I have always been told that I am too sensitive. Even as a child, images, stories and movies that most young children could watch with little to no effect, would leave me upset for weeks. As an adult, this still holds true. I am sensitive. I can’t brush off experiences like many can. I am haunted by people and places. With each trip to Tanzania, I come back emotionally drained and to a suffering bank account! It takes me months to re-calibrate and function properly again. I am told that I think with my heart and not my head, and that maybe I am just not cut out for this type of charity work.
So on this last trip to Tanzania, earlier this month, I built a wall of self-preservation. I decided to focus on all of the positive aspects of Tanzania including the beautiful mountainous landscape, the incredibly kind and generous people, the new infrastructure being built that would improve lives, the success of our current students and graduates, and the refreshing Tanzanian culture where family comes first. I was going to focus on the good and transition easily back into my Canadian life. It sounded like the perfect plan. Keep my focus on “happy thoughts”.
Enter Milambo, also known as Rambo!
Milambo aka Rambo, Tanzania
While visiting the local market to order food packages for Mom2Mom Africa families, he approached us in dirty and ‘barely there’ clothes. He was hungry. So we bought him lunch. He wasn’t done yet. He followed us through the market, asking to be sent to school and explaining a life of begging on the streets. And just like that, my walls came tumbling down. He is the same age as my youngest daughter. It hit me hard. We drove to his home. The smell was overwhelming. His father had left the family. No one had heard from him in years. Milambo’s mother was illiterate; actually the entire family, including Milambo, could not read or write. He was a beggar on the street. That was his job. He was required to provide for his family at 9 or 10 years old (no one knew his real age as they couldn’t read the birth records). He left us all shaken.
Milambo and his brother
Milambo is now a student in our program thanks to the generosity of my friend and travel partner, Brenda. His brother is also a student, in order to prevent the job of beggar to be passed on to him. Their lives are forever changed. They will lift their family out of poverty at some point. They have teachers and our partners on the ground watching out for them, monitoring their progress and health, and making sure they are successful at school. A few short weeks since that chance meeting, Milambo is reading. He walks to school every day with his brother. It is a 40 minute walk and they are always on time and have never missed a single day.
My point is that there is no such thing as being too sensitive. Imagine a world where sensitivity prevailed! Good would happen. I am just the right amount of sensitive to see the world for what it is and to hopefully make a difference.
Sensitivity is not a flaw; indifference is.
If I had kept that wall up, would I have even noticed Milambo? Would his story have affected me? Probably not.
Shout out to my sensitive travel companions and kindred spirits Marieke, Brenda, and Corrina who let me cry, get frustrated, get incredibly angry and then melt again because they do the same… so get it! And special thanks to Milambo, who made all four of us realize that being sensitive is okay and might just be more of what this chaotic world needs.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Alison Fraser of Mom2Mom Africa
Has there been a time in your life when you were grateful for your sensitivity?
Typically, after Thanksgiving in the United States, the following Friday and Monday, known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, kick off the holiday shopping season. Black Friday, in the stores and Cyber Monday, online. However, Giving Tuesday follows and is what now kicks off the holiday “Giving Season.” This movement has been around for several years already.
With so much poverty around the world, the fact that a movement, based entirely on the giving of time and money, is gaining momentum gives me great hope. Did you know that you do not just have to give money on Giving Tuesday? You can, instead, donate your time. This means many more of us can get involved.
How great is a movement that the whole world can participate in as a collective unit with one goal in mind: to give?
So take today to think about the something you want to change most in the world. And give. Give of your money. Give of your time. Give only what you can. From around the world to your local community, find out how you can participate today, Tuesday, December 1st.
As each year of Giving Tuesday goes by, more and more organizations are getting involved, which plays at my heart strings. For example, here, in Canada this is the first year that Waterloo Region in Canada will be launching Giving Tuesday in an official manner. The community is rallying around local groups and causes in a way that I would never have imagined!
Let’s kick off the giving season and make this the most memorable Giving Tuesday the world has known to date.
A Note From our Founder:
Today, World Moms Blog asks our readers to consider volunteering, donating and/or advocating for these 4 organizations that have been created by our contributors or employ them. Click on over to see why they are worthy of your #GivingTuesday love!
- Mom2Mom Africa helps to educate and provide a better life for children in Tanzania. What started as a penpal project of a mom in Canada, turned into an education sponsorship program, a school being built, class trips provided and much more!
- Cleanbirth.org, which helps to provide a safer birth experience for mothers in Laos through clean birth kits and nurse midwife training. Started by an American mom who pledged to single-handedly take on poor maternal health statistics.
- The Advocates for Human Rights is the workplace of our resident contributor and human rights lawyer. The organization provides opportunities to volunteer, donate and/or advocate for their life saving and life changing work to help people worldwide.
- Edesia makes Plumpy’Nut which helps provide nutrition for children who need it most in the developing world. And did you know that our Managing Editor works there in digital media?
Tell us what you’re doing for Giving Tuesday…
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by contributor, Alison Fraser, in Canada.
The author Alison Fraser pictured here with General Romeo Dallaire
I have written before on the trials and tribulations that go hand in hand with running a not for profit organization or charity. As we all know, negative words can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves and our work.
What I now realize, is that I have completely underestimated the power of kind words.
Let me explain…
Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to meet General Romeo Dallaire at a local charity event. General Dallaire is a highly respected Canadian general. He braved the Rwandan genocide of 1994, essentially remaining to help when most everyone else left Rwanda, and the world turned a blind eye to the extreme brutality taking place in the African country. As the guest of honour at the event, he spoke of the global injustices plaguing our world and causing, what he refers to, as global rage. We see this rage daily as the stories make headlines. According to General Dallaire, two of the main sources of this rage are our failures with respect to the: (1) empowerment of women and (2) education of children. I felt so uplifted to hear that the work we at Mom2Mom Africa are doing addresses two of the most important social injustices identified by someone as worldly and experienced as General Dallaire.
I raced to introduce myself to him after he spoke, and we chatted briefly about my work in Tanzania. I was so nervous but he put me right at ease. He was so humble and kind. And, at the end, he turned to me and said;
“young lady, keep doing what you are doing. It is the work of small, grassroots organizations like yours that will change the world”.
I could have cried right there on the spot; not out of sadness but instead out of pure joy. This man, who had inspired me in so many ways, just washed away all of my insecurities and doubts, with only a few words.
As the Buddha once said..
“Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world”.
How great it is when someone, who is such an inspiration and role model, takes the time to encourage others, no matter how small their impact is on the world. Imagine what would happen if this was common practice? What if we built each other up instead of tearing each other down? What if we collaborated and focussed on common goals? Imagine what would be accomplished if we all spent more time being kind and supportive, especially those in positions of power. I am not sure if General Dallaire will ever know just how much his kind words meant to me. He gave me the strength to keep moving forward, to keep tackling and overcoming the obstacles that so many of us face. I will be forever grateful to this man, and I can only hope that others, who are in positions of influence, will follow General Dallaire’s lead. I am so proud of my fellow Canadian!
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Alison Fraser of Mom2Mom Africa
Do you remember kind words from another that may have inspired you in your life?
In October, several #WorldMoms attended the ONE Girls & Women AYA Summit at the Google Headquarters in Washington, DC. One of the many powerful panels we heard from was entitled Change Through Economic Opportunity, where both major fashion companies and small start-ups weighed in on how they impact the lives of women through economic empowerment. With the holiday season upon us, World Moms decided to share some of the ways we love to use our purchasing power to give back, and how you can too.
Sydney Price of Kate Spade NY spoke about the Kate Spade On Purpose line at the AYA Summit panel. Each piece in this collection is handcrafted in Rwanda creating sustainable economic opportunities for women and reshaping their community.
Jane Mosbacher Morris , founder of To the Market, also participated in the panel on Change Through Economic Opportunity at the AYA Summit. To The Market provides a marketplace for the beautiful handcrafted goods that give women survivors of war, disaster or abuse a chance to support themselves and their families.
World Moms Elizabeth Atalay and Nicole Melancon had the pleasure of visiting the FashionABLE factory in Ethiopia this past summer and we have all been writing about and wearing the gorgeous scarves made in Ethiopia for years. It was great to finally meet founder Barrett Ward at the AYA Summit this past fall where he participated on the panel as well. FashionABLE is now expanding operations to include products made in Kenya and a beautiful line of leather products, all while providing social service programs of health care, education in a trade, and assistance with child care for their artisans to help them build better lives for themselves and their families.
“Through your purchase, you are ABLE to provide opportunity, and a woman is ABLE to have a new choice.”-LiveFashionABLE
The Giving Keys provides jobs for those transitioning out of homelessness, giving them the opportunity to rebuild their lives. The necklaces & bracelets are super cool as is the message of the Giving Keys:
“When you get this Key, you must give it away at some point to a person you feel needs the message, then write us the story of why you gave it away. We employ those looking to transition out of homelessness.” -The Giving Keys
You can read Giving Keys stories of those who have given and received keys on their site.
Shop the ONE Campaign store Holiday Gift Guide for some fabulous items where you know everything is fair trade and ethically sourced. By doing so you support the ONE Campaign in it’s goal of eradicating extreme poverty.
Alex & Ani Bracelets
Alex & Ani Charity by design products are another of our favorites. A percentage o profits goes back to designated non-profits. Their products are made in the USA from recycled materials, and spread the message of positive energy! They have branched out from bangles to key chains, and candles, wine charms & more!
From South Africa, The Mielie bags employ women of the townships in South Africa.
Mielie Bag Made in South Africa
Our mission is to design and produce innovative, export-quality hand-crafted products using reclaimed materials – with the aim of creating employment and restoring dignity and financial independence to South Africans.- Mielie
The Anchal Project Mission merges design, business, and education to empower marginalized and exploited women living in India. Their scarves are gorgeous and the company was founded by two Rhode Island School of design Grads.
Anchal is an Indian word that means shelter, or refers to the edge of a woman’s Sari used to provide comfort and protection for loved ones.-Anchal Project
Kids Books from Little Pickle Press, a B Corporation, are some of our favorite books for kids!
Lollie Beads Bracelets are created from fair trade recycled glass beads made in Uganda. So they are not only gorgeous (the glass beads look and feel like sea glass) but they are good for the environment AND help support sustainable living in a developing country.
Tom’s keeps its designs fresh while still managing to provide shoes and glasses to those who need them. We love their One for One business model (and pledge to support it with as many shoes as we can get away with!)
1000 Shillings Ugandan Paper bead necklaces. The women artisans earn capital for their own small businesses by making limited-edition products for 1000 Shillings. Each product sold through 1000 Shillings helps a woman establish a small business, which enables her to support her family. They also aim to tell the in-depth story behind each artisan. The company works with six single mothers in the Namatala slum, Uganda.
A Gift As A Gesture:
Sometimes it is hard to find the perfect gift for someone who has every material thing they desire. Still you want to give something as a token of your appreciation to them and the below gifts are the perfect solution that everyone can feel good about.
Photo by Elizabeth Atalay
Heifer International :
“Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. It all started with a cow. Moved by the plight of orphans and refugees of the Spanish Civil War as he ladled out meager rations of powdered milk, Dan West, an Indiana farmer, volunteer relief worker and Church of the Brethren member, grasped that the people needed “a cow, not a cup”—cows that could produce milk so families would not have to depend on temporary aid. From that simple idea, Heifer International was born.” – From the Heifer International Website
Save two lives, those of a mom and her newborn baby, with CleanBirth.org and the perfect holiday gift of Bags of Love and Miracles, a handmade bag with a beautiful full-sized honor card inside ($20) and 4 mothers in Laos will receive birthing supplies and safe birthing education.
Mom2Mom Africa is a Canadian Not-for-Profit Organization, established to help empower women and children through education. The benefits of education and global awareness apply to us all. Your gifts this season will help to buy books, school uniforms and school supplies for the Mom2Mom Africa students in Tanzania.
Wishing Happy Holidays to You All,
May You Give As Good As You Get!
Do you know other organizations or shops that belong on this list?
Two months ago, I travelled back to Arusha, Tanzania as part of my work with Mom2Mom Africa. Each time I am in Arusha, I make sure to stop by a local outdoor restaurant frequented by many tourists. The restaurant resides on a beautiful piece of property, and offers free Wifi to connect back home to loved ones. I consider this to be a real luxury in the areas I work in Arusha so take full advantage of this establishment whenever possible.
On my last trip, I decided that I would take several of our Mom2Mom Africa students to this restaurant as a “treat”. What was originally planned as a small group outing with 5 or 6 children, ended up turning into a van full of children, and my colleague Aloyce. It was absolutely priceless to see me walk through the grounds followed by 12 little Tanzanian children, and Aloyce at the rear to ensure we didn’t lose any along the way! The other restaurant patrons could not stop staring!
I had questioned this dinner outing for days before making a decision to go ahead with it. Many believe that exposing those in poverty-stricken areas of the world, to ‘luxuries’ is unjust; a tease. I didn’t want to be that white foreigner.
But, after much thought, I decided to go ahead with our big dinner date. What influenced my final decision was the fact that the same holds true for my three little girls in Canada. As a mother, I often treat my girls to little extravagances. These are not every day occurrences, and in fact are more rare than common. And my girls understand that. If they could be treated each and every day, there would be no argument on their part. But, they know that even though that might be the reality of other little girls their age, it is not their reality. And they are ok with that and simply choose to enjoy the times that they do get to experience trips or dinner at fancy restaurants. I used this experience with my girls as the deciding factor in Tanzania. After all, everyone likes to be treated!
Seeing the kids eat pizza until their bellies were full, drinking pop, and laughing with their friends was one of the highlights of my time in Tanzania. When they noticed the playground with swings and teeter-totters, I lost them in play for 2 hours! They were beyond happy. And, that made me beyond happy. And, at that point, I thought to myself that I had made the right decision. I left the restaurant on cloud nine, with twelve happy little ones singing all the way home in the van.
All had gone as planned, until one little girl said out loud in the van…”I now know how mzungus (white people) live”…and my heart broke.
The restaurant is staffed with locals but caters to tourists, most of whom are white. Instead of this being a fun night out for all, Canadians and Tanzanians alike, the take home message was that white people deserve and live in a world of luxuries. My plan back-fired on me with a vengeance. It has been two months since that night, and that little voice from the back of the van still haunts me. I guess my mommy instinct was off this time. We all worry about making decisions that may negatively affect our own children’s lives. I now worry constantly about my decisions and how they may impact the lives of so many who call me “Mama Alison” in Tanzania.
Do you think it’s better to know what you are missing or not?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Alison Fraser. Photo by Alison Fraser.