Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gift Giving From The Heart

Gift Giving From The Heart

            Do you ever feel stumped, overwhelmed, and exhausted this time of year?  Exhausted from the constant brainstorming to come up with a creative, simple, economical gift that can be given to the friends, family, and teachers that bring us joy all year long, overwhelmed by the thought of squeezing one more task into an already full schedule, and stumped on what to give!!  Please tell me I am not alone in this.  I used to be excited to make my giving list and come up with what I wanted to do.  Now between my three kids at different schools we have 20 teachers and little time to spare I am not feeling so jolly!!! 

            I love to introduce fair trade chocolate and tea with holiday gifts.  It is a wonderful, inexpensive way to open up the conversation of how what we buy can create change. My eyes were opened this year to the success stories that come as a result of fair trade and income generating opportunities especially for women living in dire circumstances.  When visiting Amani Ya Juu in Kenya I was seeing living proof of the power of our purchases.  Wearing the dress I bought that day just feels good—and we all know when we feel good we look good!!  There are many organizations and businesses that promote fair trade and ONE has brought many of those items to their website.  So this year I am gift giving from the heart and I invite you to do the same!!

            The ONE store website has now expanded to include some really great stuff.  My fashionABLE scarf is ONE of my favorites.  In the fall I was wearing it as a belt and now I am wearing it to keep me warm!  This link is worth a visit.

            For all of the teachers on your list--buy them Beads for Learning from  The Leaky Collection donates 100% of the profits to pay teacher salaries.  I wear my bangles almost everyday!!

            If you like African bead work, then you must shop !!  When we met Anthony Mulli in Africa I was in awe of his confidence.  This 18 year old has it together and his talent for beading is incredible!!

            Of course my friends all make fun of me for the amount of product(red) items we have at our house.  For several years in a row the kids would all get a new (red) shirt from the Gap at Christmas time (of course my husband and I would too!)  Grandparents bought us the product(red) ipod and the list could go on.  I love supporting the Global Fund!!  This year I am buying product(red) coffee from Starbucks for all of the coffee lovers in my family.

ONE has many partner organizations that are offering some “gifts that give back” this year.  So as you are finalizing your list be sure to check these out too…….

 A free download of “Joy to the World” by the David Crowder Band:
A CARE package from CARE:

L.I.F.E. (coffee) Jacket from Comfort the Children:

MAC Cosmetics or Fidelity Denim’s Special Edition Women’s Jeans via the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation:

A 4 pack of holiday ornaments from Save the Children:

Childrens’ toys, books or holiday cards from the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:

The Jam Box for Charity Water:

So after writing this post I am feeling my old self come back.  I know exactly what I am doing for my holiday shopping and I hope you do too.  I am wishing you all a holiday full of love, laughter, peace, joy, and warm hearts!!

Together as ONE,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Finding Balance

Finding Balance

So divinely is the world organized that every one of us, in our place and time, is in balance with everything else. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

            This quote has always reminded me that I have a purpose right here where I am at.  When I read it I want to breathe deep and feel that all is well and that my life is happening as it should.  Lately though, it seems that finding the balance has become complicated.  Over the last month the actual word “balance” keeps presenting itself—balanced budget, balanced tires, balanced family life, balanced work life, balanced hormones, balanced homework with extra-curricular, balanced checkbook, and then this picture showed up on the ONE facebook page…………things did not seem to be in balance!!


          If I am to be truthful it all started to feel quite overwhelming.  As moms we feel the pressure to balance it ALL!  We want to be super moms, wives, employees, volunteers, and world changers.  As I looked at the picture above I realized that I was feeling the pressure to feed the billion hungry people.  What I realized was I cannot feed the billion people by myself, but as ONE mom I can share this picture and spread the word.  My visit with Congressman McIntyre in Washington D.C. helped me understand just how important it is that each one of us shares the picture and spreads the word.  He was impressed with the number of letters I was bringing from ONE members in his district.  He said that hearing from constituents about their wishes for protecting the less than 1% of the budget that is saving lives is important and appreciated.  He has visited many countries in Africa and understands the importance of these programs. 

            This year has been exciting for sure, but it has not come without some adjustments.  As the year comes to an end I have found myself turning inward and reflecting.  Thanks to my wonderful ONE mom friend, Karen Walrond, I am enrolled in her online pathfinder course and have discovered my word for the year is—you guessed it—BALANCE!  I recommend everyone to check out the course  Life is not easy and as moms we tend to focus on helping all of those around us.  Sometimes we have to stop and rediscover ourselves.

Friday, October 28, 2011

ONE Amongst Many

ONE Amongst Many

Being a member of the ONE Moms Advisory Council has presented me with opportunities that I know many moms only dream of, but through it all my ONE hope is that mom’s everywhere see their unique opportunity to make a difference and risk stepping outside of their comfort zone to be a voice for the most vulnerable.  If you re-visit my very first post I clearly state that I am not comfortable writing, but I would do it if it meant ending poverty.  Over this last year I have learned how to use social media to do good.  Knowing that a child is dying every 6 minutes in the Horn of Africa we need to use every possible resource we have to be their advocates.  I may only be ONE mom, but I am ONE amongst many.  If we can all talk, write, facebook, tweet, and share the facts this story will get heard.  We need to do what and ALL that we can.
Dr. Jill Biden attends a roundtable with USAID Administrator Raj Shah and National Security Council Senior Director Gayle Smith and a group of mom bloggers to discuss their recent trips to Kenya and ongoing work on global development, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, October 24, 2011.   (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

When I had the opportunity this week to meet with Dr. Jill Biden, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and Gayle Smith from the National Security Council I was there for ALL moms.  Hearing the depth of compassion and the sense of urgency as Dr. Biden shared her stories from her recent trip to the refugee camps in the Horn of Africa I wanted to soak it in so that I could carry her experience out with me.  When I was in Kenya I was able to see programs funded through USAID working.  Administrator Raj Shah is focused and determined to address this situation and see that our investments are saving lives, building communities, and creating stability.  As Gayle Smith from the National Security Council so clearly pointed out as she answered my question, when we provide individuals with food, shelter, and medicine we give them dignity which is important, especially in large ungoverned spaces.  People with dignity tend to “act right”.  As moms we all want our kids to live in a peaceful, stable world.

My hope is for the conversation not to be about ONE Moms going to the White House, but instead about the 13 million individuals who are starving, dying, or displaced in the Horn of Africa.  This number is 10 million more than the Haiti earthquakes and more than the population of Los Angeles and New York combined.  When we start to think that it is too big to tackle then we need to read the proof, our voice is making a difference and right now for those suffering from the worst drought in 60 years we need to make it loud!  Below I am standing with a dairy farmer who is now able to support herself, her family, and contribute to her community.  I am only ONE mom, but when I started talking people everywhere started listening and they will listen to you too, so start the conversation!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Africa Revisited

Africa Revisited

             I am not sure how, but it has been a month since I posted on my blog.  I always go back to the post I wrote the first of June titled, The World is Busy  I am notorious for saying, “after this weekend everything slows down”.  I am coming to the realization that life will continue to move forward and while I have three school age kids at three different schools life will move forward at an Indy car pace!     

     This last week though, my ONE Mom trip book came in the mail and I was jolted with emotion.  My trip to Africa and all of the feelings that came with it came flooding back.  Looking at the book and seeing me on the pages I think it finally became clear that I really was standing on the continent of Africa with these incredible women both from Kenya and America.  This experience has not been a dream and the opportunity that I have been given to make a difference in the world is right here in front of me.

            Looking back on my blog, there is so much that I have not shared yet; places we visited, friends I made, and stories I heard. I know that I need to write these down.  I absorb experiences.  I think they travel right down to my soul.  I find it extremely difficult to put them into words.  However, I want what I learned from Africa to be available for everyone, especially my kids!  So I am designating a day every week on my calendar to Africa.  I am pulling out our ONE Mom itinerary and revisiting each moment.  This trip has been transformational and by sharing the stories I hope to encourage others to have their eyes opened as mine have been.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What can ONE mom do?

What can ONE mom do?

If I am to be completely honest, I will admit that writing my blog post is agonizing.  Deciding on the title, the content, and the direction to take my blog is like trying to choose my flavor of ice cream at Boombalatti’s.  The process takes me forever!  I tell myself if I have my house clean, my laundry done, my desk caught up, and my part-time job found then I will be in a clear place and the words will flow. All of us moms know that we are never caught up and the truth is, I need to give myself permission to sit and really put my thoughts to paper.  This is not only for those who read the blog, but for my kids, and for me.

The statements: “I am just a mom”, and “What can ONE mom do?” resonate with me.  Since leaving my nursing career so many years ago to stay home with the kids, I have repeated these words too many times.  I feel I am neither a “working mom” nor a “stay-at-home mom”.  There was a time in my life when I was extremely career driven, but that desire left me when I became pregnant 14 years ago.  After my daughter was born I knew I wanted to be home with her however, I never felt compelled to be an “at home” mom either.  I do not care to cook, clean, sew, craft, or join the mom groups.  For years this frustrated me and left me wondering where I fit in the grand scheme of this “mom” discussion. 

Then last year as I embraced this volunteer position as ONE Congressional District Leader, I was starting to see what my role as a mom has been.  When I was invited to be on the ONE Mom’s Advisory Council my eyes were opened and I realized what ONE mom can do.  ONE mom can raise children with an awareness of the world through books, movies, museums and conversations.  ONE mom can create a world of compassion by encouraging her kids to donate, to give gratitude, and to love. ONE mom can find her voice and share it with others to inspire a whole world of moms to speak up, to unite, and to ultimately change the world!!

            Many moms following the ONE Moms ( have asked what they can do in their own communities.  I thought it might be helpful to read the monthly ONE Wilmington email that I send out.  Just think of the awareness we can create if more moms engaged their communities---together as ONE---moms can do so much!!

Happy Friday ONE Wilmington,

     September always feels like the start of a new year--I have a new calendar, the kids have a new school schedule, we start DREAMS, and I always start a new exercise routine!  This year in addition to these new beginnings I see a real engagement and interest in the issues facing women around the world.  I have been so humbled and honored to be part of the ONE Mom's Advisory Council and have the opportunity to raise awareness at this level.  I invite all of ONE Wilmington to be a part of this conversation.  You do not even have to leave your house to take action, just set your DVR and utilize your social media to give your voice for women everywhere!


*Monday, September 19 (8-9 am EST) the ONE Moms will be featured as part of Good Morning America's launch of The Million Moms Challenge. (details are at the bottom of this email!!!)

*Tuesday, September 20 @ 6:30 pm I will be speaking and sharing details from my recent Kenya trip at the UN Women and Coastal Carolina Chapter UNA-USA program "Women, War & Peace"  (This program will be an introduction to Women, War & Peace, a five-part PBS special, premieres Oct. 11, 2011. The series continues on Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. through Nov. 8.)  I will also attach a hard copy flier to this email for you to print, share,and pass on!!)


*Interview with fellow North Carolinian ONE Mom, Jennifer James, and myself on the UNC-TV program North Carolina Now-- we are at minute 17:30

*Article in Lumina News by Michelle Saxton:

*WILMA:  Pick up the September edition for a nice ONE Mom article in the front

*UNA-USA Fall 2011 newsletter:  attached to this email as a document

*October 1 @ 9 am will be our once/month ONE Coffee/Tea at Port City Java 2099 Market Street

*October 8 @ 7 pm will be the Una Luna Full Moon Saturday event--more details to come (possibly a documentary screening)

*ONE UNCW is off and running with our fantastic ONE campus leader, Kayleigh Maneval!!!

*For those interested in hunger and agriculture ONE is now taking applications for an incredible 6 week online Griot course--I strongly encourage checking out this opportunity:

*ONE High School Clubs are taking off at both Laney and Isaac Bear Early College--the interest was phenomenal!!  Be on the lookout for NHHS, Ashley, and Hoggard to follow suit.

     As always if you have any questions, comments, or ideas for ONE in NC-7 please send them my way.  This last year has truly proven that North Carolina cares about the world's poorest and is committed to giving their voice to make sure that we are doing all that we can to make poverty history.  This is a great community to be a part of.

Together as ONE,
ONE Congressional District Leader NC-7

ABC News is launching an historic, first of-its-kind campaign on Good Morning America on Monday, September 19th, called The Million Moms Challenge – and we want you to be a part of it.

The Challenge is a call-to-action to engage a million Americans with millions of moms overseas to raise awareness  about the challenges facing moms and babies in the developing world.  (Did you know, for example, that every 90 seconds a woman dies in childbirth?)

The Million Moms Challenge will be featured in weekly segments across ABC News (including Good Morning America, World News with Diane Sawyer, Nightline and 2020)… leading up to a Diane Sawyer primetime hour in December on maternal health.

So what do we want you to do?  It’s really easy:
1.          Show up at 7:30 a.m. Monday morning September 19th – outside ABC News’ Times Square Studio – on the southeast corner of 44th and Broadway.  You’ll be  finished by 9.    Feel free to wear T shirts from our partner organizations – or even printed with pics of your own mom.

2.       Hold up the index finger of your right hand, and  open your left palm, like this:

3.       Write or stamp the words “Million Moms” on the palm of your left hand . We have stickers…and self-inking stamps and markers – all with washable ink.  (Handwriting is nice, too.)

4.       Kids can write on their hands – even draw pictures of their moms!

5.       When the shot is live…Smile for the camera!

Bottom line: we’re asking folks to raise their hands for moms and babies around the world.  

Remember, you don’t have to be a mom to help a mom. You just have to be one in a million.

And if you can’t make it to Time Square, be sure to watch GMA on Monday (8-9 EST)…then  snap your own picture at home with the Million Moms symbol and send it ASAP to post it on your own Facebook page or blog.

Social media:  Tweet me:  I’m one in a million for healthy moms & babies around the world. Join the #MillionMomsChallenge with me!

Twitter and hashtag:    @amillionmoms;  #amillionmoms

Like on Facebook:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Building Bridges and The 26 Day Challenge

Building Bridges and the 26 Day Challenge

Imagine your teenager allowing the entire family to sleep in her room for the night, your twelve year old son eating on less than $2 for the day, your youngest using no electronics after sundown during summer break, and your husband going the day without his phone!  When returning from Kenya I wanted to do more than repeatedly remind my family to appreciate their home and meals, and to NOT waste water.  Learning about the 26 day challenge for Carolina for Kibera ( was a way for me to do just that and bring my experience in Kibera as a ONE Mom home to my family.

Only three days post trip we were signed up and ready to begin each day with ONE new challenge.  We had it in our heads, ‘piece of cake’, until the day we had to eat on less than $2/day or go with one meal.  That was when this experiment opened our minds, our hearts, and our wallets.  So, on day 25 we wrote our $26 check to The Full Belly Project ( a local non-profit whose mission is to design and distribute income-generating agricultural devices to improve life in developing countries. (You must read Rye Barcott’s book ( to understand why $26.)

Not only were we reminded of hunger during our 26 days, but we tried out life in small living quarters (the typical size for a family of 5 in Kibera is 10 feet x 10 feet), tolerated the noise pollution for a day (one of my toughest days!!!), washed our clothes by hand, used one bucket of water for all of us to bathe, did not throw anything in a trash can for a day, cooked everything on one burner, and shut down electronics.  Even if you do not do them all, I encourage everyone to try a few—it will open your eyes!!

In Kibera it is not only about going without.  What I was struck with while I visited was the sense of community. This is something that we often lack in our fast-paced, busy lives here in America.  Incorporated in the challenge were days of chai with friends, borrowing from a neighbor, playing soccer with a Kibera made soccer ball, and volunteering in our own community.  It is all part of building bridges, both here at home and across the globe!

In all honesty--there were periods during the challenge where one (or all) of us became irritable, and some dropped out of that day’s challenge, but I believe that is what made it effective.  It was those moments when we sat down, talked about why we were doing this and what actions we can take right now to make a difference in the world.  Going to and adding your name to the petition for the crisis happening in the horn of Africa, and signing up for the 26 day challenge at are things you can do right now.  Remembering that the families in Kibera face ALL of these challenges every single day and by participating for only 26 days and sharing it with others through conversation and social networking we can give a glimpse of a family's daily life in Kibera that hopefully will inspire others to join the conversation and take action!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We Have It In Us To Do Both

We Have It In Us To Do Both

          Processing my thoughts since my trip to Africa has not unfolded as I expected.  Simply sharing the stories of courage and strength of the women I met or the lives saved by the incredible work of US funded programs in collaboration with so many on less than 1% of the budget, does not seem to answer the questions I continue to receive.  I am finding that my take away from the trip is being shaped by my responses to “why Africa?”, “why now?”, and “why not help here in our own country?”

            Whether in a small town, large city, developed world, or undeveloped world, poverty is present in its own form.  We all know it is there and many are taking action to alleviate it.  Because I advocate on this large platform for Africa it is assumed that I do nothing for those here in my own country.  This interests me, because volunteering at the local level with our under-served youth, at our food bank, and in our schools is as important to me as my volunteer work with ONE.  In addition, I have not yet met a ONE member or a ONE Mom who was not also invested in work at the local level.  I like to say, “act locally, advocate globally”.  Knowing that 2/3 of the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25/day live in Sub-Sahara Africa leaves me no doubt that I am using my voice where it is needed.

            With the fragility that is being felt here in America and around the world, there is no better time than right now to take action.  For so many reasons, the work ONE is doing is important.  Opening our eyes to the crisis in the horn of Africa and learning the issues educates us and moves us to sign petitions.  Seeing firsthand the research being done in the areas of preventable disease and how it is saving lives today encourages letters to be written in support of GAVI, and knowing that investments in long-term agriculture solutions like Feed the Future will give Africa the tools needed to feed itself leaves me dancing for joy!  The possibilities and connections we have are endless.

            Tensions can be felt here at home and around the globe.  We need to look for some common ground.  ONE brings together all parties, all faiths, all socio-economic levels, and all ages for a greater cause.  Each group may participate for a different reason and that is perfectly acceptable.  For me this collaboration in itself is uplifting, inspiring, and healing.  So when asked these questions I simply respond because the world needs our voice of compassion here as well as Africa and I believe we have it in us to do both!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why Leaving Kenya Was So Difficult

Why Leaving Kenya Was So Difficult

            I am always ready to come home to the comforts of my home, especially if I am away from my husband and kids.  This weekend, though as we were preparing to leave Kenya I only longed to bring my family to me.  I had to ponder this and wonder what was creating such a strong yearning to stay there.  Then I remembered what one of our hotel attendants had shared that morning, “The ground in Africa is magic.  Once you step on it you will not want to leave”.

      So there you have it, I was under the spell of Africa.  It is not just the spell of Africa, but the spell of the ONE campaign and the ONE Moms as well.  I could see something much bigger happening than government funded programs at work.  I could see Africa “coming alive” and the rest of the world coming together from all walks of life to give their voice for the beautiful people that we were meeting.  What resonated with me was that the US Government funded programs were only the catalyst for change.  Once these communities were given the tools they needed to improve the lives and living conditions surrounding them, they were motivated and inspired to be involved and take action.  The community health counselors, village reporters, TB ambassadors, Kenyan entrepreneurs, Binti Pamoja graduates, and farmers spoke articulately and with confidence, goals for their communities.  They are all “living proof” that smart aid is working.  The momentum and motivation is there and we must continue to keep these programs viable and strong.  With one in 19 babies still dying before their first birthday the funding must continue.  The Nyanza Province of Kenya is the most densely populated area of HIV/AIDS in the country and is the center for research for not only HIV/AIDS, but Malaria, TB, and tropical diseases.  The possibilities to be found here will be world changing!

As a mom I want my kids to see individuals coming together from all walks of life for something greater.  I want them to hear the stories from the women at Amani Ya Juu who are from countries all over eastern Africa working to transcend ethnic and cultural differences, listen as I share how absolutely INCREDIBLE each of the ONE Mom participants are, and learn how the ONE campaign has shown the world that together as ONE we can DEFEAT extreme poverty.   This trip has been a life-changing gift that I will forever and always be grateful for.   As for my husband and kids-they are ready to feel the magic!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Peeling Potatoes With Grace

Peeling Potatoes With Grace

Imagine being a mom standing on a small farm in Elburgon, Nakuru County in the country of Kenya on the continent of Africa learning about Irish potatoes.  You are welcomed with celebration and surrounded by the most beautiful countryside.  There is so much to take in that at times it can be overwhelming.  Then the farmer begins to demonstrate how she peels her potatoes and you discover that she does it EXACTLY like you!  That is where I found myself today and I was invited to peel potatoes with Grace.

            Grace is a member of the Mastima Potato Growers Self Help Group started in Septermber 2010 with the aim of marketing Irish potatoes.  The Irish potato is the second most important food crop in Kenya and has the potential to yield over 80 tons per acre, which would dramatically increase food security, farm income, and nutrition.  Located far from markets and without the availability of planting materials (seeds) their ability to even feed their family can be difficult.  Programs like Feed the Future provide these farmers with the tools needed to feed themselves.  The Feed the Future initiative ran under USAID takes a holistic approach and incorporates in; agriculture research, access to finance, farm inputs, natural-resource management, market development, and advocacy for farmer-friendly policies.  It is important to know that these farmers have big aspirations.  During our welcoming presentation the committee chair was aware of the crisis happening in north-eastern Kenya and not only was the goal of their cooperative to feed their community, but they have in their long-term plan to feed their entire country!

            For the remaining tour of the farm I could not leave the side of Grace.  She glowed each time we discovered a new crop.  She showed me her bananas, maize, cabbage, and her favorite-potatoes!  She let me dig in the dirt with her and carry them back to storage.  We laughed, we hugged, and she asked when we could see each other again.  Programs like Feed the Future are giving hope to these farmers and must continue to be supported.  If I have learned anything this week it is that the world is a small place and that we can find our connection in something as simple as peeling a potato.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Strength of Community

The Strength of Community

            My volunteer title for ONE is Congressional District Leader, which makes me a community leader!  By taking on this role I found my confidence to speak up for the many issues I feel so passionately about.  I have found my talent and am now just learning to embrace it and inspire others to find their talent and do the same.  The power of community here in Kenya is unlike anything I have ever seen.  It has been present in the rural villages, among the Kenyan business women, and especially today among the residents of Kibera.  We were able to spend some time today at Carolina For Kibera (CFK), a Kenya based non-profit organization and an associated entity of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—so proud to have this incredible organization from my home state!!

     Kibera is one of the largest slums in Africa, measuring approximately 1 square mile (the size of grant park in NY), and home to estimates of 800,000 to 1 million people with 50% of those being under fifteen.  The typical size home for a family of 5 (that would be my family) is 10x10 feet.  Hearing those statistics you may expect that we would walk into the presumed picture of hopeless Kenyans in despair.  Well I am here to clear up that misunderstanding!  What I saw today were individuals invested in their community.  I was able to spend the afternoon with two of the young women leaders from The Binti Pamoja (Daughters United) Center, which is perfect considering I am the mom of a 14 year old daughter.  This center provides a physically and emotionally safe place for adolescent girls to explore the issues that are prevalent in their daily lives.  They have peer-led groups called “Safe Spaces” where the girls use photography, drama, writing and group discussion to confront the issues prevalent in their daily lives.  These leaders are trained, just as ONE trained me and now they are spreading their talents.  I love the CFK tagline, “talent is universal; opportunity is not”.  I believe that when we are seen as leaders then we become leaders.

            At my ONE events I like to suggest that we can act locally and advocate globally.  My second love besides ONE is a local non-profit, DREAMS Center for Arts Education; because I believe it does for my community just what CFK does for theirs.  They both exist to develop local leaders, catalyze positive change and are work to alleviate poverty in their respective communities.  Rye Barcott is the author of it happened on the way to war: a marine’s path to peace ( and the co-founder of Carolina For Kibera.  I was excited to meet him and his staff today and look forward to hosting a ONE event in Wilmington where we can show the power of community!!

Today our daily action ties in with our morning meeting with women entrepreneurs in Karen, Kenya who are leading in building their communities' economies and providing opportunities to others. Again, women being leaders!  Check out ONE's report "Africa's Future is Female" to learn more about how women are leading a revolution on the continent: Then, using hashtag #ONEMoms tell us (@ONECampaign) one thing that surprised you. Or leave a comment on our Facebook page (

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Together We Are Transformed

Pamoja Tunabadilishwa
“Together we are transformed”
I am finding it difficult to put this post into words.  Ask me to speak aloud how moved I was by what is happening at Amani Ya Juu ( and I can passionately share every detail, but ask me to come back and write it in words-my page remains blank. This may be because I felt something resonate with my personal journey, but it is also because I want every reader to come away knowing that peace is happening!

Amani Ya Juu is a sewing and training program for marginalized women based in East Africa.  These women come from Kenya, Sudan, Burundi, Liberia-Bassa, Congo, Somali, Rwanda, Uganda, and Ethiopia.  Think about standing in a circle of women representing all of these African countries, then think about the power they have to transform not just Africa, but the world.   Together they created the unity quilt (one corner of it is pictured above) to illustrate how reconciliation is celebrated traditionally by their people.  But, as you can guess they did not stop there!  Their children created a quilt with all of their handprints sewn together.  These children will grow up knowing nothing but love for each other.  Just as I have said before moms have the ability to multiply their advocacy. 
The work these women are doing goes far beyond making handbags, home d├ęcor, jewelry, women’s wear, and children’s items.  It is about transformation, for themselves, their children, and their continent.  They demonstrate without a doubt that “together we are transformed”.  This trip has placed me in a global circle of women.  I have learned clearly that we are all connected and that our voice, our compassion, and our action can CHANGE THE WORLD!!
Our ONE Mom action for the day is tied in with our morning visit meeting with teachers and students in one of Nairobi’s slum district.  Again, it was another reminder that we all want the same for our children.  This will have to be a post for another time, but for now you can watch our video "Chieftainess" about a remarkable woman who is teaching her community about the importance of education. Then share the video with your friends and leave a comment: 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village
            Imagine—land in Nairobi after 2 days of flying; arrive at hotel to an amazing buffet at the pool with our ONE travel team and ABC News producer and cameramen; venture to room for shower and sleep by 2 a.m.; up and back to airport at 6:50 a.m. for 1 hour flight to Kisumu; greeted by the AMAZING Kayla Laserson from the CDC right off of the plane; drive 1 hour through the villages of rural Kenya for an extremely moving experience with HIV/AIDS home based counselors; load the bus for a yummy lunch and drive to KEMRI/CDC Clinical Research Center (simply wow!); then back on the van to Kayla’s home for the honor of sharing a meal with Kenya’s women leaders (including Momma Sarah Obama!!!); finally arriving back at the hotel around 11:00 p.m. to check some email, post some facebook, and write a small blog.
            You would think after a day like that I would be a zombie, but that was not the case today!  I am not sure that words can describe the emotions felt by all of the ONE Moms when we pulled up at the Lwak Nutritional Center today greeted by a crowd of beautiful smiling, singing, and dancing women.  I could not hold back my emotion.  We all exited the bus and joined in their celebration with song, dance, and lots of cheek greetings.  Whatever feeling of fatigue I was feeling was replaced instantly with joy and energy.  I am still singing their words in my head which translated to “the visitors are here…the visitors are here”.  Following our welcome they performed a song and then spoke words of such gratitude to US for providing a program that has given them the training needed to take on leadership roles in their community.  They are called Village Reporters and they support the implementation of Kemri/CDC projects and studies.  These VR’s are currently making home visits to women at varying stages of their pregnancy.  In order for these vital government programs to be funded it is essential that data be collected and results be monitored.  These women have embraced this leadership role.  All morning I kept reflecting on my experience becoming a leader for ONE.  I could see my own “coming alive” in them!
            The women community leaders are not just located in the Lwak area.  We also visited the women of the Dunga beach fishing community who are leaders in the conversation of HIV/AIDS in the fishing community.  This group had all lost a family member to HIV/AIDS.  They shared their personal stories and thanked the US supported programs that are providing members of their community with the medications needed to stay alive and healthy. 

Surprisingly it did not stop there.  We then were taken back to Kisumu where we met the Volunteer Tuberculosis Ambassadors.  This was “living proof” that funding for these programs is saving lives and building better, stronger, and healthier communities.  Tuberculosis accounts for 200 deaths per hour and the treatment is a strict regimen of daily medication for 6 months!  These volunteers are all former TB patients and now are assigned to someone in the community to visit every day for 6 months to ensure they are taking their medications.  The patient we met is now healthy and preparing to become a TB Ambassador herself.  She is going to “pay it forward”.  We were taken to a celebration of former TB patients who were bed ridden (a whole tent full!) and were given the gift of a broom to “sweep” TB out of their community and off of this planet!
            Are you inspired yet to take action?  I hope so!!  We say that “it takes a village”.  After what I witnessed today  I say, “it takes a mom”!