NEW JERSEY, USA: Interview with Sarah Hughes

NEW JERSEY, USA: Interview with Sarah Hughes


Sarah Hughes has been helping out behind the scenes at World Moms Blog. Read her interview to learn more about our newest contributor in North America! (more…)

Sarah Hughes

Sarah grew up in New York and now calls New Jersey home. A mother of two, Derek (5) and Hayley (2), Sarah spends her days working at a University and nights playing with her children. In her “free” time Sarah is a Shot@Life Champion and a volunteer walk coordinator for the Preeclampsia Foundation. Sarah enjoys reading, knitting, sewing, shopping and coffee. Visit Sarah at her own blog Finnegan and The Hughes, where she writes about parenting, kid friendly adventures and Social Good issues. Sarah is also an editor, here, at World Moms Blog!

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LAOS:  The Staggering Stunting of Children Under Five

LAOS: The Staggering Stunting of Children Under Five

laos kidsWhile I still have the opportunity to write another post for the WMB community before leaving Laos later this year, I feel compelled to tell you about child nutrition and the problem of stunting in Laos because stunting is a seemingly invisible problem that can go unnoticed unless special attention is drawn to highlight the issue.
Ethnically, most Southeast Asian people are shorter and have a smaller frames than most other races throughout the world. This fact makes it easy to say that Lao babies and children tend to be small or smaller because of their race.

Yet at first glance Lao children appear to be healthy (and super cute), a closer look and personal interaction will almost always reveal that the children are a few years older than what you had first assumed. I recently met an adorable girl in a northern village at a school where I delivered books by boat since there is no road access to her village. Upon speaking with her (in Lao) I was impressed by how well behaved, articulate and “mature” she was for what I assumed to be a 6-year old. (I have two 4-year old twins so I was instantly optimistic about their potential in just two short years to be as well behaved as this girl.) She turned out to be 10-years old. This has happened time and time again to me, to my colleagues, and to many newcomers to Laos.

Lao children are among the most undernourished in Southeast Asia with 44% stunting of children under 5-years old. It is the single largest contributor to infant and child mortality in the country with 59% of all child deaths related to nutritional deficiencies. Chronic malnutrition predisposes children to higher morbidity and mortality, lower educational attainment, and reduced workforce productivity.

For a country experiencing rapid economic growth and increasing income disparities, fierce external human resource competition puts the country at risk of leaving a majority of the Lao population behind others who will be more able to keep apace. Stunting is a problem that needs be addressed for the immediate wellbeing of Lao children and to be resolved for the future potential of the Lao people.

The Lao government is working closely with experts and development partners on how to tackle this important issue. It is not easy. Poor breast-feeding and weaning practices are widespread. Almost all mothers give food supplements (such as chewed glutinous rice), and pure water, to infants within a few weeks of birth. Harmful practices (such as discarding colostrum) and other food taboos for pregnant women reduce disease resistance for newborns and increase fetal undernutrition. Micronutrient deficiencies, inadequate intake of vitamin A, anemia and iodine deficiency, all further hinder child development.

The current health system is not only faced with challenges of delivering micronutrients, immunizations and necessary vitamins to the most vulnerable population, but they are additionally burdened by the daunting task of changing people’s behaviors to improve dietary habits, increase nutritional intake, and overcoming cultural belief and religious belief obstacles to improved nutrition status among rural and multi-ethnic communities. The task is daunting.

What is being done and what needs to be done?

There are some great organization here making slow but successful strides on a small-scale basis. UNICEF, WFP, IFAD, Save the Children, the Scale Up Nutrition initiative and others who are collaborating closely with government health officials, but resources are scarce, especially in an often overlooked country like Laos.

  1. We can channel financial support to these organizations for their work on nutrition in Laos.
  2. We can lobby our governments to increase foreign assistance resources to address the poor state of healthcare in Laos (e.g., Laos is not one of the United States’ ‘priority countries’ receiving Global Health Initiative (GHI) funding. Ask U.S. representatives, Why not?)
  3. We can voice our concern to private and public interests who are taking advantage of opportunities in Laos to improve their social welfare practices by investing in better healthcare in communities where they pursue their business interests.
  4. We can ask the question to anyone willing to listen about who should be accountable to improving the welfare of children beginning their lives under such great odds in Laos.

Hopefully someday, someone will listen and take action.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow in Vientiane, Laos. You can always find her writing on her blog, Wanderlustress.

Photo credit attributed to the author.

Dee Harlow (Laos)

One of Dee’s earliest memories was flying on a trans-Pacific flight from her birthplace in Bangkok, Thailand, to the United States when she was six years old. Ever since then, it has always felt natural for her to criss-cross the globe. So after growing up in the northeast of the US, her life, her work and her curiosity have taken her to over 32 countries. And it was in the 30th country while serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan that she met her husband. Together they embarked on a career in international humanitarian aid working in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the tsunami torn coast of Aceh, Indonesia. Dee is now a full-time mother of three-year old twins and continues to criss-cross the globe every two years with her husband who is in the US Foreign Service. They currently live in Vientiane, Laos, and are loving it! You can read about their adventures at Wanderlustress.

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TANZANIA: What Does “HOME” Even Mean

TANZANIA: What Does “HOME” Even Mean

home is welcoming

I was recently asked to be a part of the upcoming UNHCR World Refugee Day in my country. I was asked to put literally myself in the shoes of those individuals who have been forced out of their homes and countries, due primarily to conflicts. I was then invited to contribute my thoughts and feelings through a document that would be shared at a gathering on World Refugee Day.

As a mother, I feel that our primal instinct is to protect and nurture, but protection and nurturing that is coupled with nesting. To many of us, a nest may initially bring a picture of “a little bird and a couple of eggs” to mind but in my opinion, a nest brings to mind home. It means having a center, a base, headquarters, in short somewhere to come back to.

That got me thinking. What does this four-letter word, HOME, really mean? To some, not much, because for them it’s something easily taken for granted. To others, it’s a base. A place where you shower, change, nap and get back out there.  But, for a lot of people, it’s a residence, it’s family, it’s dignity, it’s freedom. Most importantly, it’s where the heart is. I probably can’t even count the amount of times that I’ve walked in and out of my home, the amount of time I’ve spent time in my home just hiding away from the world in a safe and comforting haven. A lot of those times, I have not really sat and looked around to soak it in and really see what it all means, and certainly not for me, but for my family, until now.

The thought of the loss of this base, this center, a center that helps us be centered, truly breaks my heart. So here I am, thinking about the 5 million people in Tanzania who are currently refugees without ‘A Home’. My heart breaks to think about what that means for the 48% of refugees who are children. I am empathizing with them but also in awe of them all. In awe of their strength. In awe of their resilience.

I wish for a day when every person in this world will have a physical home to house the home each of us carries with us in our hearts.

What does home mean for you?

This is an original post by Nancy Sumari from Tanzania. You can find more of her writing at Mama Zuri.

Photo Credit to Susie Newday.

WASHINGTON, USA: Settled, Just in Time to Feel Unsettled All Over Again

WASHINGTON, USA: Settled, Just in Time to Feel Unsettled All Over Again

Photo uploaded from PotoBucket  from Jawandapuck

Hello from Washington State!

I can hardly believe it’s already been three months since we arrived from Korea. We just unpacked our last boxes of books last week and are finally feeling a bit settled. The transition took much longer coming back than it did going.

Neither my spouse nor I was prepared for the culture shock we would experience returning to the country of our birth. Parenting in the States is a whole other ball game, and we are still getting our bearings.

We also underestimated how difficult it would be for our son, who had only been here once when he was 7 months old.  Despite our best intentions and what we thought was good preparation, it was a hard landing for all of us.

Thankfully, things are starting to change and we’re all feeling comfortable and content and present. It’s been three months of feeling in between two places, with daily (and sometimes hourly) utterly heartbreaking questions from our little one about when we will be returning home to Seoul. And of course, now that we’re all settled, our baby is due to arrive any day, throwing all of our new comfortable routines out the window. Such is life, right? Constant change with all of us just trying to keep up with as much dignity and grace as we can muster.

I find myself filled with unanswerable questions about how life will be with a new baby. Will I have enough time with my firstborn? Will our relationship change? Will I ever have time for myself or my spouse or our relationship? Will my body recover? What will it feel like to be the mother of two? Am I ever going to find my parenting tribe here? And on and on and on.

If I’ve learned anything from the times I’ve lived abroad it’s that unknowns eventually become known and in the meantime, you just make it work. Life will be what it will be.

My husband’s paternity leave has already begun so this morning we all walked down to the Farmer’s Market. It’s one of those perfect Pacific Northwest days with sun and breeze and Mt. Rainier looming. As we drank our hibiscus tea and nibbled on some vegan tamales, all the while surrounded by the heady fragrance of freshly cut bouquets of lilacs, I felt completely at peace, perhaps since the first time since we’ve stepped off the plane.

You know what that means, right? Come on baby. We’re ready.

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Ms. V. who we are happy to announce at the time of this posting has given birth to her families’ new addition. Both baby and mom are doing great! 

Do you sometimes feel like as soon as you become settled in a routine in life, something inevitable changes creating a new variable?

*Photo uploaded from PotoBucket from Jawandapuck

Ms. V. (South Korea)

Ms. V returned from a 3-year stint in Seoul, South Korea and is now living in the US in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, their two kids, three ferocious felines, and a dog named Avon Barksdale. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast, but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home.” Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50 states. Ms. V is contemplative and sacred activist, exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism and social change. She is the co-director and co-founder of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a non-profit yoga studio and the spiritual director for Hab Community. While not marveling at her beautiful children, she enjoys reading, cooking, and has dreams of one day sleeping again.

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goalsLong term goals versus short term goals.

(You have probably scrolled up and down to see if you’re at the right place. Yes you are. Continue to read.)

Short term goals are goals that you want to achieve instantaneously. There is immediate result and you benefit directly.

Long term goals are goals that you want to achieve in the future.
It will take you a while to achieve these goals and you have to be patient and persistent to achieve your goal.

Bear with me now…This is going to make sense, I promise.

Example. You are hungry.
Short term goal: I want to eat something.
Long term goal: I want to maintain my gorgeous figure. (ahem…Just go with me on this one…)

If you focus on your short term goal, anything will do: a snickers bar, ice cream, donuts, anything.
But if you bring in the long term goal, you will need to think about how you are going to achieve your long term goal, while keeping in mind your short term goal.

In other words:
how am I going to still my hunger without ruining my fantastic figure.

Got it? Simple, right?

So, why am I talking about goals?
Because they relate to parenting.

Parenting is a job where you constantly have to remember that it is about the long term goals.
But the present is so in our face, that sometimes we forget and go with the short term goals and eventually pay the price.

Example: You’re in the supermarket with your child.
Your child is tired cranky, difficult.
But you have to do this.
We all know that this is a scenario for a possible disaster.
And we all know how easy it is, to give the child some candy or a cookie and get the job done.
(I’ve done it, you’ve done it, I’m guessing we all have.)

But what is the long term goal here?
You want to be able to do your groceries in peace and quiet.
And possibly have a great time doing it, maybe even some skipping and singing.

Too far fetched? Okay, let’s back up..

How do you achieve that long term goal?

By NOT giving the candy.

By planning and repeating rules, by making sure your child is fed and well rested,
whenever you enter the supermarket.
By praising your child for good behavior,
by making sure you build up the amount of time you spend at the supermarket.

How do you achieve that long term goal?
By investing.

This is what I do all day, it is hard.

It requires an enormous amount of energy.
Sometimes I have to be patient, because I am somewhere in between the process of achieving my long term goal
and I just cannot see the end of it. Sometimes I’m tempted to go for the short term goal.

You want me to give your ten teddy bears, little blankets and little beds for the night?
And you want me to make sure they are all in the right bed with the right blanket,
and you change your mind about it every second? Sure kid. If I get to crash on the couch and you finally go to sleep after that.
Sure, I’ll do it.

But then I ask myself this question:
Do I really want to spend my evenings running around, taking care of dolls and teddy bears
and every other stuff that you seem to come up with just around bedtime?
Or do I want bedtime to be quiet and peaceful and efficient.
And I realize, that I want the latter.

So I take a deep breath, and choose the battle.
On my last nerves, desperate to choose the couch instead.
I explain to my hysterical screaming child that it is bedtime, not playing time.
She will lie down now and Mommy will go downstairs.
She screams, she cries, she stomps her feet. I go up and down the stairs four or five times.
She won’t calm down. I cuddle, but I don’t give in.
Finally she goes to sleep.
I throw myself on the couch, tired, discouraged.

Next night:

“Mommy I want the big bear and the little bear and my giraffe, and…”

“You can pick two stuffed animals and then you will go to sleep. It’s sleepy time, not playtime.”

She screams. I kiss and cuddle her and walk away.

Before I reach the couch it is quiet. Really quiet.
I sneak upstairs to see what she’s doing.
She’s fast asleep with three stuffed animals..

I am well on my way to reaching my long term goal.

Does any of this sound familiar? What are your long term (parenting) goals?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in The Netherlands, Mirjam.

The picture used in this post is credited to the author.


Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands. She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera. Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways. But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself. You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.

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