CANADA: Campaigning For Change

CANADA: Campaigning For Change

It seems that there is no place on earth that is immune to bigotry. Not even Canada, which has been regarded by many as one of the world’s last bastions of sanity. After a campaign that was eerily similar to the Trump-vs-Hillary battle, Ontario elected as its Premier a man who is eerily similar to Trump.

Since this provincial government took office about a month ago, the following has happened:

* The cap-and-trade program, meant to benefit the environment and combat climate change, has been scrapped.

*$100M dollars that had been budgeted for school repairs has been taken away. The school repair backlog in Ontario currently sits at about $15B.

* A basic income pilot program, which was enabling low-income people to do things like put a roof over their head and food on their table, has been canceled.

* Prescription drug coverage for people under the age of 21 has been removed.

* A budgeted increase in funding for people with disabilities has been cut in half.

* Money that had been slated for mental health supports has been taken away.

* With spectacular disregard for democracy, the Premier has decided to slash the size of Toronto City Council in the middle of a municipal election campaign.

* An updated health and physical education curriculum has been repealed. The sex ed component of this curriculum was teaching kids about consent, bodily autonomy, online and physical safety, and respect for members of the LGBT community.

The education system is in for a rough few years. A lot is going to change in the school boards. Funding is going to be taken away or redistributed. Curriculums are going to be replaced with older, outdated versions that are not relevant to today’s world. Teaching conditions are going to become more challenging, and students are going to emerge from high school without all of the tools they need to cope with the big bad world.

The time for me to sit back and complain about the government is over. I have decided that I need to be proactive in advocating for kids – not only my own kids, but all of the kids in my community. And so I have thrown my name into the hat for the role of school board trustee. If I am elected, I will be throwing all of my energy into ensuring that during this political upheaval in our province, the voices of the kids are not drowned out. I will do whatever it takes to ensure the wellbeing of students in my neighbourhood. I will join committees, go to meetings, propose new policies and defend our kids against attacks on their education.

Of course, I first have to convince voters that I am a better person for the job than the eight people I’m running against. Knocking on doors and talking to complete strangers is not my idea of a fun time. But if it gets me into a position where I can make a difference, it’ll be worth it.

Have you ever run for an elected office? What is the education system like where you are?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada. To follow Kirsten on the campaign trail, visit www.votekirstendoyle.ca, or follow her on Twitter @kirstendoyle_to, or Instagram @votekirstendoyle.

 Photo credit: Peter Gabany

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook and on Twitter @running4autism. Be sure to check out her personal blog, Running for Autism!

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USA: How The Travel Ban Affected My Family

USA: How The Travel Ban Affected My Family

I was in Taipei with family for Chinese New Year when President Donald Trump first announced the travel ban on citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

For days, concerned relatives and friends asked if the ban would affect us.

In one way, it doesn’t affect us—we are naturalized U.S. citizens.

But in many ways, it does affect us.

My 3-year-old son’s preschool teacher is a Muslim from Iran. We love her and truly worried that we would lose a great teacher over that ban. For days my husband and I tried to come up with a good explanation for our child, but we couldn’t.

At dinner table when the child was not listening, my mother-in-law said, “You don’t have to tell him anything. He’s gone through several teachers before, he’ll be fine. He probably won’t even notice that she is gone.”

My father-in-law said, “If he does notice and ask questions, simply tell him that the teacher left. He will forget about it soon anyway.”

My in-laws were wrong. Kids are not as ignorant and forgetting as we thought.

We came back to the States on the same day protesters against President Trump’s travel ban gathered at Los Angeles International Airport. When we were in the customs line, an immigrant officer asked the woman in front of us, “Does what happening in America these days worry you?”

“Yes, it really worries me,” the woman answered. She wore a Hijab.

My son overheard them and asked me, “Mama, what’s she worrying about?”

We stepped out of Tom Bradley International Terminal, and he saw the protestors.

“Mama, what are these people doing?”

We had to start the difficult conversation early. “Look, baby. Our new President just made a new rule that stops people from some Muslim countries from coming to our country. But there are people who think the rule is wrong, so they are here to tell everybody that what they think. And the woman with Hijab at the custom is probably a Muslim, so the rule worries her.”

I tried to use small words. I wasn’t sure if he understood. He thought about it, and then asked, “Do we know any Muslim?”

“Well, Ms. Parvaneh is from a Muslim country.”

He stared at me. And then all in a sudden, he started to cry. Not crying, but wailing.

While we were driving home, my son fell asleep in the car. He woke up two hours later, and never asked any questions about the ban again.

Luckily, the government suspended enforcement of the ban after a couple of days.

When I picked my son up from preschool on the day of his return there, I asked him how school had been.

“Great,” he said. “I’m very happy because Ms. Parvaneh was still there.”

I was surprised. I thought (or I hoped) that he had already forgotten about that ban thing.

But apparently he hadn’t. He asked me if the President was still trying to “kick Ms. Parvaneh out.”

“Well, he may try again. But don’t worry. The ban is not fair. People will speak up and help out.”

“Who will? Will you, Mama?”

“……”

“Mama, will you speak up and help Ms. Parvaneh?”

“I will, baby.”

This week, Trump is preparing to release a second executive order halting travel from citizens of the seven nations. And I’m taking time to write this post, because I promised my son that I would speak up. It is wrong to attack immigrant families with Executive Orders. Immigrants or the children of immigrants started 40% of all Fortune 500 companies. They own and run many small and medium businesses, and they are a critical part of our national labor force and community – including my son’s preschool teacher.

Trump has said that citizens of the seven countries pose a high risk of terrorism. But the 9th Circuit made it clear that the Trump administration “pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” This ban is simply not reasonable. As an American, I refuse to lose a critical part of my country – or lose a great teacher – over an unreasonable ban.

What are your thoughts on the travel ban? Would you, or anyone you know, be directly affected?

This is an original post to World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng of the United States. Photo credit: Florencia Rojas.

To-Wen Tseng

Former TV reporter turned freelance journalist, children's book writer in wee hours, nursing mom by passion. To-wen blogs at I'd rather be breastfeeding. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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UAE: Parenting In Strange (Trumpish) Times

Parenting in Strange (Trumpish) Times

We are living in strange times. Here’s how strange they are: the other day I found myself nodding in agreement with something that Dick Cheney said. He is one of the few Republicans who spoke out immediately against Trump’s executive order banning Muslims entering the United States. (Of course in the same interview, he talked about how there was “nobody in America” when his Puritan ancestors arrived. I guess some things never change.) I’ve also started following Pope Francis on Instagram. The Pope gives good Insta, I have to say, but the thing is, I’m not Catholic. I’m not even a lapsed Catholic. I’m not even religious. The closest I came to a religious moment is when I was about seven and was a horse in the St. Augustine “Noah’s Ark” pageant. I pranced down the aisle with the other “animals” and then we all huddled around the altar while Father Pemble—the hippy minister with a fabulous baritone and a red beard—sang songs about the flood. A religious high-point, for sure.

I don’t agree with the Pope on some key issues—he’s not going to be espousing any pro-choice rhetoric anytime soon—but his messages speak to the importance of caring for all of humanity, not just those who look like you.

Here’s an even stranger thing: for the first time in my adult life, I wished this weekend that I had become a lawyer. Because if I’d been a lawyer, and if I were in the United States, I could have gone to an airport and offered my services to detainee families as they (as we all) struggle with the implications of Trump’s destructive (and illegal) actions. I even suggested to my sixteen-year old son that he might think about becoming a lawyer — an idea that wouldn’t ever have occurred to me a month ago. Watching from afar as US airports flooded with people offering support of all kinds to detainees and their families—legal advice, places to stay, food, whatever they could find—I felt a tiny glimmer of hope. The Women’s Marches were amazing, a tour-de-force of activism, energy, and global feminism, but somehow the airport protests seem like an even bigger deal, because they were spontaneous, contagious, and effective (can we get a shoutout for the ACLU)? As the wonderful Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, “Donald Trump has no idea how terrifying a blue book and a Lexis password can be. He’s about to find out.”

The protests have also helped me to show my kids that all is not lost (for a little while longer at least): the country still has the rule of law, which the President has to obey. I’ve been pointing to the photos of lawyers sitting on airport floors, laptops open, as signs that individuals can make a difference and that Trump’s message of fear has not taken hold everywhere.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? How do we explain Trump’s actions to our children when what he’s doing violates such fundamental principles of civility? And how do we keep our children, particularly older children, optimistic about the future when around the world things seem so bleak? My sixteen-year old son is full of the existential despair that only a teen-ager can feel. He says things like, “yeah, I’m doing my homework, not that it matters because…Trump” – which might become the 2017 version of “the dog ate my homework.” Like most teenagers, my son is a pretty rigid thinker: things are one way or another, the best or the worst; he has lots of opinions and they are, of course, always correct. The night after Trump’s victory (a landslide, as Trump keeps telling us), The Teen said, “but mom, I thought the good guys were supposed to win.” He looked so sad and confused, and I could almost hear the screeching gears in his mind trying to recalibrate his world view.

The Teen has only known Presidential elections where Obama won, and although he knows theoretically that “good guys” don’t always win, this election is his first real-life whammy of watching the good guys lose. It happens to all of us eventually, and sadly, we may even come to expect it. But right now, the Teen is sure that we’re all doomed. I’ve had my fair share of similar thoughts since the inauguration (did you see those “huge” crowds on the Mall for the swearing-in? Yeah, me neither), but I don’t want my kids to feel as pessimistic as I do. They’re young, right? If they lose hope, then that’s the end of the game.

Surprisingly—or perhaps not surprisingly, given how odd things are these days—I found some advice on the Pope’s Instagram. The day the Muslim ban went into effect, the PopeFeed featured a picture with the caption: “Dear young people, make a ruckus! A ruckus that brings a free heart, solidarity, hope…” You know what? I’m thinking ruckus sounds just about right. Perhaps that’s the final thing: I’m actually telling my kids to make a ruckus. Ask questions, read the news, read history, pay attention. And vote. The sixteen-year old will vote for a President in 2020. I wonder who she’ll be?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. 

Lead photo credit: Kenneth Lu / Flickr. Pope Francis video via the Pope’s Instagram

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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World Voice: Listening With a Willingness to be Changed

World Voice: Listening With a Willingness to be Changed

us-election-signThe election of the next President of the United States is drawing near with just two weeks to go. Many Americans (and I suspect many non-Americans as well) have been counting down the days to the end of what has been a brutal campaign. Like many parents I’ve struggled with just how, exactly, to talk to my kids about this election.

Earlier this year, I started to see articles popping up about how to talk to children about Donald Trump, specifically. But I wonder, too, about how to talk to children about the extraordinary thing they are witnessing in this election cycle: the breakdown of mutual agreements – spoken and unspoken – about how political discourse happens in an open and free democracy with peaceful transitions of power.

To be sure, American politics have always been contentious. Heated debates and party divisions are not new. What feels new to me, though, is the unwillingness on all sides to truly listen with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.

It is this type of listening that I try to model and teach my children. It is this type of listening that helps me to experience being seen and understood. And I think it is this type of listening that can and will ultimately create healing if we are willing to step into it.

Listening is one of my greatest challenges as a parent. In the hustle of day-to-day life – school, work, meals, nap, laundry, dishes – I can sometimes become so focused on what needs to happen (according to me) that I don’t always stop and listen with a willingness to be changed when my kids try to express something to me. I might stop and look at them and pay attention as they speak. I may even silently congratulate myself for being so patient.

But if I’m just trying to make them feel heard rather than actually listening and taking in what they are saying, willing to adjust course based on what they express, am I really modeling how I hope they will show up in the world?

As adults, whether we mean to or not, we are constantly setting an example for the children of the world. They see and pay attention and learn from us, for better or for worse. It is for this reason that conversations about Donald Trump are essential. And it is also for this reason that I think we would all do well to consider whether we are confusing polite waiting for true listening. Are we sitting quietly while our fellow citizens express their frustrations and fears, congratulating ourselves on being so cool-headed, while we simply wait for them to finish so we can respond with whatever preloaded retort applies? Or are we truly listening with a willingness to be changed, to consider the other side, and to wonder, together, how we can address and ensure our common well-being?

How open are you to changing your position after listening to someone’s point of view? Has this ever happened to you?

This is an original post to World Moms Network by Ms. V of South Korea. Photo credit: Jay Phagan. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Ms. V. (South Korea)

Ms. V returned from a 3-year stint in Seoul, South Korea and is now living in the US in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, their two kids, three ferocious felines, and a dog named Avon Barksdale. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast, but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home.” Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50 states. Ms. V is contemplative and sacred activist, exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism and social change. She is the co-director and co-founder of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a non-profit yoga studio and the spiritual director for Hab Community. While not marveling at her beautiful children, she enjoys reading, cooking, and has dreams of one day sleeping again.

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USA: Voting from Abroad

Voting from Abroad

There are an estimated 2.6 million eligible American voters living abroad, and every one of them has the right to register and vote via absentee ballot. I am proud to count myself among the millions of U.S. citizens voting from abroad. I cast my ballot last week, sending it with a Canadian friend who was traveling to the United States. He sent me an email after dropping my ballot in the mail, saying that he was proud to participate in the American electoral process, and asking to be welcome at our Thanksgiving table in return.

As citizens living abroad, we have not only the right, but also a civic duty to vote in our home elections. Some countries do not offer absentee voting to their citizens, while other countries do not allow expats who have lived abroad for an extended period to vote at all. I’m fortunate that absentee voting is allowed in my country, and I encourage all expats abroad to vote in their home elections.

As a mother, I have taught my children that voting is a way for a group of people to make a decision together. Parents can take the opportunity at election time to introduce our children to the political process in our home countries. My children won’t be able to vote for many years, but they already understand that there is a presidential election in our country this year. They know the two main candidates, which one I am supporting, and why. As future voters, I have tried to teach them the importance of making their voices heard.

A mere 12 percent of American expat voters cast their absentee ballots in the 2012 election, according to the Rothermere American Institute. This year, efforts are being made to get out the expat vote, recognizing the voting power of Americans abroad.

If you’re an American expat, you can use the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website to register to vote and request your absentee ballot for the November 8th election. If you have questions, just check out the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s FAQs. Voting abroad is easier than you think!

Voting in our home elections is our right, and our duty. Absentee voting is easy – it takes just a few minutes. Make your voice heard on November 8th. Be a proud overseas voter!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu

Image credits: “I voted” via Kelley Minars / Flickr, American in Singapore via Erika Behl, American in Pakistan via Kelsey Hoppe, U.S. Ambassador Baur via Instagram, American in Germany via Instagram, American in Switzerland via Instagram, American in Spain via Instagram, Virginia ballot image is the author’s own, American in Zambia via Jessica Menon

Tara Wambugu

Tara Wambugu is a wife, a mother of two, and a Kenya-based lifestyle blogger covering parenting, family life, travel, and more. A former aid worker, Tara has worked in various countries in Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Central America. She is now a stay-at-home mom living in Nairobi with her husband and their two sassy little girls. You can follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni.

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World Voice: A Vision of My Country – USA

World Voice: A Vision of My Country – USA

Rushing past rural cornfields in Missouri by train

Rushing past rural cornfields in Missouri by train

I spent a quiet Fourth of July watching the heartland of America roll by my train window on a journey from Chicago to St. Louis. Playing in my headphones was the soundtrack of an old educational cartoon called “Schoolhouse Rocks!” In honor of my country’s Independence Day, I was listening to musical explanations of the American Constitution, the concept of “manifest destiny” (the 19th-century idea that expansion of the U.S. from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific was justified and inevitable), and the American Revolution. The simplistic way the songs presented information to me as a child in the 1970’s led me to believe that everything my government did was right and good. I completely trusted American authority despite glaring evidence that manifest destiny didn’t work well at all for the Native Americans who already lived in the center of the continent.

Now, in my 40’s, I know better. I see that the America that I live in, is not a nationally shared experience. For instance, the little rural towns I saw from the train are not my day-to-day reality although almost 1/5 of all U.S. residents live in communities like them. Here’s another difference: twenty-three million Americans live in food deserts – urban and rural – with little to no access to fresh fruits and vegetables while others are surrounded by high end grocery stores. Other differences are not bound by location. From sea to shining sea, challenging voices ring out to proclaim “Black Lives Matter” to help everyone understand that shootings of citizens by police officers is a reality for people of some skin tones and not for others. Each person lives a different truth depending on one’s geography, race, income, and a host of other factors. Clearly, for all its wealth and power, the United States is letting many of our people down.

#WorldMom Cindy and her daughters with U.S. Senator Roy Blunt in Washington D.C.

#WorldMom Cindy and her daughters with U.S. Senator Roy Blunt in Washington D.C.

Such everyday injustices are what led me to Washington D.C the week before Independence Day to join hundred of anti-poverty advocates at the RESULTS International Conference and Lobby Day with my daughters. We  visited the offices of our elected officials and urged them to change systems that keep so many people in poverty across the U.S. and around the world.

Every year we go, we wade into a hostile partisan landscape. We have to move past the open negativity our leaders show on T.V. in order to connect with the individual humans they are and paint a picture of what life is like for Americans they might never meet. If left to their own devices, party extremists drift further apart. Like a mother bringing arguing siblings back together, it’s our responsibility as citizens to reach out and remind them how they are connected to all of us. In this way, we guide our country toward fairer tax policies, better nutrition, and improved maternal/child health…all with a goal of providing each person with opportunity to reach their full potential in life.

Back on the train, hearing the words of our constitution sung in folk-style harmonies reminded me how every person in our political extremes truly believes she or he is honoring the American founding fathers’ vision. No matter how far apart we are on policy ideas, every one of us wants our country to thrive. We want to be treated with respect and raise our children in safe communities with good schools. We truly have more shared values than we often think we do.

Cindy’s daughter in front of the United States Capitol building

Cindy’s daughter in front of the United States Capitol building

Here is my vision of my country and for my country:

My America is a place where diversity is strength, not something to be feared. It’s where voices can be heard when we find the courage to speak out. It’s a place where my children can live, grow, and thrive. It’s not colorblind. It’s not perfect. It’s not best in the world about everything, but we are a country of possibilities and leadership. My America is a place where we can speak truth to power and come closer to becoming a more perfect union.

How would you finish the phrase “My country is…” for the place you currently call home? What parts of your answer are different for your fellow citizens? How can you be engaged in helping your country be the best it can be for all people?

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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