By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Staff Writer
I couldn’t stop looking at her: the regal profile, the swanlike neck, the strong, elegant shoulders. She looked like a dancer. She looked like Nefertiti, out of place amid the trash heaps and makeshift shacks of the Haitian slum where we met.
It was 1983, and I was a teenager on a summer mission trip. That day, we had walked through the fringes of Cap-Haitien to attend an open-air church service. After three weeks in Haiti, I thought I’d seen serious poverty. The uphill hike through the slum showed me different.
She was a congregation member, one of several young mothers not much older than the coltish adolescent girls who chased each other, laughing and barefoot, over the dirt paths strewn with bits of plastic, metal and glinting glass. Her baby cooed in her arms, his tiny hands opening and closing like starfish. She saw me looking and raised her eyebrows, her body language asking, Want to hold him?
I accepted his warm weight, and he and I enjoyed a little conversation of nonsense and smiles until my group stood to leave and it was time for me to hand him back.
She held up her hand and looked away: No. Keep him. Take him with you.
It took me a moment to fully grasp her meaning. Three decades later, I still don’t want to.
Three decades later, I am a mother, too. And I still think about that young woman. I call her Queen.
I also think about another girl in that mission group — let’s call her Maria — who also had my attention that day. In fact, she had everyone’s attention, because her tender soul was so moved by the poverty she saw that she cried prettily all the way down the hill.
This enraged me. I didn’t know why.
All these years later, though, I think I understand. Part of it was my wanting to feel as “deeply” as Maria clearly did. Plus, my anger wasn’t satisfying, which made me angrier.
Even more annoying was that Maria was getting all kinds of strokes for leaking all her feelings all over the place. But what good did they do? What was the point?
Not that my anger did any good, either. But it did plant a seed.
Queen has come to mind now and again over the years, especially after I had my own babies, when her image would pierce the idyllic, milky haze of (suburban, privileged) new motherhood at odd times. Eventually, I became aware that what had felt so wrong on that day was the friction between Maria’s pretty tears and that young mother’s quiet, tired dignity.
Queen deserved better.
The mothers I’ve met in my travels for ChildFund deserve better: the mother who got married at 13, got pregnant at 14, lost that baby and had another soon after. The widowed mother trying to keep her own AIDS in check at least until she can get her daughter through school. The mother who weeps over her husband’s beatings, and then over beating her little boy when she reaches her wits’ end. The young women who keep their pregnancies secret for fear that evil spirits will attack. The mothers who lose children to the evil spirits of malnutrition, infection, conflict.
The mothers who are working to heal — themselves, their children. The mothers who are reaching out for support, who are learning, who are fighting their way past their own fears to take hold of their own power and help their own children beat the odds.
“She’s so full of love!” my group leaders exclaimed about Maria. “So compassionate!”
What I understand now is that true love means knowing, and knowing that you don’t know. And compassion? Compassion wants action. Compassion needs legs.
I’ve got to hand it to Maria, who, after all, did spend that summer sweating on that orphanage construction project, just like I did. And she probably grew up, just like I did.
Just like I hope Queen did. Like I hope her little boy did.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
Have you heard the saying “When Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”? The words are glib, but the sentiment behind them is right on target. A mother’s health and well-being have a huge impact on the future of her children and her community, both positively and negatively.
Consider a few statistics:
This month, as we approach Mother’s Day, ChildFund is considering the “Mama Effect” — how mothers’ lives influence their children’s lives, both now and in the future. We are working in 30 countries worldwide to provide children and mothers with the tools they need to live healthy, independent and empowered lives. Find out how you can give a mother a helping hand. Your gesture can make a difference to a whole family, a community and even the world.
By Sumudu Perera, ChildFund Sri Lanka
We asked community members in our ChildFund program areas as well as staff in the Sri Lanka office to share bits of advice that their mothers gave them when they were children – advice that they still value and want to pass on to their own children. Here’s a sampling of what they shared. Happy Mother’s Day!
Community Members Share Wisdom From Their Mothers
“Not every bad thing that happens to you is bad. Sometimes they happen for good.” – Rathnamalala
“Even the god worships good people.”– Deepangani
“A person who walks on others’ footprints never sees his own footprint.” – Airangani
ChildFund Sri Lanka Staff Recall Their Mothers’ Advice
“Listen to your elders. They have plenty of experience in life.” – Kaushalya
“Try to manage within whatever you have.” – Dilrukshi
“Don’t try to change others; change yourself.”
“Be a blessing to others.”
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund staff writer
Having children is hard work, no matter where you live and what kind of assistance you have available. But think of a mother living in a developing country. She may not be able to give birth in a hospital, and she may lack the proper nutrition that both she and her baby need to survive. As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, here are some ways to show your appreciation for mothers who are striving to raise children in difficult circumstances. You even can give a gift in your own mother’s name if you’d like.
The Mama Kit, available through ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog, has supplies for a pregnant woman in Uganda to use during and after delivery, and qualified health professionals provide education for women to ensure safe birthing experiences. This is important because Uganda has a high infant mortality rate of 64 deaths for every 1,000 live births (2012), according to the CIA World Fact Book. For $35, an expectant woman and her baby have a better chance to survive.
Another item in the catalog is medicine for children and mothers in Liberia, protecting them from parasites, malaria and low hemoglobin levels. For $50, you can help stock ChildFund-supported clinics, which are run by trained community health volunteers. Health posts bring vital medication and education to communities that would otherwise go without.
The catalog features other gifts that make for great Mother’s Day presents. Mothers in Vietnam will benefit greatly from a small micro-loan of $137, which will allow them to start their own agricultural businesses. The income they earn provides food, clothing and educational opportunities for their children. In Honduras you can buy books for first-grade classrooms for only $9. When children learn how to read, the whole family benefits.
Mothers around the world want the best for their children. This Mother’s Day, consider helping a mom.
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
A big thank-you to everyone who responded last week. We read some great tweets! It was not an easy job for our ChildFund panel to choose the five finalists.
Congrats to the Finalists
Today, Phase 2 of the tweet-off begins — voting for your favorite finalist by retweeting.
1) Follow ChildFund on Twitter.
2) Watch for the release of the Twitter finalists at 8 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. on May 4 and May 5.
3) Retweet your favorite message as often you like until 4:59 p.m. (ET) on Friday, May 5. The #ChildFundMom hashtag must be included.
4) The tweet that receives the most retweets will be declared the winner. (Hint for finalists: Ask your friends to follow ChildFund on Twitter and retweet your tweet.)
We will announce the winner of the popular vote on May 9, just after Mother’s Day. The prize: a $50 shopping spree in our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog — with the winner choosing gifts to be delivered to the field in his or her honor. Plus, the winner will receive some neat ChildFund gear.
So, start retweeting!
We at ChildFund couldn’t do our work without mothers. We are humbled by their strength and love for their families. This message is to honor them on Mother’s Day, coming up this Sunday. We love you, Mom!
by Lee Steinour, ChildFund Communications Coordinator
To celebrate Mother’s Day, ChildFund is rallying its Twitter followers to compose their best tweets describing why children matter to mothers around the world.
From April 26-29, ChildFund’s Twitter followers are asked to “tweet out” about children and mothers. The individual who posts the most inspiring tweet (as determined by popular vote) wins a $50 shopping spree in our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog — choosing gifts to be delivered to the field in his or her honor. Plus, the winner will receive some neat ChildFund gear.
How to Enter
1) Follow ChildFund on Twitter.
(All tweeters must be followers of ChildFund so that we can communicate by direct message with finalists and the winner.)
2) Compose a tweet celebrating Mother’s Day and children. Each tweet must include the hashtag #ChildFundMom.
3) Tweet as often as you like between April 26-29, but each tweet must be original.
Think about the generations of mothers who have helped raise children who have grown up to make our world a better place. Reflect on your own children and the special place they hold in your heart. Think about the children you sponsor and the vital role of the child’s mother — from birth to childhood and through the teen years. Tweet about it!
Sample Tweets to Get You Started
Start Tweeting Today
The four-day tweet-off runs until 11:59 (ET) Friday, April 29. Then, we’ll gather all of the tweets, and ask a panel of ChildFund judges to select the five most inspirational messages.
On May 4, we’ll announce the top five tweets on Twitter and Facebook and launch a two-day voting period by ChildFund Twitter followers.
To vote, simply retweet your favorite message as often you like until 5 p.m. (ET) on May 5. The tweet that receives the most retweets will be the winner. (Hint for finalists: Ask you friends to follow ChildFund and retweet your tweet.)
We will announce the winner of the popular vote on May 9, just after Mother’s Day.
All the Rules in One Easy List