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 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.
On Wednesday the 3rd of September, our oven broke down in the middle of a pizza. We only have pizza about once a year, so the kids were looking forward to it like crazy. Italians, be warned, what comes next must be hard to digest. I warmed up the pizza in the microwave and then baked it in a regular frying pan. The idea was to get it warm and have at least the bottom a bit crunchy. The bottom turned out almost black and the entire thing looked inedible. The kids loved their very special pizza topped with extra cheese and ketchup to cover up the burnt taste.
On Thursday the 4th of September, our cooking range died on me in the middle of green beans and rice. I half expected it, since it was attached to the oven. I wanted to give up, but then my daughter came along. She secretly turned the oven on, thinking it a toy after it broke. For some reason, that reactivated the hot plate on top of it! Thanks to my mischievous five year old, we had a decent meal after all.
She told everyone she saved dinner that day, strutting around proud like a peacock.
On Friday the 5th of September, we asked my teen sister to babysit and went to my employer’s corporate party, all the while discussing how to rearrange our kitchen. We felt like we could handle our bad luck for a blissful twelve hours.
On Saturday the 6th of September, our car broke down in the middle of the road to my parent’s home. It stopped, just like that. We had to find another car and take my sister home, which made my husband late for work. His work being to clean up the party we went to the night before. Mere coincidence made me help dismantle my own employer’s party, to get things done in time. The kids had a great time, being allowed to help out dad and being at mommy’s party at the same time. They didn’t mind that they were the only ones singing and dancing in an empty tent.
On Sunday the 7th of September, I decided to bake some fine Belgian waffles. I had made a new school year’s resolution of baking cookies for the kids to take to school every week. Because the green me wants to lessen our piles of plastic waste, because the control freak in me wants to follow up on their sugar consumption, and because our daughter is just very picky when it comes to cookies (I’m not complaining). I wouldn’t let the broken oven break my resolution after just one week, so waffles it was. Broken crumbled pieces of waffles anyway. Not a single one came out in less than 23 pieces. The kids thought it extremely cool to have a little box full of waffle crumbs to take to school all week. They figured the tinier the pieces were, the more waffle could fill their snack box.
On Monday the 8th of September, I found almost all of our chickens gone. One was still there, without her head. I found her inside our completely closed den. No holes, no open door. The predator went in and out anyway. I told the kids a very cute little fox was probably very happy with his mommy’s endeavours. I also promised them I would get us a pig instead of those vulnerable little chickens. A very big one. We’ll call her Foxy.
On Tuesday the 9th of September, we bought ourselves a new car. The kind of family car I’d been wishing for, even before the previous one. Our son approved because the new car is close to his favorite colour, black. Our daughter approved even more because it had sliding doors in the back. No more accidents with neighbouring cars for her.
On Wednesday the 10th of September, I found a new kitchen when I came home from work. My husband had worked like crazy to surprise me. The oven and plates were not connected yet, but I was too overwhelmed to mind. We were getting used to cucumbers and cold salmon wraps for dinner anyway. It was a good exercise for the predicted power blackouts during winter as well.
On Thursday the 11th of September, I felt our luck was turning. We had been able to found benefits in all of our misfortunes. New car, new kitchen, new pet. Fate gave us Ethiopian New Year on that day. It’s liberating to state in the middle of 2014, that you’re heading for the year 2007.
It feels as if you can start all over.
That morning, our Ethiopian daughter went to school in her traditional white dress to show off. Our son wore his Ethiopian scarf for mere coolness. In the middle of my last science policy meeting of that day, I was already musing about our cozy evening to come, picking yellow flowers and having popcorn, as tradition prescribes in our daughter’s birth country.
That very moment, my husband called. I was to head for the hospital.
My little princess’s pristine white dress was covered in blood. She had had a nasty fall and an even nastier hole right between her eyes. They had waited for me to arrive before doing the stitching, because she desperately needed her mommy. I will never be able to wash away the image of that incredibly deep hole in her forehead. Nor of the terror in her eyes when the syringe for the local anaesthetics came by.
When it was all over, we promised her pizza. One from the local Italian, because the oven still didn’t work. Also because we were too exhausted to think of anything creative at 8 pm.
In the car back home, my daughter told me she couldn’t believe how lucky she was.
I thought I’d misunderstood.
I was having a very hard time staying composed. After this unbelievable week, my stress buffer was in shambles.
And my daughter, covered in deep stitches and steristrips, told me she felt so lucky?
“Of course,” she said. “We’ll have pizza night two weeks in a row!”
Do your kids also help you get past the most dreadful passages in your life? Can we learn from their ability to find innocent fun on every occasion, no matter how bad?
If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...
If you will have, do have, or have ever had a nine year old boy in your life, you have probably heard this ever common, often blood curdling statement, “That’s not fair!” I hear it multiple times a day from my own nine year old son. I thought it was a phrase which would never end, and apparently even, we, as adults, struggle with perceived unfairness in our own lives quite often. (more…)
Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.
From the window, I can hear high-pitched giggles and the sound of wellington boots on garden path gravel.
My daughter is next door with her new neighbor friend, pretending that the garden shed is an animal rescue center and the backyard chickens are actually wild monkeys. My son is bouncing on a trampoline with the friend’s big sister and I can see their carefree bodies flying above the wheat fields, in the shadow of the village church.
It’s past their usual school-night bedtime, but the sun is still high and we’ve stopped keeping track of these things anyway. Evidence of the day’s activities is scattered on the grass: badminton birdies, a rainbow of half-finished loom band bracelets, a decorated cardboard lean-to and sticky signs of an earlier snail race.
Both kids return with dirty feet and ice cream on their faces and I’m pretty sure they forgot to wash their hands after petting the donkey across the road. But it’s okay. It’s the summer holidays in rural England and it feels like the stuff childhood is made of. The only catch is that it’s not where we live…
Life is a series of trade-offs.
Back in Jakarta, we’re on our way to school and my children want to know why we don’t live in England. “Well…because we live here”, I respond simply, feeling a sharp pang of guilt. I go on to explain that day-to-day life in England would probably be different than the idyllic summer version. For example, instead of playing all day, they would have to go to school and soon the long sunny days would turn cold and wet. “That’s okay!” they chirp, happily unconvinced.
Luckily the conversation shifts and together we watch the city float past our car window. The daily mosaic of life here is colorful, chaotic and always fascinating. We read shop signs, point out our favorite kaki lima food carts and compete to find the most interesting motorcycle cargo…from pallets of baby chicks to enormous balloon bundles.
We talk about their new school classes and where all the children are from, realizing that there are nearly as many nationalities as students. We think about where we might like to travel for their half-term break and marvel at how lucky we are to be so close to so many amazing destinations.
Life is a series of trade-offs.
Sometimes, I feel sad about the fact that our children are growing up so far away from their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. But then I am also reminded that since our family is both British and American, we will always be far from someone we love regardless of where we live. We do the best we can to stay connected and are grateful for the precious time we get to spend together.
Occasionally, I see photos of my friends’ frolicking children and feel a twinge of regret that my own kids are missing out on the places and experiences I enjoyed as a child growing up in the US.
But then I examine my own assumptions…does their childhood need to resemble my own for it to be good? Of course not. My children may not learn to ski anytime soon, but they are seeing and doing so much more than I ever dreamed of at their age.
Life is a series of trade-offs.
I tell myself that we are lucky to enjoy the best of both worlds. But in reality, we can’t have it both ways.
This is the path we’ve chosen and there are limitations as well as benefits. Accepting these trade-offs brings a certain kind of relief and shifts the focus — emphasizing what we have instead of what we’re missing.
It’s a process, but I’m getting there.
How do you and your family balance life’s trade-offs?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour.
Photo Credit: ClairOverThere. This image holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations.
Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.
Following the Social Good Summit, World Moms Blog was invited to a private event focused on the immediate humanitarian need to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus. It was eye opening, and we can’t wait to share what we learned and what actions everyday citizens can take…
“We have to get ahead of this crisis.” — Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, reported that her organization is working in all three countries with the most Ebola cases: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ebola has a high fatality rate and isolation helps calm the virus down. Children are being orphaned at an increasing rate, and burial practices and safety are of importance, as the virus is still active after death. As the crisis increases, Miles says the goal is to also increase the amounts of Ebola Community Units (EBCs) that Save the Children has been setting up.
The introduction of an EBC gives aid workers the ability to work with people in the communities affected to increase trust in the treatment of the dangerous virus and helps get people out of their homes to decrease the chance of infecting family members. Miles also noted that the governments of the US and the UK are also running treatment centers in the countries affected.
This is the first outbreak in Western Africa and the 1st in urban areas. In fact, just two weeks ago, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ear tagged $50 million dollars to go toward eradicating Ebola. By the time they had made the announcement, they had already handed out the first $13 million, which indicates the urgency of the need, according to Elias. The $50 million commitment is the largest Gates has made to a humanitarian crisis. This is just the beginning, as $1 billion is needed to complete the mission, according to the ONE Campaign. Christopher Elias explains the 4 part strategy for the Ebola funding, as follows:
The 1st part of the strategic plan for where the Gates money will benefit is to partners such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and others. In fact, the first $1 million was allotted to UNICEF.
The second step is to fund research, as there is a need for both, a cure and a better test to diagnose Ebola.
Third, the strategy is focused at the country level.
Something very unique to controlling this outbreak is the use of health systems previously in place from the efforts to eradicate polio in Lagos, Nigeria.
The capital city had 19 cases, but health workers were able to control it quickly. Same was true for Senegal, where there was one case that was rapidly contained. Part three of the strategy will be how resources in countries affected can be complemented to help.
And the fourth part of the financing strategy for the Gates commitment is to join partnerships with the CDC and others to calculate which countries will be at risk for the spread of Ebola. Identifying and anticipating where Ebola could travel next, will help those countries prepare if the virus does indeed arrive. As already mentioned, the quicker the containment of the disease, the less likely it is to spread.
Carolyn Miles noted that where there are no health systems intact, in the more rural areas, there is the most risk of the virus spreading. In the more urban areas, as mentioned, the legacy of the polio eradication efforts are already in place to contain and treat Ebola.
We also heard from Jamie Drummond, co-founder of the ONE campaign, who pointed out that strengthening the economies in countries vulnerable to the disease is important. The world needs more sustainable systems, and, in fact, according to Drummond, it is estimated that $1 billion is needed for the Ebola crisis. He explained that the money could come from GAVI, but that would come at the expense of endangering the vaccination programs already planned to prevent other deadly diseases. Realistically, we need to deal with Ebola AND get GAVI the money it needs to carry on it’s already life-saving work.
The three countries currently affected by Ebola have significant natural resources. Had these natural resources been managed well in the past, the money to combat the virus would be here today. ONE insists that we need long-term investments in functioning economies.
On that note, we were told about the “Publish What You Pay” campaign to expose corruption and unveil money laundering schemes. In many countries throughout Africa there is no budget transparency, and citizens cannot see how the money is used. This campaign is working hard toward better functioning economies in Africa.
Towards the end of the conference, actor Idris Elba, famous for his role as Nelson Mandela, among others, arrived. Having roots in Sierra Leone and Ghana, he explained that he is dedicated to lend his celebrity to help the crisis in West Africa. He also noted that the Sierra Leone economy has been slashed by over 30% and that 75% of the Ebola victims are young women, who are more likely the caregivers for people suffering from the virus. In addition, he explained that in Sierra Leone there is a large group of thousands of young adults mobilized and going door to door to give out information about Ebola. But, this group is heavily fatigued. Elba is hoping to rally them forward.
World Moms, Elizabeth Atalay, Kyla P’an and myself, left the conversation briefed on just how large of a problem Ebola is and can be, and the importance of immediate action.
Three Steps YOU can take to help #ENDEBOLA right now!!!
Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India.
She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls.
Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.