Thursday, January 29, 2015

Saving TWO lives with #CleanBirth

I just got off the treadmill as part of a serious personal campaign to turn my mood around. Despite many awesome things that have happened this week (including THIS ONE), I have felt downright cruddy going through the motions of helping kids with homework, folding laundry, and other assorted routine events with a come and go migraine headache. But TODAY, I am turning things around by starting the day with exercising and saving lives.

Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. It's so easy that I'm not even going to put on a superhero outfit to do it (even though I have one right here..that's how nonchalant I am about it). I'm saving TWO lives - of a mother and a child - by making a simple $5 donation to, an organization started by one of my fellow World Moms Blog contributors to make birth safer in the country of Laos. For $5, provides a mother with the hygienic birthing supplies she needs to make birth safe. The nonprofit also trains nurses to teach mothers about safe birthing practices.

These are critical services for women in developing countries. We've been making good progress in the last 15 years on maternal health. After all, the maternal mortality ratio - the number of women who die from pregnancy-related causes or within 42 days of pregnancy termination per 100,000 live births - dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013, but we can do so much better for our sisters in developing nations. Did you know that the maternal mortality ratio in developing countries is still 14 times higher than in developed regions like the U.S.? (Statistics are from website)

When I visited the CleanBirth donation page for their $10,000 campaign I saw some of the reasons why 80% of the women in Laos give birth at home or in the jungle without any nursing or midwife care:

 “I can’t take the time from my family to make the days' journey to the clinic.”  
“My husband won’t let me.” 
“It’s our tradition [to birth in the jungle].”
“We don’t have the money [for transport or clinic fees].”  
“The roads are washed out in rainy season.” 
“The nurses don’t have supplies or experience.” 
What? NO. No no no. Well, I may not be able to do anything about culture or husbands or roads in the near term, but I can darn well help make sure a nurse has the right supplies and experience.

Mothers around the world share many of the same goals. We all want safe birthdays for our babies. We all want to live through childbirth to share our babies' lives. If you want to feel great about yourself today, please donate to at this link to help them toward their $10,000 goal:   

Only $5 saves 2 lives! No costume or treadmill required.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Getting Exactly What You Want..for GAVI

Image from
Can I have a pony? No.
Can I have an iPhone? No.
Can I have ice cream before dinner? No.
Can I have a billion dollars? Yes!

Let's face it. There aren't too many times when kids get exactly what they ask for - especially if it's a billion dollars. But that's what happened this morning! Today, the U.S. made a commitment of $1 BILLION dollars over four years for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, to get immunizations to children in poverty who desperately need them. This is the pledge my girls and I have been writing letters and making lobby visits to members of Congress about. We joined tens of thousands of people tweeting, writing, publishing, and visiting to create a movement of demand for global vaccines. Our favorite advocacy organizations - RESULTS, Shot@Life, and ONE - were united in the request for the same amount of money to fight diseases like polio, measles, and deadly and easy to prevent!

Mothers in Uganda bringing their infants to an
outdoor health clinic for vaccinations
This historic pledge to GAVI is the largest ever of its kind from the U.S. It is important because it showed our leadership and commitment to ending preventable child deaths in a generation. The $1 billion U.S. pledge combined with the total promised from all the other countries led to a whopping $7.359 billion that exceeded the goal of the GAVI pledging conference which took place in Germany this morning. According to Seth Berkely, CEO of GAVI, with this significant replenishment, GAVI can now commit to immunizing over 300 million additional children and prevent 7 million future deaths from 2016-2020.

I awoke this morning at 5AM unable to sleep...maybe I felt a rumbling in the "Force" coming from Berlin where the GAVI replenishment session was underway? I turned on my laptop and discovered the meeting was being live streamed. I watched as country after country stepped up with their promises. When it came time to get the kids up for school, I woke them with the news that this morning the U.S. was going to make the promise we asked for. "Is it happening now?" Yes, it is. "Can we watch it during breakfast?" You want to watch a pledging conference? Sure, why not?
On live web-cast, Canada promises $500M
Watching the live webcast with kids brought up some great observations and conclusions from them that were both insightful and funny to me. Here are the notes I took from our conversation:
  • Qatar is a new donor to GAVI. It has no "u" in its name even though it seems like it should. It's located in the Middle East. Despite what we see on American TV news, some very, very good things come from the middle east.
  • China made it's first ever pledge to GAVI. It used to be a recipient of GAVI money, now it gives back. It is possible to move out of poverty and contribute to others.
  • Japan said nice words, but did not make a pledge. Sometimes grown-ups don't get their act together and get their homework done even when it's super-important. That's embarrassing.
  • The UK is the biggest donor to GAVI. The U.S. is not always #1.
  • Bill Gates pledged $1.5B Wow, Bill Gates is a famous person who is still alive! Some individuals are able to contribute more than some countries.
  • Together, all the countries reached over the goal to a total of $7.539 billion. It takes everybody working together to solve a global problem.
  • The U.S. pledged exactly what we asked for. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
What a way to start the day and head off to school! The girls walked out the door with a sense that they had personally accomplished something major in the world...and indeed they had. Congratulations to all who worked so hard on gathering this momentum and commitment from the world's government. I hope you're walking around with some of the swagger that we are today!
Celebration selfie before heading off to school!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Why Go to an Advocacy Conference?

To all my readers raising tiny children and learning to advocate, I'm going to say something to you that may sound a little crazy. I think it's time you go to an advocacy conference in Washington D.C.  Many advocacy organizations with a national presence that have been around for a good number of years have conferences in D.C. where you can learn from experts about your issue, hear inspirational speakers, and lobby your members of Congress. If you can rustle up the child care, I think you should find one you like and go to it! 

"What? Take three days away from my baby? You've got to be kidding me! I don't have that kind of time for myself!" That was exactly my reaction when someone suggested that I learn more about hunger and advocacy by going to the Bread for the World Gathering. I was a new activist, full of excitement about my very first letter to the editor recently published in the local paper. The Bread organizer at my church recognized potential in me to be a powerful activist and thought the best way for me to get involved would be to jump right in and go to a conference and lobby day event. It was so flattering to me that she thought so, but...what about the baby?

At the 2008 RESULTS International Conference with fellow
RESULTS champions for education at the White House

It turns out I did go. The baby was just fine for a whole weekend with my husband and it was a life-changing experience for me. I heard inspirational, international speakers who convinced me that I - as an American citizen - had a powerful voice to influence the course of poverty throughout my country and the world. I started relationships with like-minded people who would become critical in helping me not feel alone in my desire to make the world a better place. I learned advocacy skills that I took home and would eventually teach to others in my community. It was a thrilling leap into the pool of activism when I'd been just sitting on the edge dangling my toes. Not only did I go to the Bread gathering that year, but I met RESULTS activists there who encouraged me to go to their conference the following year. Much later, my participation at those conferences led to invitations to the Shot@Life Summit and the ONE #AYASummit. Each conference has brought me new connections, new skills, and new confidence in myself.

You might be thinking, "Great for her, but not for me. I'm too busy to add a work conference in the middle of my life." Fair point. That's what I thought, too. Yet I want to share six things a conference can allow you to do that are much harder at home in your regular routine...

"You wouldn't leave a cutie like me just to
go learn how to save the world,
would you? You would!?!" 
  1. Take a break. Step away from the children, Ma'am. Your absence will be felt, but joyful side benefits to taking a few days away may include increased child-bonding with daddy, grandparents, or friends who watch them in your absence.
  2. Get a full night of sleep. One of my favorite things about a conference is getting real, deep sleep. A fellow activist once asked me what my plans for the evening were. I gave him a huge smile when I said "I'm going back to my room!" He joked that I was so happy about it that he wondered if there was a romantic plan up there for me. No, sirree! That's just how much I like sleep with nobody needing a diaper change!
  3. Get out of your everyday routine. When you are away from the mundane, it's somehow easier to see yourself as the exceptional, powerful individual you are. Shake it up and make some memories to think about when you're back to making lunches.
  4. Be appreciated by someone over two feet tall. Toddlers sure are cute. Still, they aren't the best at conveying that you are smart, capable, and valued. Sometimes they do it when they wrap those pudgy fingers around you and say, "I wuv ooo," but it can feel like they take it all back when they dump applesauce on your lap immediately afterward.
  5. Dive deep into the facts. I don't know about you, but I have immense trouble holding facts in my head when I'm trying to multitask with yelling infants. Not having to double and triple check the contents of a diaper bag really opens up a lot of space in your brain that you can fill with all sorts of information about your issue! 
    2013 Shot@Life Summit with my BFF's Jen DeFranco
    and Myrdin Thompson
  6. Make some new friends. Not since college have I had such rich opportunities to come together to meet new and interesting people with a common goal. Some of my closest friends now are people I look forward to seeing at conferences each year.
  7. Lobby! Nothing convinces a member of Congress that you are serious more than the statement that you are a volunteer traveling on your own time to talk to them.
Can't afford a plane ticket to Washington D.C.? Scholarship or financial assistance is often available for first-time or low-income attendees. If I didn't have one for my first conference, I wouldn't have gone. Some organizations are willing to bet that if they invest in you by assisting you to attend once, you'll have a great experience and want to come back again. If you are a low-income parent and want to talk to your members of Congress about poverty, then you are a valuable voice that needs to be added to the chorus. 

If you're still not sure it's the right thing to leave your child for three days to go to a conference, just remind yourself why you are doing it. Is it to create a better world for your child? Is it to improve the lives of parents and children who are facing much more difficult situations than the travel dilemma you are facing now? Will this be a step in making you a more empowered, more satisfied mommy? These are very good reasons.

It's true that if you go, there will be times you miss your children. There will likely be tears when you leave and when you get home. But I encourage you to take the leap for yourself and all the people in the world you want to help. You won't be sorry!