BRAZIL: Cultural Criticism for Outdoor Play

BRAZIL: Cultural Criticism for Outdoor Play

Girl in Rain

If you happen to walk by my house around 6 a.m., you will most probably encounter me in my pajamas, a jacket and my hair on end, being pulled towards the street with surprising strength by my 15 month old son (who – unlike myself – will be looking quite adorable with his hair on end!). My three year old girl will be fast asleep for another half hour or so and, if it is a weekday, my nine year old and my husband will have already left for school/work .

If permitted, my toddler (and all three of my children, for that matter) would probably live outside 24/7. However, we are currently entering winter – a.k.a. the rainy season and also my least favorite time of the year.

Don’t take me wrong. If I could spend the day curled up in my warm bed reading, it might even be my favorite season! In practice, this is what happens:

First of all, no matter how many times the repairmen come to straighten up the roof, the cats will manage to part the tiles again, especially over our bed (think cold water dripping on your leg suddenly at 2 a.m.!). Also, fleeing the rain, huge ants make nests and leave their very succulent eggs in anything left untouched for more than three days, lest we wrap it in plastic. Plus, the floor is always humid, and everything sticks to it. Last but not least: it is so hard to get out of bed at 5 a.m. and so chilly!

Outside of the home, traffic becomes ten times worse than it already is, everyone is late for everything (and even if they aren’t, the rain will be an excuse for it). The streets fill up with water, cars stop functioning and trash floats.  The city is astonishingly unprepared for rain considering the fact that it has had to deal with the sort of weather for over four centuries.

And the kids still want to be outside all the time. Of course, that it great.  Kids should be outside, preferably in more natural environments, as much as possible.

Among other benefits, being outside fosters a healthy connection with nature and promotes environmentally responsible behavior in adulthood.

The other day the rain had stopped, and I took advantage of some moments of sun to go out front. I got the kids all prepared in jackets, pants and tennis shoes and thought we could take a relatively “unmessy”, dry walk on our unpaved dirt road (LOL!). Of course in a few minutes they were playing in a puddle. There was mud not only on their clothes, but in their hair, their face and most everywhere. I relaxed and surrendered to their joy.

Witnessing such joy is what gives me the strength – as a current frazzled mother of three – to endure the sometimes overwhelming amount of soaked shoes, mud-soiled clothes and dirt covered floors!

I also find it somewhat amusing how bothered people here in the tropics get when they see kids out in such weather. Especially nwhen I recall the period we lived in Quebec – during what was reportedly one of the toughest winters ever – and how, regardless, parents and children had fun outside in the snowy, below zero weather.

On that same mud-covered day, one woman turned her neck 180° as she drove by and gave me a stern look that said “They’re going to catch cold you irresponsible mother!”

A person working in a construction nearby advised me never ever to let them play in street puddles again because “animals die in the streets”. To top it, a neighbor (who at most has said “good morning” to us in the ten years we have lived here) stopped, announced formally that he is a Veterinary Doctor, and gave me a complete list of all maladies they could catch from that malignant puddle, including leptospirosis , bubonic plague, toxoplasmosis and several others. Of course it didn’t help when I tried to tell him that, despite being a biologist and knowing the risks, I also believed playing in puddles helped them boost their immune systems!

I know, deep down, everyone means well in their advice. Yet, I still prefer to follow the guidance of Mother Nature and allow my kids to be outdoors as much as possible, in any weather!

Do you encourage your kids to go out in all weather? What season are you in now?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.

 

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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SOCIAL GOOD: What the World Needs to Know about the World Bank

SOCIAL GOOD: What the World Needs to Know about the World Bank

Cindy and Jim Kim (low res)

What is the World Bank and what does it do? If you ask an average American, you’ll likely get a blank stare or a wild guess. “Is it like when we played Monopoly as kids and one person got to hand out all the money?” quipped Mackenzie Astin on Vox Populi Radio recently when host Sean Astin tried to explain it to him. “It’s probably where all the countries keep their money,” said my 8-year-old to her sister. Whatever the answer, you’ll usually not hear “they fight poverty” as a first guess, but that’s exactly the key to what an everyday person should know about the World Bank.

While attending the 2014 RESULTS International Conference in June, my daughters and I had a chance to meet World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim moments before he took the stage for an interview in front of hundreds of RESULTS volunteer activists who work every day to end poverty. While we awaited his arrival, I had time to reflect on the role of this man and the World Bank on what kind of world my kids will inherit from my generation.

The World Bank is a United Nations financial institution that provides loans to developing countries. Yet it’s not a bank in the ordinary sense. It’s a partnership that exists to reduce poverty and support development of impoverished nations. Imagine that…a bank with a mission to fight poverty! It provides low-interest loans, interest-free credits, and grants to developing countries to fund programs like education, health, agriculture, and environmental resource management. Where does the money come from? Donor countries, banks, multilateral institutions, and private sector investors all contribute to this vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world.

Dr. Kim’s audience cheered wildly that day, holding signs saying “We love the World Bank” because they knew he was going to re-assert the World Bank’s mission end extreme poverty by the year 2030. In fact, the World Bank has set two goals for the world to achieve in that time:
1.    End extreme poverty by decreasing the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day to no more than 3%
2.    Promote shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40% for every country

Picture 17 copy

Wow. That’s only 14 years from now. In 2030, my 10-year-old will be 26 years old. Is it possible that in their adulthood, my children could live in a world without extreme poverty? Will they actually have to explain to their children what it was like when millions of people struggled to live on less than $1.25 a day because that kind of suffering won’t be found on the news?

Dr. Kim spoke of his belief that we should focus on the moral imperative to end poverty and shoot for big goals even before we precisely know how to get there. He said our attitude should be “balancing between moral reasoning and the humility that we may not have everything together…but going for it anyway because it’s the right thing to do.”  Helping to save lives and educate children is a goal in itself. Plus, evidence for economic benefit of poverty elimination has now caught up with the ethics. For instance, 24% of economic growth is due to better health outcomes. We also now have evidence to show that education is not just nice to have…it’s necessary for growth. So, we should not be afraid to set the incredible goal and then work backward and say, “To achieve our goal, what kind of organization do we need to be to meet that?”

Is Dr. Kim an idealist? Yes, I do think so, but he’s an idealist in the very best way. He has a grand vision of what is possible coupled with a practical leadership style revealed in his insistence on “results based financing.” He wants the World Bank to focus on impact on the ground rather than getting money. When we can report incredible results like a neo-natal mortality drop in Argentina of 74%, donors witness what is possible and invest more.

The path Dr. Kim describes toward the end of extreme poverty is in no way easy. For one thing, it requires confronting the status quo and our assumptions about what works. We need to ask tough questions of organizations providing services, like, “Are you where the poor people are? Are your clinics convenient for you or for the people in poverty who you serve?” The World Bank has a critical role to measure and release regular data about poverty using sophisticated techniques so that we can make great decisions, inspire more funding, and get great results.

In summary, he concluded for us,

“We are not a hard-hearted organization just focused on increased GDP. We are dedicated to ending poverty and making sure that everyone participates.”

All in all, I feel extremely lucky. I feel lucky that I had a chance to meet a man of such vision. I feel lucky that as an advocate for global health and education in this era, I – personally – have a role in bringing about the end of extreme poverty. But most of all, I feel very hopeful and fortunate that if we work together with leaders like Dr. Kim, my daughters will see the end of extreme poverty within their lifetimes and millions more mothers will see their babies grow to be as strong and healthy as mine.

This is an original post written by Cindy Levin for World Moms Blog.

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin took her first advocacy action in 2001 with a hunger event at her church. Years later, after resigning from her position as an automotive engineer to raise her newborn daughter, she searched for a way she could better the world from home while caring for infants. She returned to advocacy and is now a dedicated volunteer activist with RESULTS, Shot@Life, ONE, and Bread for the World. Levin involves her young children in her advocacy activities, including face-to-face lobby meetings with members of Congress, letter-writing, and classroom advocacy projects. She shares what she has learned about advocacy through her Anti-Poverty Mom blog and training other activists with RESULTS. Her op-eds and letters-to-the-editor have appeared in Chicago area newspapers as well as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Post, the New York Times and the international Financial Times. Levin has served on the Board of Directors for RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund and on staff with RESULTS Educational Fund as a fundraising coach for grassroots volunteers.

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