Category Archives: Motherhood

Shaping The Narrative Of Global Health

Shaping The Narrative Of Global Health

I was thrilled to be asked to speak at this years United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Summit to a room of almost 200 champions from all over the country. I’ll confess that having never spoken to a group that large I was a nervous wreck, but I love a challenge, and it helps to speak from the heart on an issue you are emotionally invested in, and so this is what I said:

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“Every story begins and ends with a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a girl, a child, . Every story is a birth”….- Ishmael Beah Author of Long Way Gone & Radiance of Tomorrow & UNICEF Advocate

As a storyteller, and a mother to my four children that quote by Ishmael Beah really touches me. Because before I was a mother, I was of course a daughter. And the story of why I am here speaking to you today begins with her. my mother was born in 1922 , she was 45 when I was born, and a polio survivor. She stood all of 5’2” at a tilt, since Polio had left her with one leg slightly shorter than the other.

Eventually I would come to tower over her at 5’9″, and now that I am a mother myself I muse at how odd it must have been to have ended up with a daughter so much taller. While I was still a daughter, and before I became a mother, I was a traveler. I still think about the mothers who approached me as a westerner in my early twenties and held out their babies to me asking for medicine or a cure. If those babies survived they would be in their mid-twenties now, and surely not all did survive. Knowing what I know now I wish I could go back in time with a bag of medical supplies and give them whatever they needed, because the pleading looks in those mother’s eyes haunt me to this day.

I never was a mother and a daughter at the same time. My mother passed away four months before my own first child was born. Though she had told me stories about having Polio as a child it never really resonated with me in the way it did once I became a mother myself. How terrified my grandmother must have been of losing her. And to be honest I hadn’t really reflected on those mothers I met as backpacker in my 20’s until I became a mother myself, and then I remembered that helpless feeling I was left with when I did not know what to do to help them. I was so grateful to join shot@life as a champion and finally have the opportunity to DO SOMETHING. To honor my mother’s legacy as a Polio Survivor, and to help the mothers that I know are out there in developing countries desperate for proper healthcare, for lifesaving vaccines for their children that every mother should have access to.

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As excited as I was to join Shot@Life I have to confess that had I known that I was going to be visiting my government representatives on capitol hill that first year I attended the summit, I may never have joined. I would have been too afraid. Yet, the next thing I knew I was hoofing it around capitol hill (in the wrong shoes…I might add…( definitely take the comfortable shoe recommendation seriously ) advocating for Shot@life with my congressmen and Senators. I brought the messaging back to my community and realized how much work is still to be done just in terms of  awareness alone. There is so much misinformation and lack of awareness out there on vaccines. In this country we take it for granted that our babies will not die from a simple case of diarrhea, but mothers in countries where they lack access to vaccines have lost, or know someone who has lost a baby to a vaccine preventable disease. Every 20 seconds a baby dies from a vaccine preventable disease, mothers will walk for days to get vaccines when they can for their children. I realized there is a huge need to get the message out to the public.

vaccinesSo what can YOU do to make sure every child gets a fair Shot@life no matter where they are born?

  1. Become a United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Champion, as a Champion here are a few ways to reach out to make an impact in your community that can ripple around the globe:
  2. Contact or visit your local representatives and tell them that you care about their support of global health and global vaccines, and ask them to support these programs as well.
  3.  Hold a party to get the word out, if you don’t want to do it in your home there are so many companies that offer fun alternatives. In my community stores like Alex & Ani,  Pinkberry, and Flatbread Pizza will help you have a party on site to fundraise for your event.
  4. Speak to local clubs, a local new neighbors club, Rotary or General Federation of Women’s Clubs
  5. Hold an event at your child’s school or set up a booth during an international fair, take the opportunity to work the importance of vaccines into the broader issue of global awareness.
  6. Use social media as a messaging tool for good with this social toolkit.Write op-eds, letters to the editor, blog posts, or articles for your local paper or magazine. I had a profile run in my local town Magazine for example.

For World Pneumonia Day last November I was paired up with Dr Mkope from Tanzania and at the National Press Club in Washington, DC we did over 20 radio and TV interviews! It was a great feeling knowing that the message of the importance of vaccines, with real life proof of efficacy from Dr. Mkope, was being broadcast so far and wide. At shot@life we say “a virus is just a plane ride away”, and in a perfect example of this ever shrinking world, it turned out that Dr. Mkope is the pediatrician of the one friend I know in Tanzania.

This year might be the last year that Polio is a threat to any child in the world, with only 9 cases on record, and still known to exist in only two countries in the world, the World Health Organization predicts that, with vaccines, it will be eradicated soon.

Every story is a birth, for my mother who survived Polio, for the mothers I met in central Africa with the pleading eyes, for my children and my children’s children, what I have learned as a Shot@Life Champion is that we have the opportunity to shape this narrative on global health, together lets write this story to end with no child dying unnecessarily from a vaccine preventable disease.

#Advocate2Vaccinate #VaccinesWork

 

$5.00 Can Save 2 Lives With CleanBirth.org

$5.00 Can Save 2 Lives With CleanBirth.org
$5.00 Can Save 2 Lives With CleanBirth.org

Yes, for roughly the price of your daily Latte Macchiato two lives can be saved.

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I’ve decided to give up 10 of mine, as a grateful mother to four children when I hear the statistics I think “but for chance and place” in which I live that could have been me.  The country of Laos has an extremely high rate of maternal mortality at 470 deaths per 100,000 live births. Often this is simply due to infection from birthing alone in unsanitary conditions. Cultural factors that have rural mothers going into the forest to birth alone play a big role in the problem. CleanBirth.org was founded three years ago to provide Clean Birth Kits and train nurses and midwives in remote villages in Laos to use them. This year alone CleanBirth.org provided nearly 1,200 women with Clean Birth Kits  to safely deliver infection free.

The founder of CleanBirth.org, Kristyn Zalota, is a fellow World Moms Blog contributor. I can not tell you how impressed I have been at the impact she has on so many women’s lives with her mission to provide safe birth in Laos. CleanBirth.org, helps train nurses in Laos and provide Clean Birth Kits for moms. It is in the tail end of a crowd funding campaign to raise $10,000 to help to train and to reach more women.

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The campaign closes on February 12th, so please help us reach as many moms and babies as we can. Really if you think about it, it’s just 1 day without that Latte. Please join us. Us moms have got to stick together!

 

 

Looking Back on 2015

Looking Back on 2015

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As the first week of 2016 comes to a close I wanted to take a quick look back to savor the fantastic year that was 2015 before moving on. Last year flew by, full of family, work, and travel, and as excited as I am for upcoming 2016 plans, I want to make sure to take the time to pause and savor the highlights, and small successes of the past year before forging ahead.

2015 was an exciting year of travel. Skiing in Aspen. The Nantucket Book Festival. Yoga in Bali.  It will be tough to top! On our family trip we explored a glacier lake in Iceland and climbed crumbling castles in Ireland.  2016 does have a few exciting destinations on the horizon so far, so we will see!

This past year work fulfilled me and helped me grow. I challenged myself by agreeing to do a “media day” of television and radio interviews at the National Press Club in Washington, DC for the United Nations Foundation. As a Shot@Life Champion advocating for global vaccines I was paired up with Dr. Mkope a Tanzanian Pediatrician to do 22 TV and radio interview with stations from across the USA to highlight World Pneumonia Day. In 2015 I continued to work with local non-profit Edesia, the world’s 2nd largest producer of Plumpy’Nut, an amazing product used to treat malnourished children around the globe, and save the lives of nearly a million kids a year. Some of my photography and writing was included in a book put together by ONE.org that went to the US Congressional representatives to support the Electrify Africa Act which was ultimately passed by congress. As a United Nations 2015 Social Good Fellow I attended the Social Good Summit in New York City for the launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals. As Managing Editor of World Moms Blog I attended the United Nations Correspondents Association Award Gala at Cipriani with Founder Jennifer Burden to accept Senior Editor Purnima Ramakrishnan’s UNCA Award for journalism covering a UN topic on her behalf.

As wonderful as the travel and work accomplishments were this year, the moments with family and close friends are my most cherished every year, and there is nothing like being home, especially after an adventure away. I am so grateful to my husband and the supportive women in my life who cheered me on, and provided the incredible opportunities of the past year, and  I’m excited to see what the New Year brings!

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Happy #MothersDay

Happy #MothersDay

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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.

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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!

The AYA Summit With ONE Girls & Women

The AYA Summit With ONE Girls & Women

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This week at the Washington D.C. Google headquarters I will be attending ONE’s 2014 AYA Summit .  Co-hosted by ONE Girls & Women and Google the AYA Summit is an exciting opportunity to meet some of the amazing speakers and attendees, as well as catch up with friends and colleagues.  It is always inspiring to be in an environment surrounded by change-makers approaching the world we live in with optimistic problem solving and ideas.

 The word AYA is an African Adinkra symbol from Ghana for fern that represents endurance, resourcefulness and growth. A beautiful symbol for the AYA Summit that will highlight the progress and challenges that girls and women face in developing countries. In the fight to eliminate extreme poverty improving the lives of girls and women is essential.

When girls and women are given the necessary education and tools, they can be change-makers within their families and communities. Through a series of talks, panels, visuals, and demonstrations, the summit will explore what it means to be born female in Africa, and what we, working together with our African partners, can do to make sure that all girls and women reach their potential. The summit will bring together leaders from the non-profit, government, private sector and celebrity arenas.- ONE Girls & Women Read the rest of this entry