Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
Asking me where I am from is never going to get you a short answer. I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa where I had the most idyllic of childhoods. South Africa is a magical place with a breathtaking natural landscape to rival anywhere in the world. It’s also a place full of the most vibrant, colourful people who will welcome visitors with a wide grin and open arms.
It was there that I learnt about tolerance, diversity and how to love fellow members of the human race. Nelson Mandela called South Africans the Rainbow Nation and the world thinks this is because of the country’s diversity of race. For me, it goes deeper – this Rainbow Nation refers to a culture of people with vibrantly coloured hearts.
As you can imagine, it was with great sadness that I left South Africa in my twenties and migrated to Western Australia. In the fifteen years that I’ve lived here, I have learned that Australia is not terribly different from South Africa. Here, too, you will be welcomed with a grin, a cold beer and the notion that “it’ll be right, mate!”
I count myself as one who is truly blessed to have lived two lives in such beautiful places. So here I am, Michelle Lewsen, a South African Australian. Pleased to meet you!
What language(s) do you speak?
Amazingly, even though I was raised and schooled in a country that has eleven official languages, I speak only English with any fluency. I can speak a little Zulu, a little Sotho and a little Afrikaans but not enough – it’s one of my regrets.
When did you first become a mother?
I became a mother eleven years ago and have three children who fascinate me daily with their individual idiosyncrasies, their wit and the fact that these beautiful little human beings somehow are mine.
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
I am beyond fortunate to be able to be a stay at home Mum, which works perfectly with my writing.
Why do you blog/write?
Conversely, my writing is what keeps me from going stir-crazy at home! Nobody tells you just how lonely a house full of children can feel and I am so grateful for the amazing people I’ve met through blogging and writing – people who began as Twitter handles and Facebook statuses and have become some of my dearest friends.
My writing is not only for my own sanity, but because I believe I have something to offer the world. I find it incredibly rewarding to wake up in the morning and read comments on my blog that say I’ve helped someone else through their tough day. I write because I can’t not write. Simple as that.
How would you say that you are different from other mothers?
I am a Mum, just like every other Mum out there. We all love our children, we all scream and lose the plot sometimes, we all struggle through the laughter and tears and tantrums and achievements and disappointments and fears and joys. I am no different.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
This world we are raising our kids in is a scarier place, for sure. The internet brings new friends but it also carries the risk of inviting some not-so-nice people into our children’s lives. The internet is the single greatest gift our generation has given our children’s generation and it is also the greatest curse. My biggest fear as a mother, absolutely, is the idea of my children being hurt. But then, I’m no different from you, am I?
How did you find World Moms Blog?
How did I find World Moms Blog? In July 2013, I was honoured as a Voice of the Year at BlogHer ’13 and I traveled to Chicago for the conference. In a pre-conference session, Jennifer Burden stood up and introduced herself and World Moms Blog and asked a question. She was so eloquent
and so interesting, I had to hunt her down and introduce myself. World Moms Blog fascinated me because of this belief I have that no matter where we are from, a Mum is a Mom is a Mama is an Imma is a Mother. We are all the same.
Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this incredibly talented community of writers. I am honoured and look forward to getting to know you all.
This week I joined a group of World Moms Blog contributors who have been trying to live on $1.50 a day for 1 day. One day, turned into the full 5 day challenge for me, and today, Day 5, wasn’t what I expected:
Look out for our collaborative World Moms Blog post on the Live Below the Line Challenge with the Global Poverty Project coming soon…
Click to find out how to donate to UNICEF on behalf of Live Below the Line. Every dollar counts.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by founder, Jennifer Burden, of NJ, USA.
“Hey bro, vipi? How much for these shoes?” I ask the second-hand market vendor.
“Ah! Those, for you, those are $30 U.S.dollars,” he responds with a tone indicating that he’s giving me a deal. He didn’t know I was Tanzanian, maybe because I hadn’t yet spoken more than a few words in Kiswahili. Words that any foreigner who cared to find out would have known.
“$30?! I can get a new pair of shoes in the U.S. for that amount!” I say in return, flabbergasted by the price this man just gave me.
After a few minutes of haggling, going back and forth about the quality of the shoes, and his realization of my nationality, we do not close the sale of these shoes, but commence having a very important conversation about the poverty of Africa.
I will call this man Peter, as I do not recall his name.
As I talked down the price of the shoes, Peter said things like, “You people have money!” and “Come on, you can pay this amount easily.”
When Peter and I started talking (immediately after I decided not to purchase the shoes), I asked him his reasons behind hiking prices up so high for foreigners. He simply said, “Because we are poor here in Tanzania, and in Africa, so I have to try to earn money some way, and you guests have the money.” (more…)
A few months ago, the Live Below the Line of Poverty Challenge contacted World Moms Blog to ask if any of our contributors would like to take their challenge — 5 days of living on $1.50 per day.
According to the World Bank, there are over 1.2 billion people living below the line of extreme poverty in the world, which is defined as living on below $1.25 per day. The Global Poverty Project is challenging everyone to live on $1.50 per day to advocate for the world’s poorest. They state,
“We run Live Below the Line because we believe to really fight poverty, we’ve got to better understand it.”
Well, I had no idea what I was getting into. When the request came around cheerleaded by World Moms Blog Senior Editor, Elizabeth Atalay of Documama, I joined in because some of our contributors REALLY wanted to do this. I remember my friend, Holly Pavlika of MOMentum Nation, completing the challenge several years ago before she left for Tanzania with Shot@Life. We were at a lunch for a Shot@Life Champion event in NYC, and she declined her lunch and chose to eat 2 boiled eggs instead. I, on the other hand, chose the salmon and asked if I could sneak her some. She explained that she wasn’t allowed to take hand outs on the challenge. I was intrigued…
So when the request to live on $1.50 a day came around, I said, “I’ll do it, but just for one day, not five.” Well, here I am on Day 3…
World Moms Blog Editor, Hannah Ashton, suggested that we pool our resources, my $7.50 for 5 days and her $7.50 for 5 days. The plan was that amount would buy enough food for 5 days, and then for the one day of our challenge we would eat a fifth of the food.
My rations included 1 bag of beans, 2 cups of white rice, 2 cups of flour, 1 small bag of carrots, 3 bananas, 5 packs of instant oatmeal with dried apples and cinnamon, 1 jar of tomato sauce, some green tea bags and two onions. We had 12 cents left over each, so we justified a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of oil from our kitchens.
I’ve been sharing my experience on my personal Facebook Page, and I’m going to show you what happened:
Live Below the Line Day 1
I had two portions of the beans and onions over rice, thinking that I could “anchor” my stomach by filling it. That evening, I had tea and a banana for dinner. But, I was so hungry when I went to bed.
Live Below the Line Day 2
The next morning I woke up, and realized that there is actually a lot of things I do for my kids in the morning, including making their breakfast, before I had mine. I was feeling really hungry while running around and getting the laundry started. When I finally made my way to the kitchen, I realized that my oldest daughter had eaten one of my banana rations. I stopped short.
“Noooooooo!!”, I thought.
But, that’s the point where the transformation began for me. It wasn’t just about feeling hungry, I began to think differently.
“So, this is how it feels for a mom living in poverty?” Her child is hungry, and so is she. I left the banana out within reach, so there was no time to cut and share it.
Next, I made my instant oats with boiled water. My children both wanted to try it. At home, they are used to oatmeal that we mix with flax-seed and a little mini chocolate chips to sweeten the deal with some milk. (For me on the challenge, the flax-seed, chocolate chips and milk were too luxurious today.) So, they were curious. I shared, although my stomach was growling, and since they weren’t doing the challenge, I thought I could direct them to their lovely 5 grain bread and melon. But, I thought, “Ok, keep it real. What would a mother in this situation have to do?” I let them try the oatmeal. They didn’t like it. Relief. I gobbled it up.
Ok, so I was joking. I really didn’t want to punch Steve, but you know what I mean! He actually wanted to join the challenge at the last-minute, but I told him that I only had rations for one. Maybe the idea was in my head that this could continue? In the meantime, I had to deal with him eating gourmet pizza, while I was chomping on beans.
So, at this point, I thought, “I’ll do it up through dinner. I’m hosting book club tonight, and there’s noooo way, I will be able to get through not snacking with my friends. Book Club is more like “Eat Club”. I was pretty sure that’s where my journey ended. Hey, that’s nearly a full day past what I said I’d do, right? But, I guess something in me didn’t want to stop, so I put the request out, “Do you think I should continue?”
One of my friends suggested that she thought I could do it, but why would I want to?? Her question was a pivotal part in my journey. The challenge was taking a new role. I spent the morning reflecting:
“I’m understanding in more detail things I have already learned, such as how during a trip to Uganda with the Shot@Life campaign, we learned that if a father bought a soft drink, that expense meant the family may go hungry. Last night I was just annoyed that my husband mentioned food. How would I have reacted if I was a mother in the situation with the soft drink in places in Uganda?? I’m understanding by feeling instead of just reading and seeing. The places this experience is taking my mind and my senses is what is keeping me going to want to learn more. I may never know what it’s like to live in extreme poverty, but this challenge is reminding me on another level of why eradicating extreme poverty should be a human priority.
Right now, it’s getting through it and feeling everything, then it will be, “What can I do about it?”.
Live Below the Line Day 3…
So, last night, I made it through Book Club. I had beans with onions and tomato sauce over rice for lunch and dinner. I was too hungry to snap a picture beforehand. I had my dinner later in the day, so I wasn’t hungry in the evening when all of the food was out. My friends were really supportive, nobody held me down and pushed guacamole down my mouth. They had a lot of questions, too.
It wasn’t until my friends left that I began to feel the hunger pangs. I quickly put everything away and left the dishes for the morning. I went to bed last night thinking, “How do people who make very little money in food service get through their day among all the food?”
The ability to understand advocacy on another level — feeling — is what has brought me to day 3 of what was supposed to be only a 1 day project.
I plan to continue to Friday for the full 5 day challenge, and also look out for an article about all the World Moms Blog contributors who are taking the challenge with Deborah Quinn from MannaHattaMamma in the UAE; Hannah Ashton, Elizabeth Atalay of Documama, and Polish Mom Photographer in the USA; Alison Fraser of Mom2Mom Africa in Canada; and Purnima Ramakrishnan of The Alchemist’s Blog in India. I’m curious to hear how the challenge went for them!
World Moms Blog wasn’t expecting to fundraise for the challenge, but after requests from friends on Facebook, we have created a World Moms Blog donation page on the Live Below the Line site. Donations made to our page there will benefit UNICEF, an organization whose great work I observed in Uganda with the Shot@Life campaign.
Want to have an in-body experience to help the world’s 1.2 billion living below the poverty line? How about joining the Live Below the Line challenge, too? Plan now to start between April 28th and May 2nd. There are site challenges in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Colombia.
You can help the World Moms Blog contributors with their challenge. Share this post to help us spread the word about our Live Below the Line challenge!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by founder, Jennifer Burden in NJ, USA.
Meet World Moms Blog Contributor Kristine Brite McCormick, and learn how Cora’s Story is helping to help save lives.
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there? I was born and raised in Indiana, USA. I am originally from a small rural Indiana town, went to college at Indiana University- Bloomington and settled in Indianapolis, Indiana.
What language(s) do you speak? I speak English as a native speaker. I took German in high school and college, and could probably get by if dropped into the middle of Germany, but would have a hard time. I also took French in high school, but am not anywhere near fluent.
When did you first become a mother?
Kristine And Cora McCormick
I became a mother on Easter Sunday, 2009 when I saw the positive pregnancy test. That test and little baby growing in my belly ended up being my first and only child, Cora. She was born November 2009, and died five days later of an undetected congenital heart defect.
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work? I work at home. I work for an outside company doing things like data entry and customer support. I also write for several blogs and occasionally people even pay me to do that.
Why do you blog/write? I’m one of those people born with a writer’s genes. I remember when I was around 8 or 9 years old staying up with a goal of writing a certain amount of stories before the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, while most children my age were running around throwing confetti, I was writing away. I write now because it is part of whom I am. My writing on advocacy issues and making the world a better place, all strive from my desire to remember and honor my daughter. I’m deeply interested in writing about child health, especially newborn health around the world.
How would you say that you are different from other mothers? I’m a childless mother, because my child is not here. I feel like a mother, but I have no child here with me. I mother her quite differently. I help pass laws in her name to save other babies. I share her story. I spill tears over missing her, and not tears over her being frustrating.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world? With my experience, I dove into reading about children around the world. For me, the biggest challenge is keeping a child alive and healthy. While here in the United States, many of my fellow mothers don’t have to really worry about that, I can relate to moms in other countries, where getting enough food to keep their child alive is a daily struggle. Of course, I don’t write that to take away from their struggle or pretend to know what it feels like. However, I know what it feels like when your child dies something that might have been prevented.
How did you find World Moms Blog? I’ve known about World Moms Blog since I’ve entered the advocacy world because of all of the amazing work the writers here do in sharing their stories and the stories of moms and children around the globe. I don’t remember the day I found you, but am sure glad I did.
We sure are glad you did too!
This interview of Kristine Brite McCormick of www.Corasstory.com is an original post written for World Moms Blog.