SOCIAL GOOD: An Interview With Save The Children Ambassador Jennifer Garner

SOCIAL GOOD: An Interview With Save The Children Ambassador Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner and Idol Give Back visit children in rural Kentucky

Actor Jennifer Garner visits with school children who are participants of a Save the Children reading program at LBJ Elementary School in, Ky. Photo by David Stephenson

“OPTIMISM”, Jennifer Garner chose the word optimism when we interviewed her about her work with Save The Children and the #FindTheWords campaign. My word had been “LEAD”, Jen Burden’s was “CREATE”, and Stacey Hoffer Weckstein of Evolving Stacey, who did the interview with me, had “COURAGE”. These were our words in the 30 words, 30 days blogger challenge for #FindTheWords to represent the 30 million fewer words kids would learn in homes without early education.   In turn, when we had the exciting opportunity to interview her, we asked Jennifer Garner what her word would be.

 “If you are working with a baby, with a mom, with a toddler, there is just so much optimism, she explained. I just feel like it’s just the most optimistic thing in the world to work on early childhood stuff”.

The investment in early education is optimism at it’s best. Studies have shown that the impact of early education can have long reaching effects as a child grows up. Kids are better academically prepared, socially adjusted, and tend to stay in school longer when they receive early education.  In our conversation Jennifer Garner pointed out that some states have figured out that the money they spend from birth to five years old goes so much further than the recidivism that they would otherwise spend when a child is older and having trouble.

The hard facts cited by Save The Children are that in the United States 1 in 4 children lives in poverty and many do not have a single book in their home. These kids are not read to, and will not have access to a pre-school education. By age three they will have heard an average of 30 million less words than their peers which puts them at a great disadvantage before they even reach school. Ultimately these kids are 70% more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 40% more likely to become a teen parent and 25% more likely to drop out of school.

“The injustice of  it hits me at my very core.” said the mother of three.”So I just feel this drive to help be a part of making it be better.”

Jennifer Garner feels lucky to have come from a home with educated parents, but growing up in rural America, in West Virginia, she was aware that it was education that had made an enormous difference in both of her parents’ lives. In each case they were the first in their families to go to college, and it made her wonder who was around to help other kids like them to succeed without role models?  Once she knew that this was the area in which she wanted to use her voice to make a difference, it was Mark Shriver, and Save The Children that she found was making the type of impact she was looking for in rural America.

Taking time out of her busy day with one of her little ones not feeling well,  less than two weeks before her latest film, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day hits theaters, to tell us why the issue of early education resonates with her was gracious beyond belief. She explained that her experience in the field with Save The Children, visiting mothers and children, had only made her want to do more. “The more you are let into people’s homes, and into people’s lives, and into people’s struggles, the more driven you become to do what you can to help them.”

Of the mothers she has had the chance to visit Jennifer says often “These moms are isolated, they’re tired, they don’t have mom friends or computers to read what you guys are writing about or to be encouraged.” ….” so when Save The Children rolls up and goes once a week to see them, they bring them books , they bring light, they bring life. And the main thing that I love to see is they bring encouragement for these moms.”

 I asked Jennifer Garner her wish for all moms, to which she replied….

“Motherhood is the great equalizer, right? We’re all, as soon as you have a baby, we all have the same love and hopes, and dreams, and fears, and vulnerabilities, and I would just hope that nobody feels like they are going through it alone……it’s really hard to do on your own”

That’s exactly how we feel in our global community of World Moms, we are here to remind each other that we are not alone, in this crazy adventure of motherhood.

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Elizabeth Atalay. Elizabeth had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Garner as part of the #FindTheWords campaign with Save The Children. She also writes at documama.org.

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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MASSACHUSETTS, USA:  Promoting the Inner “Bossy”

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Promoting the Inner “Bossy”

bossyFrom almost the moment our daughter came onto the scene eight years ago, we knew she had a strong personality. She was one of those incredibly alert and determined babies; the type you could tell was processing her surroundings and trying to figure out what to do about them.

While many babies and toddlers her age were delighted to be pushed in a swing, my daughter would have nothing to do with swings until she was old enough to figure out what made them go. She had no desire to be the passive recipient of being pushed, instead she wanted to be in control; she wanted to conquer it. She took the same approach with toys, puzzles and games. She was an early walker, a determined eater, and an all-around intense little thing.

My husband and I frequently got comments like: “boy, you’ve got your hands full with that one,” or “she’s going to keep you on your toes.”

As our daughter grew, by far her favorite activities involved sorting, organizing and problem solving. I have one vivid memory of her toddler music class, when she was just two years old. About three-quarters of the way through the class, the teacher put out a basket of instruments for the children to choose from and play along with. Our daughter, who was particularly fond of the little plastic eggs filled with beans—which she called shake-a’s—was determined to collect as many of them as possible. Driven by this singular motive, she went around the room delivering alternate instruments to fellow toddlers and parents alike. Anytime she encountered an individual who already had a shake-a, she’d attempt to persuade them with an alternate instrument in exchange until she had gathered a significant cache.

During these displays of self-assured behavior and go-get-‘em spirit, I often found myself shrinking into the background, hoping other parents wouldn’t fault me for having such a pushy, precocious child. At this particular music class, however, a parent approached me afterwards and commended me for having such a “strong child with clear leadership potential.” With her few words of encouragement, this parent liberated me from my deep mommy guilt about having a child with drive.

I was in constant conflict because, even though I am a child of the 70’s—a time when many of our mothers here in the US were breaking down stereotypes and entering the workforce en masse—I was raised by my father, who came from an old-world upbringing and had old-fashioned views of how boys and girls should behave.

I am reluctant to admit that, rather than celebrating my daughter’s inherent leadership qualities, I labeled her as “bossy” and occasionally even criticized her for being too demonstrative.

Bossy, a word inferring that someone is behaving “boss-like,” should be a compliment heralding someone’s leadership skills but ironically, instead it criticizes her for it. It’s a label reserved primarily for girls. You rarely hear it applied to boys. A little girl on the playground, organizing kids into teams and assigning them roles will quickly be knocked down a few rungs by calling her “bossy,”  whereas a little boy taking the same actions might be respected and followed.

I’m ashamed to admit, even I supported this stereotype. I was concerned my daughter was too confident interacting with adults, leading activities and organizing groups. I was concerned she wasn’t “girly” enough, lacked empathy and a gentle, nurturing-side. As a modern, liberated and independent woman myself, I still didn’t want her peers to ostracize her or put her down.

Why was I struggling between nurturing and diminishing my daughter’s inner boss? Why was I uncomfortable with her being a leader, or overly-confident or intensely goal oriented? What could I do to help raise this new generation of girl-leaders?

Two weeks ago I got some reassuring answers. They were in the Wall Street Journal, on a full-page, front-of-section article titled, “Don’t Call Us Bossy.” And the women giving the encouragement were the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, and the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts, USA, Anna Maria Chavez.

Sandberg and Chavez’s goal is to redirect our thinking about the way girls lead. To relabel our vocabulary about girls’ take-charge behavior. Instead of bossy behavior, recognize it as executive leadership potential, like CBS television anchor, Norah O’Donnell does. Instead of discouraging ambitious goals, support girls to recognize their inherent ability to achieve whatever goal they set out for.

I think the world would be a very different—and frankly far more pleasant—place to live in if there were more “bossy” women in charge.

Let’s take a stand to have more female bosses in the workplace; Here’s to raising our girls to be the leaders they are capable of being, not the followers our lexicon makes them feel they are supposed to be!

Did anyone ever call you “bossy” growing up? Do you see these qualities in your own child? How do you feel about assertive and confident girls?

For ways to encourage leadership in girls, visit LeanIn.org and BanBossy two of the movements supported by Sheryl Sandberg, Ana Maria Chavez and Girl Scouts, USA.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to Pat Moore. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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UNITED KINGDOM: Learning to Do Better

UNITED KINGDOM: Learning to Do Better

do it betterBetty and I are walking to school in the rain. It is a miserable morning – grey, cold and squally. We are tilting our umbrellas sideways to shield ourselves from the gusts of needles thrown at us as we progress along the avenue. I am forcing bright chatter and thinking of the warm cup of tea I will have when I get home.

Betty’s umbrella is white and pink and round like a daisy. It has pretty little petals and yellow stripes, and a bumble-bee attached to the top. The bumble-bee is looking very sorry for himself this morning, buffeted hither and to. I can’t see Betty’s face but I can tell by the drag of her toes that she is feeling sorry for herself too.

I lean down and enquire: “How are you doing, darling?”

A woebegone voice answers. “Ok.”

Then she asks: “Mummy, did this umbrella used to belong to my big sister?”

I tell her yes, it did.

“And Mummy, did she used to walk to school with it too?”

Again, I aver, she did.

A pause. Then, cautiously: “Mummy, did my sister ever used to not want to go to school?”

I can see where this is going now and I give her hand a sympathetic little squeeze. I say yes, there were days when her big sister didn’t really feel like it either.

At this Betty stops and tips back the rim of her umbrella to look up at me. Her eyes are welling with tears. She asks: “And did she used to worry about making mistakes too?”

Betty started school last September at the age of four. She is now four and a half and a month into her second term. She flew through the first twelve weeks with ease – enthusiastic, inquisitive, and keen to try new things. This term, she has cried often on leaving me in the mornings. Afternoons start with jubilation at being home, then slide slowly from relaxation to upset as night approaches.

As soon as I call her for her bath it is her cue to start an hour-long conversation about whether or not she will have to go to school again in the morning.

Now I look at her, looking up at me, her face a mixture of rain and tears, and I think: She’s far too little for all this. I bend down to her and put my umbrella down and hug her. I tell her: “Everyone makes mistakes. It doesn’t matter about making mistakes. The thing is just to try your best. Have a little go.”

But as I’m saying it, I’m thinking that really, I just want to put her in my pocket and take her home. She is not yet five. She shouldn’t be afraid of new things in case she finds herself unable to do them to a standard that will make her happy.

Last term, she learned phonics – how to make the sounds of the alphabet. This term, she has realised that those phonics are letters and that by putting them together and sounding them out she can both read and write. And it terrifies her.

It is Learning with a capital ‘L’. Every day now she wonders what Learning she will have to conquer next.

The British education system is under huge scrutiny at the moment. The coalition government’s Conservative education minister Michael Gove has decided that it needs an overhaul. There is too much emphasis on coursework, so he has decreed the system should revert to a grand slam of end-of-year exams. There is not enough emphasis on rote learning, so reciting dates and times-tables are back in.

So far I have reacted to Gove’s decisions with horror mainly because of the impact they will likely have on my elder daughter, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and will struggle even more under a system that removes the chance for her to shine via project work. Gove’s reforms are a disaster for Grace.

Now, looking at Betty, who I had expected to skip through the system, I find myself wondering how she will cope. Recently Gove said he was thinking of introducing formal assessments for four and five-year-olds when they enter school in England, in order to be able to monitor their progress.

I care that my children should progress well through the education system, and flourish in their chosen careers. But as I kissed Betty goodbye in her classroom that morning, and watched her teacher take her gently by the hand to distract her from her upset, I thought: there must be a better way to do this.

So – how do you do it, where you live? And do you think it works?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in England, Sophie Walker.

The picture used in this post is credited to Roger McCallum. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Sophie Walker (UK)

Writer, mother, runner: Sophie works for an international news agency and has written about economics, politics, trade, war, diplomacy and finance from datelines as diverse as Paris, Washington, Hong Kong, Kabul, Baghdad and Islamabad. She now lives in London with her husband, two daughters and two step-sons. Sophie's elder daughter Grace was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome several years ago. Grace is a bright, artistic girl who nonetheless struggles to fit into a world she often finds hard to understand. Sophie and Grace have come across great kindness but more often been shocked by how little people know and understand about autism and by how difficult it is to get Grace the help she needs. Sophie writes about Grace’s daily challenges, and those of the grueling training regimes she sets herself to run long-distance events in order to raise awareness and funds for Britain’s National Autistic Society so that Grace and children like her can blossom. Her book "Grace Under Pressure: Going The Distance as an Asperger's Mum" was published by Little, Brown (Piatkus) in 2012. Her blog is called Grace Under Pressure.

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NEW YORK, USA: Learning About Learning Disabilities

NEW YORK, USA: Learning About Learning Disabilities

boy playingMy son is eight months old and clearly utters his first word, and quickly starts to add more words into his daily speech and quickly starts to put them together to form ‘sentences’…in multiple languages! At 9 months old I start to potty train him, and he understands what I am trying to teach him.

‘This child is brilliant’, all the adults in his life agree.

My son is about a year and a half. He goes to play at a nearby kids gym which has an area to climb and slide, a Lego area, an area to jump, balls, puzzles, magnets and blocks, etc. So many fun things for a toddler to do. Most kids are so excited. They run in and start playing with all of the toys. But not my son. He walks in and stands off to the side to observe the other children and watch what they do. To understand what is expected, I suppose. Once he understands what the other kids are all doing and how he is expected to behave and play with them, he joins the fun – and he has a blast – never wanting to leave.

When he is 18 months – 3 years old he takes ‘mommy and me’ classes on subjects he enjoys, like construction, art, French, music and cooking. He is tentative and does not participate straight away. It takes some time for him to warm up and I (or my mother, who is his daytime caretaker while I am at work) have to do most of the activity for him until about 10 minutes before the end of the 40 minute classes, week after week.

He is almost 3 and has started ‘school’, a few times a week, 3 hours at a time. The teachers comment that he would rather talk with them (and his vocabulary is amazing for a 3 year old – he started talking at 8 months after all), than play with his friends. He watches his friends and directs them (tells them if they are breaking a rule, or shows them how to do something), but does not easily go and play with them. He is more like one of the teachers than one of the 2 or 3 year-olds.  I also notice that he doesn’t recognize, or confuses his letters (like mixing M and W), like other 3 year-olds.

This trend continues, although he does get better at socializing. He does get better at playing with other children, but only because he mimics their actions (good or bad). He doesn’t realize when an action is” not good”, because someone else did it before him, so it must be okay.

At 4 years old he starts having tics. His pediatrician tells me it’s normal for boys, there is nothing wrong with him. I take him to an eye doctor (one of his tics involves rolling his eyes), and he does need glasses, but the opthalmologist tells me that the tics are normal. I take him to a neurologist, who tells me nothing is wrong with him. Over the years I continue to express my concerns to the pediatrician. We realize that the tics are caused when he is stressed or excited.

“Nothing wrong,” says the doctor. This is not very reassuring.

I speak to his teachers over the years who assure me he is incredibly bright. He is mature. His vocabulary and speech are well ahead of his age, yes he is still mixing up letters, but the teachers assure me that it is within a normal range. He is indeed a very special child, teacher after teacher says.

But all of the reassurances in the world do not stop me from thinking that my son is different.

I watch to see if the other kids shun him…. they don’t seem to, but he is not choosing the friends that I would like him to have. That is to say, the nicer, gentler boys. I am afraid that he may be choosing the rowdier friends because he is over compensating. He is trying to fit in.

Fast forward to this past September. He started first grade as a normal 6 year-old. He was given a reading assessment (as were all of his classmates) and no red flags. About two months into the school year his teacher noticed that he was not doing as well as she would like, so she had him assessed even further. This time there were warnings. He is having problems reading (which I had asked his teachers about previously). He starts to spend one-on-one time with the reading specialist in his school and he has been making some progress, but there is some concern. I mention to the reading specialist that personally, I believe he may be dyslexic. She agrees that he does in fact have a “reading disability” (apparently dyslexia falls under that category these days), but that she is not qualified to be able to properly diagnose him.

That conversation was a few weeks ago.  I feel relieved and worried. We have to keep working the system visiting specialist after specialist until I get an actual diagnosis. I don’t want to frighten him by taking him to see these specialists, but I do want to get an understanding of what I should do. And once I get a diagnosis, what should I do with it? How can this affect the rest of his learning, his education, and ultimately his life? What if the other kids make fun of him or shun him? How is this the same child who scored in the 90th + percentile on his kindergarten entrance exam on vocabulary, conversation and comprehension? (Yes they actually administer this test in NYC.) What if we decide to move, and have to change his school…will he have the help he needs to succeed? I have so many unanswered questions, and feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start…

Does you child have a learning disability? How did you find out? How have you helped your child learn to cope?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Maman Aya and was inspired by fellow WMB contributor Sophie Walker’s post, The Book I Never Thought I would Write.

Photo credit to Lesley Show.  This photo has a creative commons attribute license.

Maman Aya (USA)

Maman Aya is a full-time working mother of 2 beautiful children, a son who is 6 and a daughter who is two. She is raising her children in the high-pressure city of New York within a bilingual and multi-religious home. Aya was born in Canada to a French mother who then swiftly whisked her away to NYC, where she grew up and spent most of her life. She was raised following Jewish traditions and married an Irish Catholic American who doesn’t speak any other language (which did not go over too well with her mother), but who is learning French through his children. Aya enjoys her job but feels “mommy guilt” while at work. She is lucky to have the flexibility to work from home on Thursdays and recently decided to change her schedule to have “mommy Fridays”, but still feels torn about her time away from her babies. Maman Aya is not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, but has been drawn in by the mothers who write for World Moms Blog. She looks forward to joining the team and trying her hand at writing!

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Japan: Ceremoniously Yours

Japan: Ceremoniously Yours

A Work in Progress

A Work in Progress

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Japan, standing as I did in many a cold gym on a drafty stage being stared at by bored students, is that in Japan even small changes are deemed deserving of a ceremony of some sort. I worked as an assistant language teacher dispatched by the board of education to seven different junior high schools. On my first day at each and every one of those schools, an assembly was held to welcome me. The principal gave a little speech. I gave a little speech. The head English teacher and a student representative gave a little speech, too.

On my last day, a very similar ceremony was held. Except that this time I got flowers. Seven bouquets of flowers and me trying to leave town…. I tried at other jobs, when other coworkers were leaving, to explain that these giant bouquets, while beautiful, were actually not desirable for someone who was (more often than not) preparing to leave the country.

“The flowers,” I was told, “Are not for the person leaving. They are for the people staying behind.”

Now that I’m a mom, I’ve noticed that Japanese school children’s lives are chock-full of ceremonies. It starts with preschool, when they have an entrance ceremony. Then a closing-of-first-term ceremony, an opening-of-second-term ceremony, then closing-of-second-term ceremony. It seems endless. But for the preschooler, it culminates in graduation and the send-off to end all send-offs, the “Wakare-kai,” a kind of Sayonara Party.

Now I don’t know about where you are from, but I have no memory whatsoever of having a preschool graduation, much less an after party. My parents may have privately celebrated my ascension into free (!) public schooling after I’d gone to bed at night, but I don’t think there was much to it.

Here?

(Hold on a second while I get a cold compress for my splitting headache….)

At my daughter’s preschool, it’s a huge deal. And it’s all put on by the moms. I don’t think this experience is rare for a Japanese preschool, but to me it feels totally over the top.

It starts off in October (a full six months before The Day), with each mother being assigned to a committee. And I do mean everyone, including, for example, my friend who has three kids under six and another on the way. There are a host of different committees, the lunch committee, the keeping-children-in-line committee, the video committee, the slide show committee, the teacher’s present committee, etc. I’m on the decoration committee.

It seems like it would be simple enough. Maybe some paper chains and balloons? But no. There will be a balloon archway for the teachers to walk through. We will decorate the back wall with scenes (we have to draw) of the momentous events that have transpired in our 6-year-olds lives at preschool. (I’m in charge of drawing a poster for sports day and the yearly school play.) There will be a podium decorated with paper mâché animals, mobiles hanging from the ceilings (no clue how we are supposed to get those up there,) flowers and tinsel on the walls, etc., etc., etc.

I’ve already spent hours in meetings that I feel we’re pretty pointless, not to mention hours on actual decorations, and I’m sure there will be an hour or two on the day for decorating and cleaning up.

I’m having a hard time thinking of any of this as being more than wasted time. But I have to wonder if,  like the flowers being given to the leaving teacher, the send-off party is not actually for the children at all.

What kind of ceremonies are held at schools in your country? To what extent are parents involved?

This is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Melanie Oda in Japan, of Hamakko Mommy

Photo credit to the author.

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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SOCIAL GOOD: The Power of Giving on Giving Tuesday!

SOCIAL GOOD: The Power of Giving on Giving Tuesday!

image copy 2

Personalized desks at the CHETI school. copy

Photo by Alison Fraser

Anne Frank once said “No one has ever become poor by giving”. What a beautiful thought to keep in mind as we celebrate Giving Tuesday on December 3rd of this year. The act of giving can do wonders for a person’s spirit, soul and general well-being. Whether you give time, financial support, a lending hand, a listening ear or encouraging words, the act of giving is unique in that it often benefits the giver as much, or even more, than the receiver. This is something that I can attest to now more than ever before.

A few weeks ago, I visited Tanzania. I run a small Canadian Not for Profit Organization that works to fund the educational needs of women and children in and around Arusha. This was my first trip to Tanzania and the first time to meet all of the wonderful families that are involved in my organization. Helping these families has always made me feel good. I always felt like it was an equal partnership where I would provide financial assistance through fundraising in Canada and the Tanzanian women and children would allow me a glimpse into their life from afar. However, what I realized from spending ten days with these amazing people is that the partnership really isn’t equal at all. In fact, I truly believe that what I have received from these incredibly strong, spiritual, kind, compassionate and caring families is much more than what I have given them.

Making new friends - Alison and Caren! copy

The author with a student in Tanzania.

Let me explain how the power of giving has changed my life. I donate countless hours of time to help those in the Mom2Mom Africa organization. Why? It makes me happy.

It fulfills me in ways that I can’t explain. I feel a sense of purpose, like I am making a difference, albeit very small, but nonetheless, a difference in the world. My charity work completes me and makes me feel like a whole person. I can’t explain why…it just does. But, the ten days that I spent in Tanzania last month, visiting families and spending time at the schools has changed my life forever. I have never experienced anything so powerful in all of my life. Yes, I gave up family time to spend in Tanzania and I gave up quite a bit financially to pay for the trip. But, NOTHING could prepare me for what I was given in return. My life has been changed by simply spending time with these families over the course of my time in Africa. They breathed fresh air and a new life into me by just being themselves. Their sense of community, their compassion towards one another, and their love of life despite many struggles has inspired me in ways that I still have yet to process and understand. The power of giving has never been more apparent to me. It can change lives. It has changed mine.

Today, on Giving Tuesday, I am begging you to give of yourself. Whether it be time, a lending hand or financial assistance…give.

Give to someone who may need your help, whether it be across the ocean or right in your backyard. What you will get back in return will outweigh what you have given. I can promise you that. Giving of oneself has the power to change the world in so many ways. It is reciprocal. What you put into giving, will come back to you in abundance.

That is the power of giving. Giving changes all lives involved. As Anne Frank also said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”. So give. Change the world. You can do it. What may seem like a small act of giving can mean a world of difference to someone else.

On this Giving Tuesday, consider helping a family in Tanzania  by purchasing a personalized desk for our schools, school uniforms, or school textbooks. You will bring a smile to the face of a child in Tanzania.  And that, I guarantee, will bring a smile to your face, as well! Happy Giving Tuesday!

How do you plan to give back this Giving Tuesday?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog Written by Alison Fraser.

Alison Fraser

Alison Fraser is the mother of three young girls ranging in age from 5 to 9 years old. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Alison works as an Environmental Toxicologist with a human environment consulting company and is an active member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). She is also the founder and director of the Canadian Not for Profit Organization, Mom2Mom Africa, which serves to fund the school fees of children and young women in rural Tanzania. Recently recognized and awarded a "Women of Waterloo Region" award, Alison is very involved in charitable events within her community including Christmas Toy and School Backpack Drives for the local foodbank.

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