Sunday, March 22nd was World Water Day, a day to celebrate water and bring awareness to the fact that far too many people still lack access to safe water and toilets.
One in ten of the world’s population lives without safe drinking water and 40% do not have adequate sanitation. These statistics are staggering to me considering water is our most precious resource. Water is life. How could something so simple be so scarce for so many people on our planet?
I traveled to Nicaragua last year during World Water Day and spent a week with WaterAid America seeing their work on the ground in the remote indigenous communities there. It was a life-changing trip that taught me how much we take for granted here in the United States.
I got to spend time with a woman named Linda who opened up her house to me and my team. Linda’s home had no electricity or running water, yet she made us feel comfortable. We watched as she used the skills she learned from WaterAid to build and maintain wells for her community. These skills helped her earn money so she could buy her children basic things like shoes and books for school. She’s like any other mother, wanting to provide for her children first.
We slept under mosquito nets and ate food cooked over a fire with only the light of a headlamp once the sun went down. We used the toilet Linda built outside her home and dodged wandering farm animals as we walked. Linda took us to see where she keeps her crops via a dugout canoe. Her granddaughter, Exelia, collected vegetables and flowers in her dress, handing me some of my own every so often. We did not speak the same language, but we could communicate.
When I got back from my trip, I wrote about it on my blog and I talked about it a lot with my kids. I wanted them to understand that life in other countries does not always look and feel the same as ours. When I realized World Water Day was coming this year, I asked their teachers if I could come in and talk about the importance of water and toilets in our lives. They welcomed me with open arms.
My youngest is in kindergarten and my oldest is in fourth grade. To cut down on the inevitable giggles that might come from too much “potty talk,” I decided to take the simple approach of showing the kids photos from my trip. They reacted to the photos and asked lots of questions. I chose photos that showed the type of toilets, wells and catchment systems that were being built by the people of Nicaragua with the help of WaterAid America.
We talked about how diseases can spread if people don’t have a clean and sanitary place to go to the bathroom or if you don’t practice good hygiene. We talked about the need to build more wells and systems so that women and girls could spend their days working and going to school instead of walking for miles to fetch water. We talked about how unsafe water can make people very sick and how water filtration systems could help.
I also showed photos of kids in school and swimming, baseball players, toothbrushes and children’s artwork. We talked about how while the kids might live differently in Nicaragua, they were still very much like them. They laughed and played and enjoyed things like baseball and drawing. The fourth graders smartly wondered if they could use the wind, water and sun to help power the communities I had visited. They quickly understood that developing countries might not have enough money and resources to replicate what we have in America. In both classrooms, we talked about how if we know about the problems in the world and we already are living with solutions, we could share that knowledge with others and help.
Even elementary schools kids can be global citizens.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Jennifer Iacovelli of Anotherjennifer.
Do you think your kids understand how precious our water resources are?
Reggae band SOJA partnered with UNICEF’s Out-of-School Children initiative to produce the video “Shadow” to draw attention to the importance of education for all of the world’s children. Globally, an estimated 58 million children of primary school age and 63 million young adolescents are not enrolled in school. Like the girl in this video, many of them are girls. Yet data demonstrates that reaching the most marginalized children may initially cost more but also yields greater benefits. This video was filmed in Jigjiga, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where 3 million children remain out of school. For more on global trends regarding out-of-school children, visit the UNICEF website.
This year, the UN has decided to place a special focus on the role of health care workers in FGM. Although the practice of FGM cannot be justified by medical reasons, in many countries it is executed more and more often by medical professionals. This constitutes one of the greatest threats to the abandonment of the practice.
(c)TARA TODRASS-WHITEHILL / REUTERS / LANDOV image retrieved from Aljazeera America
Jennifer Prestholdt is a lawyer and the Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, a volunteer-based human rights organization that works locally, nationally and internationally. Her work in human rights takes her around the world, but she spends most of her time in Minneapolis, MN, where she lives with her children (two sons and one daughter), her husband, an elderly cat and a dwarf hamster.
As Jennifer’s kids are now all in school (1st, 4th and 6th grades), she is finally finding more time to do the things that she used to love to do, especially running, writing and knitting. Jennifer loves to travel and has had the dubious distinction of having been accidentally locked in a bathroom on five continents so far. Australia and Antarctica await!
In January 2011, Jennifer made a New Year’s Resolution to start writing about her experiences in order to share with her children the lessons learned from 15 years of work in human rights. The result is her personal blog, The Human Rights Warrior. The name comes from her son Simon, who was extremely disappointed to learn that his mother is a lawyer, not a warrior.
There are clouds over London again. But if you stop and look up and squint, you will see a tell-tale pearlescent lining that was not there before.
The trees along this street stand tall and bristle-dark as they have through the winter months. But if you stop and look up and squint, you will see small, white buds that were not there before.
When the mornings come now, they arrive a little earlier on a bobbing melody of birds.
The children wake more easily now, and swing their bare legs out of bed without a wince.
Outside, the people at the bus-stop at the end of the road turn to each other and smile and nod before they board the fat red double-decker that bears them away to the city.
I feel a lightness in me that has been absent for a while.
At home, I unlatch windows that have stiffened and swollen over the last few months. They groan, then give, suddenly, in my hand, and swing open. The outside air rushes in. It smells different.
In the back garden, my birthday rose is turning green.
I stand quietly then smile and give thanks.
Other people’s words come to me. I think of e.e. cummings’ poem in Just, which sings of a world that is “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful.” I think of Philip Larkin’s Trees and its whisper: “Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.” And I think of Gerard Manley Hopkins asking: “What is all this juice and all this joy?”
What is it? It’s Spring. The seasons have turned, at last.
How will you celebrate?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophie Walker of the United Kingdom. Photo credit: Karen Arnold. This picture has a public domain license.
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.
Today is International Day of Happiness! We at World Moms Blog know the importance of connecting with other people. In our technology driven societies, it becomes very easy to send a text message, an email, or to click “Like” on someone’s Facebook status…but does that actually make us feel like we made a personal connection with that person? Truly connecting is not as easy!
For International Day of Happiness this year, the theme is focusing on your connections with others. To help you think about conversation starters, or ways to connect with others on a more personal level, we asked our fabulous contributors this question: “What brings you happiness?” Read on to see some of their responses. (more…)
World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children.
World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.
To the outside world we seemed absolutely fine. But we weren’t.
It was, for me, an intensely sad marriage. And for a long time I couldn’t work out why. Here was a perfectly pleasant man who wished me well and who responded to my affection. He worked hard and was what most of us would call a “good guy”. He still is. But my self-esteem was dropping and my mood was becoming a habitual mix of frustration and melancholy.
It was one of those slow drifts downwards, like water eroding rock.
Then, around 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with something call Alexithymia. It’s not a mental disorder but more of a fixed personality trait. It’s common in those formally on the autism spectrum, in those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and in some of us with attachment issues from our early childhood.
Basically, anyone with Alexithymia cannot identify the bodily sensations that go along with their emotions. They still have the same sensations but are unable to distinguish between them and label them. They also have a very limited imaginative life, which sounds fine, until you realise predicting outcomes and taking steps to avoid the less desirable ones, are in fact, a product of our imagination.
These two issues give rise to a deep lack of empathy and ability to relate to another human being. Sympathy –the intellectual understanding of the experience of another–can happen but the actual feeling of an emotion, as another has it, in the sense of true empathy, cannot.
For me, this meant I would have to be sobbing in front of my ex before he understood I was sad, and then have to tell him to give me a hug, as the appropriate response. He did not mean to be uncaring. He just never understood subtle body language or had the instinctive responses that most of us have.
There are always three choices in a situation: To alter it; to put up with it; or to leave.
For many years I did my best to see if things could change. I offered to go back to work, so he could get therapy. I suggested counselling, on more than one occasion. None of these offers were ever taken up.
The more I read about Alexithymia, the more I realised… I would never be taken up on any of these. People with Alexithymia see the rest of us as over-emotional and confusing. They cannot see why they would leave their completely logical realms. Their idea of a perfect partner is a kind body in the house with whom there is as little emotional deviation and routines are maintained – this was exactly what our marriage was.
As time went by, I became increasingly distant and detached. At times, I became unpleasant and down right bitchy. Then, around three years ago, someone asked me what made me happy. And I couldn’t tell them. From being someone who was a perpetual optimist, I was by then emotionally dead – aside from experiencing frustration and melancholy. It was a massive wake up call and I knew something had to change.
It did take three years for me to be ready. There is a comfort in familiarity that is enticing. But in the end, my physical body was beginning to suffer, my older boys were finding the emotional disconnect from their father tough going and the other side of the leap to leave seemed less stressful than staying.
I am sure I was by no means the perfect partner either. But I share this here because these are immensely lonely and soul-destroying relationships to be in – and many who are in them either think they are going crazy or that they are the only ones ever to have this experience or some combination of both. But neither are true.
You’re not crazy. You’re not alone. The shell of the outside relationship that the world sees is not the whole story.
Have you ever known someone with Alexithymia? Tell us your tale.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our long-time contributor and mother to three in New Zealand, Karyn Sparkles Willis.
The image used in this post is attributed to Nathan Jones. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.