petition and let your members of congress know that you care.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 8.04.09 AMThis post was written as part of the #LightForLight campaign where all this month photobloggers will be sharing their favorite light filled images and encouraging readers to sign the Electrify Africa Act Petition.

Coming up tomorrow, our friends at Our Collective are posting a photo essay! Be sure to check it out! 


I traveled to Ethiopia last June on a Fellowship with the International Reporting Project to report on Newborn Health.

Nantucket Book Festival #ACKBookFestival

Nantucket Book Festival #ACKBookFestival

desert adventure

My sixteen year old went to a three day concert festival earlier this month, and I imagine our girl’s weekend at the Nantucket Book Festival was to the six of us book lovers, what being in proximity to the rock stars were to my teen daughter. If it were socially acceptable I’m sure we too would have stood up and screamed as some of our idols took the stage, but in the subdued Nantucket Athaneum we surely would have been sternly escorted out out by a gentleman in a navy blazer.

That’s not to say that we didn’t have our wild moments of dancing to random bands in a dive bar…. or……ok, so maybe that was the one wild moment of the weekend….. but it was a thrilling weekend full of books and authors, great food, and friends, wild in the stories we got to explore .   The point is, if you are a book lover, a reader or a writer, or a lover of stories and those who tell them, then you should have been there too. The amazing storytellers who spoke had us in awe, throughout the weekend we were on the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the close study of human nature as told through narrative.

It all started with our gracious host, an island homeowner who had attended every Nantucket Book Festival since it’s inception four years ago and been raving to us about it ever since. Her wonderful blog CreativeWhimzy highlights the type of creative, thoughtful and energetic person our gracious host Jo is. We arrived to welcome gifts, mugs she had designed for all of us, each with a handmade tag, to enjoy our morning coffee in!IMG_8946

We were up bright and early on Friday morning for breakfast with Anita Diamant, best selling author of The Red Tent, who gave a talk about her recently released novel The Boston Girl, and her craft. I have found that writers are often great speakers, as natural storytellers they often know how to keep their audience humored and enthralled.


Anita Diamant


Following Anita Diamant, author of A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah spoke to us about his journey from child soldier in Sierra Leone to best selling author in New York City. He introduced his new novel The Radiance of Tomorrow and discussed his transition from memoir to fiction and his role in providing “the lost boys” of the war in  Sierra Leone a human face and insight to the rest of the world .


posing with Ishmael Beah


Leaving the athenaeum with our emotions piqued by the amazing authors we had just heard, we discovered the Typewriter Rodeo in the courtyard outside. We each got a poem typed out for us by the rodeo based on a word we gave. By then we were all practically in tears of overwhelmed emotions and the festival had only just begun!



Authors L to R: LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Bret Anthony Johnston, Belinda McKeon, Scott Turow, Azar Nafisi


What we have discovered is that authors are great story tellers, and each author captivated us with the behind the scenes of the stories they told. Breakfast with Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman was up close and personal, it was such a treat to get a glimpse of each of them outside of their writing, and the view from the Dreamland theatre event space could not be beat.


up close and personal with Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman



Our final morning of the Nantucket Book festival was magic despite the deluge. The White Elephant is impeccable, the event space, the brunch, and the service was amazing. Ishmael Beah was amazing as well. How he can infuse such heartbreak yet inspiration in one delivery is the true magic. His wisdom and insight into human nature are treasures, mined only as someone who has seen humanity at its worst and best could do.


The weekend at The Nantucket Book Festival felt like a dream. One where fairy tales and nightmares haunt your consciousness and leaves you on the other side of something intangible. It felt like gift that can be held and turned over in my mind for a long time to come.