Author Archives: documama

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.

SAMSUNG CSC

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.

SAMSUNG CSC

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 One.org #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.

IMG_8954

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 .

IMG_9008

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!

IMG_8982

authors

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.

IMG_9075

up close and personal with Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman

 

island

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.

IMG_9203

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.

IMG_9364

5 Great Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Dads

5 Great Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Dads

It can be really hard to shop for guys sometimes, but Father’s Day is next week and I know some of you are still trying to figure out what to get. Here are a few suggestions, the subtitle of this post being  What my husband is really into right now;

1.

An Audible membership and a few books to start him off. This app has been revolutionary for my husband ‘s commute and for us on long road trips, he even listens to his books while doing work around the house. He love it.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.15.11 PM

2.

I’m loving the Tembo Catchall from FashionABLE for him. I had a chance to see the impact this social enterprise has on the lives of women in Ethiopia first hand when I was there a year ago. Not only are their products high quality, and well designed, when you purchase them you improve the lives of others. There is no better gift than that!

fashionable

3.

Beats By Dre Powerbeats Wireless bluetooth headphones. Totally portable and no more annoying cord! My husband uses his all the time for music, workouts and audio books.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.03.24 PM

4.

Logitech UE MEGABOOM Bluetooth Wireless Speaker is a mini portable speaker on steroids. This travels everywhere around the house, outside, and on the road with my husband. It rocks!

FullSizeRender-15
5.

Math Formulas Tie by Josh Bach at Uncommon Goods. Uncommon Goods is one of my favorite sources for gift giving, if this tie isn’t quite the thing for the person you have in mind, there are also the constellation socks, or the golf ball cufflinks, among other wonderful items to choose from.

tie copy

What else would you add to this list?

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Show Your #Strengthie #WithStrongGirls Everywhere

Show Your #Strengthie #WithStrongGirls Everywhere

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 1.06.17 PM

Show your #Strengthie #WtihStrongGirls everywhere! What is a #Strengthie? Inspired by the Iconic Rosie the Riveter image One Girls and Women has launched the #WithStrongGirls movement as part of their larger #PovertyIsSexist Campaign that focuses on the impact of poverty on girls and women. One of the calls to action is to take a “Strengthie” which is a selfie that shows your strength in the style of that iconic Rosie the Riveter image. The pose shows that we stand with girls and women around the world to call on world leaders to recognize the disparity between the sexes when it comes to poverty. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by poverty, and by uniting in this campaign we signal that we stand together to change that. Poverty can only be eradicated when women and girls are put in the forefront of development.

BE631DE4-3839-4BC9-9615-ED6F68357361 copy

In support of this campaign, nine of Africa’s most talented artists, Victoria Kimani, Vanessa Mdee, Arielle T, Gabriela, Omotola, Judith Sephuma, Waje, Selmor Mtukudzi, Yemi Alade, and Blessing, came together.  The artists from seven different countries, created a new anthem called “Strong Girl” that celebrates the power of girls and women everywhere.  And I am definitely adding this to my workout playlist! It truly inspires the inner strong girl in me.

Each artist contributing in the writing of the verses. The lyrics of “Strong Girl” call out the importance of standing with girls and women everywhere. All over the world, girls and women are showing their strength and achieving extraordinary things, despite the barriers they face. It’s time to stand with girls and women, because together we’re stronger. – ONE Girls & Women

Join us! Here are three ways to stake a stand:

1. Share the ”Strong Girl” music video.

2. Sign our Poverty Is Sexist petition for world leaders to deliver real change.

3. Take part in this visual and virtual demonstration by taking  a #strengthie (your own version of the iconic ‘Rosie the Riveter’) to show the world you stand #WithStrongGirls, post it to social media and then tag your family and friends and encourage them to do the same. Here’s mine.

strengthie

 

Happy #MothersDay

Happy #MothersDay

image

I read this line in Ismael Beah‘s novel The Radiance of Tomorrow two days before Mother’s Day. It resonated with me as I was missing my mother, and feeling so grateful for being a mother at the same time. I thought, yes, my story began with my birth, but really before that. With my mother’s story and her mother’s story beyond. I thought that although my mom is no longer alive to guide me, I do still hear her voice in me. When I wonder what she would do, or say in a certain situation, or advice she would give, the answer is usually there.

image

Now it is up to me to continue to write my story, and to watch and guide as those of my own children unfold.

image Happy Mother’s Day! We are each the Heroes of own own stories, so be sure to write a good one!