World Moms Blog has formed a strong relationship with GAVI Alliance, a public-private organization whose mission is to increase access to life saving immunizations in poor countries. To raise awareness of GAVI’s incredibly important work, WMB contributors have been invited to host “Global Tea Parties,” which are being filmed and made into a documentary film.
When the founder of World Moms Blog, Jennifer Burden, first shared the idea of the GAVI Global Tea Party, and invited Moms from around the globe to host their own, I was thrilled to be a part of the fun.
First, any excuse to host a tea party is a good excuse to me! I grew up with the idea that tea parties are a special way for women to gather together and share stories, celebrate big events, and grow closer in their acquaintance with one another.
Second, I believe in the value of the work carried out by GAVI alliance. I know first hand the devastating effects that Polio, Hepatitis, Pneumonia, and diarrhea caused by viruses can have on a community. My own mother had polio as a child. Additionally, when I worked on the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, West Africa, I was confronted on a daily basis with the impacts of diseases that are nearly eradicated in the developed world.
The importance of the event held such weight to me; yet in the beginning, the event seemed to keep getting pushed back. I was struggling with finding a date that would work for the people whom I wanted to be a part of the event, and then I struggled with finding a videographer. My schedule was filling up with other obligations, work travel and family visits that it started to seem as if the tea party might never make it to reality. I finally accepted the fact that there may never be the perfect time, so I just had to make room for something that was important to me and make it work. I chose a date, made the invitation, and set out to find the perfect teacups. (As a side note, I was planning a tea party and had a total of two teacups in my-live-by-necessity expat home!)
I stopped by a well-loved Balinese ceramics shop in search of the perfect teacups. I loved the idea of hosting the Bali edition of the GAVI Global tea party with teacups handmade by Balinese women craftsmen. I spent a significant amount of time appreciating the large variety of beautiful service ware. It was hard to choose one over another, until I saw a beautiful blue plate sitting next to a green bowl. The glaze and the design on the two reminded me of the world, which then reminded me of the logo for World Moms Blog (WMB). There was a delicate grace and global sturdiness within these two pieces that reminded me of the women who write for WMB. I had found the perfect set.
My life was pretty hectic as I neared the date to the tea party; not only was I managing two big events at work, but I was also preparing for a week long work trip to Japan (actually departing a few hours after the tea party) all while managing my typical classroom duties and playing the role of mother to my five year old Edem. I barely had time to sleep, let alone think about what the day would be like, or to worry about how things would unfold. Typically, when I host a party, I normally love to plan out a menu far in advance, this time, I conceded to reality and called my favorite caterer.
The morning of the party arrived, and as I stared at my half packed suitcase and list of things to do, I asked myself more than once what I was thinking when I selected the date. As soon as my guests arrived, I knew it was all worth the efforts/crazy-hectic-ness.
Attending my party were five lovely women who, through nationality, marriage, and work placement, collectively represent Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, United States, Philippines, Indonesia, Canada, Ghana, Togo, South Korea, Cuba, and China. We all started out with varying levels of awareness about vaccines and by the end of the afternoon, we all learned a great deal about the work of GAVI Alliance, and what happens when communities do not have access to preventative health care. I was deeply impressed by the amount of research everyone had done prior to coming, and moved by the compassion and concern that everyone showed for the mothers around the world whose children are impacted by easily prevented childhood diseases.
Over tea, personal stories were shared about our own experiences and feelings towards vaccines. We recognized that people in the United States and parts of Europe often have a very different perspective about vaccines than those in the developing world may hold, and examined why this may be.
As our teapots neared their last drops, our conversations shifted to the very important question of “What next?” It is great that we women are now more informed, which was the initial goal of the tea party, but what could we now do with this awareness?
We began to discuss ways that we could get involved in our community, perhaps hosting a larger tea party that could raise funds for preventative health care here in Bali. We talked about how we have each benefited from our host country, enjoying the gorgeousness that is Bali, and collectively acknowledged our responsibility to give back in some meaningful way.
I knew when I invited those particular women that we would have interesting discourse that reflected varying perspectives. What I didn’t expect was this new camaraderie I felt with this lovely group of women, half of whom I hardly knew. I had been craving this kind of meaningful connection with women since I arrived in Bali, and though I sought it, I didn’t necessarily know how to nurture it. In such a beautiful spin of events, the community of women I found through World Moms Blog (all of whom I only know through chats and online discourse) had now also helped me to create deeper connections with women in my close proximity. As a result of the tea party, a small group of women, from around the globe, have been inspired to work together to make a change.
That evening, 10,000 feet above land in a plane leading to Japan, I reflected on the tea party. I thought about how important connections with women and contributing to my community are to me, and how much I have been neglecting these things due to work and motherhood. I set a new personal goal to prioritize these things more.
I also reflected on my connections with WMB. I realized how truly blessed I am to be a part of such an amazing community of women. The founder of the blog, Jennifer Burden, once shared with us her dream for WMB. She said that she envisions it becoming a vehicle for social change, while bringing women from around the globe together. It occurred to me that this dream isn’t far off: it is already happening. It is amazing what can happen when women from around the world gather together to share their stories, whether this be through cyber space or over a cup of tea. Working together, we truly can make a difference.
*As a side note, since I hosted my tea party, Jennifer Burden was invited to join Shot@Life in a UNICEF convoy to Uganda to see preventative health care administered in Kampala. You can read about her experience here.
How do your find ways to balance your schedule, and nurture connections with women in your community? What ideas to you have on how we could all give back to our host countries?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by “Lady E.” You can read more of Erin Michelle Threlfall’s work by stopping by her personal blog, Common Threads.
Photos credit to the author