Self love is key of happiness

Self love is key of happiness

In a very fast pace world we lose connection with our true selves and we may become unaware of what really happiness means to us. Across my journey of growth and personal development I always came by the expression SELF LOVE. I remember very well the first time I heard this expression. It was twelve years ago, while studying coaching, in one of my sessions with my coach she said “Love yourself” and I asked “How can I love myself?” but she didn’t answer and since then I am looking for the meaning of self-love.

We spend years running to achieve different goals like earning more money, getting a new house, latest mobiles, watches , cars, clothes brands but we may still feel that our happiness is incomplete, something is missing. If I ask: “What happiness means to you?”; most probably I will get different answers about materials, other persons love, or achieving goals. They are all external ways or tools to bring happiness. While different psychological studies and spiritual practices found that happiness comes from the inside. It is within us we just need to dig deep to find it.

Let’s imagine two bottles; one contains crystal clear water while the other contains dirty water. If we pour clear water into the dirty water, does this latter become clear or does it remain dirty? It’s the same for us. Is it enough for a person with a lot of limiting beliefs, anger feelings,  hatred feelings, and negative thoughts to be happy, lasting happiness, just because they got a new car or a new house? I believe it is a temporary happiness because later they will look for a newer car or a bigger house. Real happiness starts from the inside of us when we can discover our true selves and purpose in life.

Louise Hay wrote, in her book “You can heal your life” that to make any change in our life we need to accept and approve ourselves exactly the way we are. I went to one of the Heal Your Life workshops in Egypt. It was an amazing eye opening experience,it helped me see clearly that everything in my life depends on how I see and feel about myself. To continue the work after the workshop I needed to do some daily exercises. The first was to repeat the affirmation “I love and approve of myself exactly the way I am” 300 to 400 times a day for four months in a row. The second is to repeat the same affirmation few times a day in front of the mirror while looking in my eyes. In the beginning, frankly, I couldn’t believe what I  am saying and when I looked in the mirror I started criticizing my face, my hair and how I looked bad, but later on these voices calmed down and I started to feel this love and its energy. It is real love. Last month I went to a retreat continuing the work of the workshop, and after several sessions and meditations I could heal my biggest childhood wound, feeling unloved and unaccepted the way I am from my mother; a very deep wound that prevented me from enjoying my life for years. Finally I could realize that the pain was because I couldn’t love and approve of myself exactly the way I am, now I feel totally different. A very simple action of self-love and self-approval can make a big difference in your life. Start today to repeat, daily, kindly and tenderly to yourself in the mirror while looking into your eyes: “I love you, you are beautiful, and you deserve happiness …” or whatever positive words that come to your mind and feel the love and happiness. This is how I bring more real happiness into my life. Do you have your own ways that bring you happiness?   

Nihad

Nihad is an Egyptian woman, who was born and has lived her whole life in Alexandria, Egypt. She says, “People who visited this city know how charming and beautiful this city is. Although I love every city in Egypt, Alexandria is the one I love the most.” She is a software engineer and has worked in the field for more than twenty years. But recently she quit her job, got a coaching certificate and she is now a self employed life and career coach. She says, “I believe that women in this era face big challenges and they are taking huge responsibilities. That's why I have chosen my niche -- women looking for happiness and satisfaction. I help and support them in making whatever change (career change, life change, behavior change, belief change…) they want to bring more satisfaction and happiness in their lives.” Nihad is a mother of two lovely boys, 15 and 9 years old. She states, “They are the most precious gifts I have ever had. I madly love them, and I consider them the main source of happiness in my life.” Our inspiring mother in Egypt can also be found at Aurora Beams Life Coaching.

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Sitting with my feelings

Sitting with my feelings

Sitting with my feelings

I consider myself a highly sensitive person.
Some might even call me too sensitive. I cry easily when I watch movies and get teary eyed when something moves me. If you would have asked me, I would have said, that I was totally in touch with my feelings

But it took a pandemic to realize that I wasn’t really processing my feelings: I was simply DEALING with them.

Oh, I was GOOD at dealing with my feelings.

I stomped around the house when I was angry, ranted about my grievances, had heart to heart talks ‘at’ my husband and retreated in my bedroom when I was feeling really sad.
All of that for a brief moment, than I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and it was business as usual.

Because I was REALLY GOOD at dealing with my feelings, getting over ‘it’ and wiping my single tear away.

There was a lot tugging at those bootstraps, as I occasionally shoved a bag of chips down my throat before breakfast or decided to kill all my extra time, by binging Netflix series. Sometimes I felt an awkward lump in my throat or a heaviness in my step, but I just kept on stepping until I was, once again, OVER IT.

I was doing GREAT.

The pandemic gave me a new perspective on myself. My rollercoaster of a life came to a halt. I was in between jobs and stuck in a house with my family. And it was quiet. No job appointments, no social gatherings, no family outings. I had all the time in the world time to take care of myself.
In the absence of all those demanding voices, I became aware of my own silent cry.

“You know that bad experience you had? You haven’t really processed that, you have just moved on. You’re still full of anger, frustration and grief and you are carrying it all around in your body. You smile but the corners of your mouth are getting heavy, like those bootstraps you keep pulling on.”

I started to listen to what my feelings were trying to tell me. I allowed sadness, discomfort and anger to show their faces.
Now, it’s becoming okay to sit in the discomfort of negative feelings. I’m allowing them to exist.

I sit with my feelings, I process, I heal and then, when it’s time: I move on.

Let’s be real with each other: what are your healthy and/or unhealthy ways to deal with negative feelings? I would love to hear about it!

This is an original post to World Moms Network by Mirjam Rose of the Netherlands. 

Photo credit to Sophie Burden. This photo was actually taken on a walking tour of Delft, Netherlands when World Moms, Mirjam Rose and Jennifer Burden, met with their children in 2018! 

Mirjam

Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands. She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera. Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways. But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself. You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.

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Advice for the First Bird Leaving the Nest

Advice for the First Bird Leaving the Nest

Years ago (many years but not many many), I headed to London to start University at the age of 18. Moving from Riyadh, where I was accustom to always asking permission from my parents before going out, having a chaperone with me in the car with the driver, and living my life as a little cog in a beautiful machine of family bonds and obligation for the priceless gift of a built-in support network.

Then suddenly I’m in London, freaking out at my sister for expecting me to take a cab home alone when I wanted to leave dinner early. It was a rude awakening, but I adapted quickly. It took one trip back home after feeling helplessly homesick to realize that home was there, very much the same as I had left it. And that was the beginning of my love story with London.

Today I look at Saud, my 18-year-old son, getting ready to go live in London, and I am sifting through my experiences to find some wisdom to give him. Some grain of truth that is still true today. Except I cannot find any that would be useful to him. 

Is it because he’s a boy/man?

Is it because he went to an American coed school and interacted with many different people from different backgrounds?

Is it because the world has become a fishbowl with the same exact references, musical preferences, and lingo?

If I knew then what I know now, it would be utterly useless as well. There is equally more and less to be scared of. Or just different things to be scared of. For me, as a parent, I mean. He has the baseless fearlessness any 18-year-old boy has, going into the world. 

I got married right out of University. And I had Saud before my first anniversary. 

Having him at the age of 23 means my memories, feelings, and experiences of those 4 years in London are clear in my mind.

Saud and his friend on graduation day

It also means that the lines blur in my head at times. Yes, I do know that I am preparing him for University, not myself. (My husband keeps reminding me.) But when I told my friend in London that I was feeling emotional about him leaving she said “because you’ll miss him? Or because you are jealous?”

And if I am being 100% honest, it is both. 

Before I go on, I am designating this as my safe space to say how I feel, not how I will act. So reading on, do not worry that I will a) hold Saud hostage in Riyadh or b) enroll in his University (I think he genuinely is a bit worried this will happen).

I will miss this cog in the machine of our family that will leave a space we will all have to move and adjust to fill. He has a significant function in this machine. I don’t want to get used to him not being here. When one of my children is away on a sleepover or such, there is something odd about the rest of us there without them, like a car missing one wheel. I don’t know if I want to get used to missing a wheel.

On the other hand, I cannot forget the feeling of walking into places full of people who have no idea who I am or who my parents are. 

The luxury of no one recognizing my name (because everyone knows everyone in Saudi) and asking, “How are you related to so and so?”

Or not having someone wall up to you to tell you they know your brother/sister/mother/cousin etc.

In London, you are just a person, in a class, with other people, and no one could care less. 

For a brief moment, you are just ‘you’. You are not everyone you represent (if you come from a community with big family trees and tribal roots you will understand where I am coming from).

What I also am, maybe, a bit envious of is University. I do want to do it all over again.

My son put so much more thought into it than I did and wants to go back in time and make better decisions.

Granted, we were of the first generation of women of our family who studied abroad. Actually, that’s not true… My mother studied in Switzerland, and we had many women graduate from world-leading universities for generations. But we were the first in our small community, I guess. 

There was not a calling behind me choosing my major. My sister went into “Visual Communications”, So I went into it because it looked fun.

I want a do-over. But with a time machine. I have no inclination to enroll, as a 41-year-old with a bunch of 18-year-olds. 

I want to share with you the advice I gave my son for his first time away from home and ask you to share with me your advice for him. Although some of mine are based on our culture and religion, it does not mean the principle behind it does not apply elsewhere. At the core, we all want and need the same things. To continue to pray on time and with intention*. It took me a while to figure out that praying is for my benefit. That I need to pray, not have to pray. We begin to ask our children to pray with us at 7 and are expected to pray consistently from 9. It doesn’t always become a habit at that age, but it’s something we all do at the same time every day, 5 times a day. Eventually, it’s a habit. But the beauty comes when you do it with intention. The benefit of habit is exercising your ability to consistently do something every day of your life. How would that work if you applied the same commitments to other areas of your life like exercising or reading or work? The spiritual benefit is standing between God’s hands every day, 5 times and day, and opening your heart to Him. To leave any situation that goes against his values. I remember clearly being in a specific situation where people acted in ways that went against my values. And I just sat there. I want him to have the strength to leave when he’s not comfortable. This is the only time in his life he will be held accountable to himself alone. Before this, he was held accountable by the teacher and us, his parents. After this, he will be held accountable at work. Now it’s entirely up to him what choices he makes. There is a beauty in that freedom but also a responsibility. I want him to revel in it and at the same time not take advantage of it. To keep his apartment clean! Mostly because I plan to come by as often as possible and because it’s good life skills. I think there is no better indication of adulthood than a person who can keep their space clean! 

And then my advice runs dry. 

I have volumes upon volumes of advice I learned when I was a teenager. And I unfortunately still have to give my daughter.

Such as how to hold her keys between her fingers so she can punch someone and make it hurt if she’s walking home alone. 

How to always have a friend tracking her location when she’s going home after dinner. 

How not to leave a drink on the table un-watched if she goes to the bathroom in a crowded restaurant. But this is a whole other article.

 What advice can you give my son before starting University this fall? 

*As Muslims, we pray 5 times a day. While abroad for study or for work in a situation that does not always accommodate, we can pray some of the prayers together at one time for convenience. Praying is the foundation of our religion. 

Mama B (Saudi Arabia)

Mama B’s a young mother of four beautiful children who leave her speechless in both, good ways and bad. She has been married for 9 years and has lived in London twice in her life. The first time was before marriage (for 4 years) and then again after marriage and kid number 2 (for almost 2 years). She is settled now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (or as settled as one can be while renovating a house). Mama B loves writing and has been doing it since she could pick up a crayon. Then, for reasons beyond her comprehension, she did not study to become a writer, but instead took graphic design courses. Mama B writes about the challenges of raising children in this world, as it is, who are happy, confident, self reliant and productive without driving them (or herself) insane in the process. Mama B also sheds some light on the life of Saudi, Muslim children but does not claim to be the voice of all mothers or children in Saudi. Just her little "tribe." She has a huge, beautiful, loving family of brothers and sisters that make her feel like she wants to give her kids a huge, loving family of brothers and sisters, but then is snapped out of it by one of her three monkeys screaming “Ya Maamaa” (Ya being the arabic word for ‘hey’). You can find Mama B writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa . She's also on Twitter @YaMaamaa.

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Alcohol Addiction: Swimming To The Surface

Alcohol Addiction: Swimming To The Surface

Two heavy blankets are on top of me. I am shivering so hard that my teeth are chattering but I’m also sweating so profusely that I look as if I’ve been standing in a rainstorm. My hands shake, my legs twitch, I pull my legs up under me and then I stretch them out, ball them up and stretch them out.

I repeat this routine for hours. I smell myself and it’s not good. I haven’t had a shower, and if I’m being honest, it’s been more than a few days. My stomach rolls and I’m nauseated. I try to drink water and Gatorade but I know they’re both going to make me vomit. My mind tries to remember when I last ate; I think it was five days ago but that might not be true, it could be longer. My hair is matted from the sweat and my curls are turning into massive knots. I toss and I turn and time drags endlessly. What feels like hours has only been an hour.

I always count down the first 24 hours because if I make it through the first 24 hours I know it’ll get better. I hope this time I don’t hallucinate. I’ve actually had that happen before and it’s extremely scary. As thoughts raced through my mind and anxiety and worry and stress and beating myself up for being so dumb once again, I wonder why am I doing this. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this; this isn’t the second time, third time or even fourth time. Detoxing from alcohol use is a hell that I keep allowing myself to go back to voluntarily.

The worst part about it too is that I am an angry raging drunk. I’m not a sweet, fun, happy drunk – I’m a lay-on-the-loveseat-binge-drink-and-cry drunk – one who lets all her anger from past traumas out on everyone around her.

I ruined my last relationship due to this. I no longer speak to my mother after the last time I cussed her out in a drunken rage. My youngest son no longer speaks to me due to how I talk to his grandmother. My dad and I did not speak until recently.

Every time I wake up from a binge I nervously look at my phone to see what craziness I’ve posted on Facebook, or what friend I have cussed out – and there have been quite a few. I have ended some really good friendships and it’s always so embarrassing to see what I’ve done, but I do it over and over again.

When I joined World Moms Network 11 years ago, this was not how my life was going. I was 37 years old and engaged to my now ex-husband. Both of my children were involved in sports and school, I was finishing my bachelor’s degree and working full time at a job that I loved, and then in 2015 I had a gastric bypass. I was so excited in the first year because I lost over 140 pounds. I’d never dreamed I could be that weight again. I never dreamed people would tell me I was beautiful and gorgeous. It was something I had never experienced.

My surgeon did tell me to get counseling, because whatever had fueled my food addiction would not go away. I didn’t listen. I did not know at the time that a large percentage of weight loss surgery patients become alcoholics.

I always like to tell people that when it’s sink or swim time, I’ll always swim. However, I’m no longer able to swim as easily. It started off where I’d be swimming fairly proficiently. Then, as my drinking progressed, I’d slowly start to drown. I would always get to a point where I’d realize I was drowning and kick my feet as hard as I could, and I’d swim, swim, swim back to the surface because I could always see the light. And then the next day I do it again, and the next day I’d do it again, and the next day I’d do it again. Over time my body has gotten very tired of swimming back to the surface. Every time I drown I feel like I don’t care anymore if I swim to the surface. Everything in my mind tells me, Don’t swim, just go ahead and sink. I’ve gotten really close to completely drowning a couple of times. My arms are tired, my legs are tired – but something in my brain keeps pushing me get to the surface and try it again.

So here I am, back on the surface, in the shallow end, trying it again. In addition to weekly therapy, AA meetings, and a strong network of support, I’m also taking medication. This time, things feel different. I’m still cautious, though. I am not going past the shallow end. Addiction recovery is not linear, and I’m wholly aware now of addiction transference. My goal is to heal my whole self and address the internal issues that led to the food addiction long ago.

Do you or a loved one have an addiction? Are you in recovery?

Margie Webb (USA)

Margie Webb is a forty-something, divorced mom of three biracial sons: Isaiah (25), Caleb (20), and Elijah (6/8/1997 - 7/2/1997) and two bonus sons: Malcolm (5/10/1992 - 10/9/2015) and Marcus (25). She lives in Lafayette, Louisiana by way of Little Rock, Arkansas, and enjoys traveling, attending the theater, cooking calling the Hogs during Arkansas Razorback football season, spending time with family and friends, and is a crazy cat lady. In addition to obtaining her Bachelors and Masters degree, she also has a Graduate Certificate in Online Writing Instruction and a National HR Certification through SHRM. She excels in her career as a Human Resources Management professional. Additionally, she has represented World Moms Network as a Digital Reporter at various conferences, including the United Nations Social Good Summit. Her life has been one big adventure in twists, turns ,extreme lows, and highs. After recently embracing her new lease on life and her identity in the LGBTQ community, she is excited about what is yet to come. She can be found on Twitter@TheHunnyB

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What Our Words Can Do

What Our Words Can Do

What do you think about when you hear I am from Israel? 

(Don’t worry, I am not about to get into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But the fact that we go there, and not usually in a good way, is kind of my point – and what I am going to talk about.)

It is exciting and a real privilege to be part of an international community – it’s one of the blessings of our generation, the ease with which we can interact with anyone, anywhere in the world. But what is it that we will use this power for? What benefit can we create with this gift we have been given? 

I have started about 10 different articles – for this – my first communication with all of you amazing people – and none felt exactly right. I love writing humorous pieces or sharing little moments of my life, but I feel that I first want to share something else. This. 

Everywhere we turn, it feels polarities are gaining strength and becoming volatile. Either you are with us or against us. So often when people speak about a person with whom they don’t agree, it’s with vehemence, or even with hate. Sometimes it’s because those opinions themselves are so extreme that they feel anathema to the values which we hold dear. It’s not as easy as just to say – accept everyone when some of those opinions or thoughts feel so wrong – and harmful.  So that’s where we are today, and it sucks. 

I don’t think I really ever experienced anti-Semitism in my life. Except for once, when I was in middle or high school, someone dropped pennies in front of me, but I didn’t even know what it meant and the boy with me knew and started swearing at the perpetrators and I think at the time I was more shocked by the way he spoke. (Apparently, they throw it because Jews love money so if I bend down to pick it up then it shows how desperately greedy I am. Even if I pick it up to give it back, which is kind of what I was thinking of doing until I was told why they did that. I was incredulous. How could someone look at me and want to do that?) This year, in some liberal spaces, which is always where I have always felt most at home spiritually, I have seen such venomous anti-Semitism, towards me, that, although it did not insult me per se, I am old enough and maybe thick-skinned enough to not be personally insulted by keyboard warriors, but the hate, it shocked me to my core. And yes, I know the Israel issue isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism, but the conversations I am talking about were purely anti-Semitic. I have never felt anything like it. 

And let’s face it – if those people who spewed hate at me really wanted to change something – would their calling me names make me change my beliefs? Would their wishing me dead make me go away? None of this does anything but make us more extreme. “Ah, you hate me. Ok, then, I will go in my corner and hate you…! Do you say awful things about me? I will say worse things about you!” Kind of back to 2nd grade. But it’s human nature. It feels scary to be sidelined, maligned, misunderstood, lied about. It doesn’t make someone want to engage, love, understand – it makes them want to hide, defend, protect. And this is true for anyone: democrats arguing with republicans, socialists arguing with libertarians, conservatives arguing with progressive. The more we polarize, the more we hide in our corners and send daggers out, to protect ourselves. 

So where does that leave us? Good people of the world who want to change the energy? How can we create change in a real way, in a way that doesn’t disrespect anyone, that includes and connects rather than separates and polarizes?

There is one thing that I believe in with all my heart. It’s something that I spent years trying to implement and figure out. This thing is the power of our words. 

Photo by Jeremy Beck on Unsplash

Words create. In the Old Testament, we are told this straight out – with no filter – God spoke the world into being. And then, it continues to say something that we don’t always remember: that we were created in God’s image, and therefore, we also speak our worlds into being. And the Old Testament is only my most convenient source material for this information – it is everywhere, and not connected to one culture or another. I have encountered this theory, this knowing, in so many of the traditions and cultures I have become acquainted with in my life; the power of words to create is a universal belief. It’s a human power.

The way we talk about something absolutely affects what exists. I have known this for all of my life and still, I don’t always know how to implement it in real time. 

In a lot of our self-help seminars we talk about this. Many of us use these concepts to help ourselves change our lives. 

On a personal level, this means –

We can’t have what we don’t believe we can have. 

We can only create what we imagine. And once we imagine our dreams, we need to speak them into being. Think about your own life and you will see how true this is. The things that exist aren’t necessarily what you have wished for – but what you believe you could have and what you have spoken about – and then taken action on. The action is of course important. But the belief and the words always come first. 

And I always think – this is just as true on a societal level. We spend all our time in fighting injustice, angry at what’s wrong – but how much energy do we spend building what we want – with our words?  I do it myself. I get angry at a political leader – and rile against things that I think are harmful. But how much do I concentrate my thought power, my incredibly creative and powerful thought power, to imagine what I want into reality? Why don’t I use my words to talk about what I do want instead of complaining about what is wrong? What would my world look like if I did that religiously and with intent? 

There’s one more thing I want to talk about – it’s connected. I have a great friend. I genuinely love him dearly. (I was going to write “but” – but the proper term is “and”) – and we are diametrically opposed politically. I sometimes read what he writes on Facebook and I visibly cringe. I can’t understand how he thinks that way. I don’t like talking politics with him because I know we aren’t going to convince each other – but sometimes he really corners me into a conversation – and while I vehemently disagree with his conclusions – I discover that his reasoning is not as “evil” as I worried. He is not basing his ideas on a nasty world view but a difference of belief in how to achieve good for all. And so, in this, I discover that there may be a way forward – there is enough common ground to build a future. Because the result that we both want is a good future for all. We disagree – vehemently perhaps – at how to get there. 

There is a concept in Judaism (probably in other cultures too – I just don’t know it from elsewhere that says “dan lekav zechut” – when we are appraising people, we should judge favorably, we should expect that they have good reasons – try to see them in the best possible light. Now, this is hard to do – we get angry at the person who cut us off in the road and it’s hard to think – oh, he is probably running home to pick up his sick child from school. But that is the idea. To try and judge favorably. Even in the most unlikely situations. When someone writes awful things about me and my people – like really awful – don’t run into my corner and think – what an evil person. What a monster! But, turn it around. This person is speaking from the knowledge that they know and coming to harsh conclusions. This person is speaking from a place of trying to do good in the world – but they haven’t been able to see me. Now, this doesn’t mean I accept the bad but I use my energy to send love to this person – not to send hate. I don’t descend into the spiral of sending hate as a result of hate. Now when I say “I send”, this is of course a figure of speech. I should be writing – I try. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. This is a work in progress. It’s where I am aiming. It is what I know to be the building blocks of crystallizing myself to transform my world. 

And so this is my practice, and I share it with you. This is what I work on in order to create a world that I want for my child. Using my words to create what I want and when I meet the opposite, “dana lekaf zechut” I do my best to send good energy and judge favorably. And in a place of conflict, I send my energy to creating the best possible result for all involved. I don’t waste time “knowing the answers” – but send my energy to creating peace and happiness for all sides and let God or the universe – whatever we believe in – take that energy and turn it into gold. 

Why The COVID-19 Vaccine Should Be Shared

Why The COVID-19 Vaccine Should Be Shared

At long last, my state of Missouri feels some relief as all immunization tiers are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and more local vaccination appointments become available. No one thought vaccine rollout would be easy. Nor did Americans think it would be this hard. We watched Texans struggle when a February storm disrupted food, water, heat, and shipments of vials. I became an online vaccine hunter for friends and family, navigating a system that had city-dwellers traveling for hours, desperate to find the vaccine.

Such hardships reminded me of families in low-income countries who regularly lack healthy food, clean water, and access to health resources. I’ve visited rural Ugandan communities where mothers walk for miles carrying infants for vaccines. At least when St. Louisans drove to Potosi, they went in cars.

We’re now entering a new pandemic phase with greater freedom and less worry. Yet we should remember the desperation we felt when we scrambled for shots. It’s likely that vulnerable people in low-income countries will feel it for years to come.

The U.K.’s Guardian reported that most impoverished nations will not achieve mass COVID-19 immunization until at least 2024. Some may never get there. That’s what happens when high-income countries turn a blind eye to disease once the threat has receded for them.

Waiting for Protection

Wealthy countries have secured enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to vaccinate their entire populations several times over. What do citizens of smaller countries think about being left behind as affluent nations hoard immunization doses and technology?

Portia Nartey, a Washington University student from Ghana, says her family is aware Ghana doesn’t have the means to create a vaccine. They are resigned to waiting. Yet they have faith that the U.S. will help. Portia shared, “Some think that rich countries will not care about developing countries until they have vaccinated all their citizens. As a result, we are praying for them to quickly vaccinate their people and once that is done, we know they will send some vaccines to developing countries like Ghana.”

Rachel (left) and Cindy (second from right) with their mothers during a past Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago

My cousin Rachel Stampfli lives in the Caribbean where my father grew up, Trinidad & Tobago. Rachel admitted there is a general feeling of having lower status. But Trinidadians worry that larger countries with uncontained spread, like the U.S., could easily reinfect the world through international travel, so they will wait their turn. In other words, she’s eager for me to come visit, but not until she knows I won’t bring COVID-19 to her island.

COVAX Can Help

There is a way to combat global vaccine inequity. COVAX, formally known as the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, is an initiative dedicated to equitable vaccine access. It accelerates the development, manufacture, and fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world with a goal to deliver at least two billion doses by the end of 2021. Without donor nation participation in COVAX, the virus will continue to mutate in unprotected communities and extend the life of the pandemic.

The very first COVAX vaccines shipped out on February 24 happened to go to Portia’s home country of Ghana to protect health workers and high-risk individuals. So far, COVAX has delivered over 38 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 100 countries.

Portia Nartey in front of the Washington University buildings

Unfortunately, Rachel found out on March 18 that Trinidad & Tobago’s COVAX delivery was delayed. Her reaction looked exactly like Facebook posts from my fellow local moms when she wrote, “We have no idea when we will get it. It sucks. We need to get back to some semblance of normal and the kids need to be back in school.” The good news is that by March 30 they received a small shipment of 33,600 of vaccines for the 1.2 million citizens and over 18,000 refugees on the islands. It’s a start.

Action from Citizens

Even when it’s safe for those of us living in wealthy nations to gather again, let’s not forget how frustrated we felt. Remember what life was like when travel, school, hugs, and all sorts of activities were risky. We can turn negative memories into positive action in solidarity with people still waiting.

Americans can contact President Biden with this petition from the ONE Campaign to urge him to support donating excess American COVID-19 doses to COVAX. Canadians can do the same for their country. Our leaders should also do all they can to simplify intellectual property rights and remove measures that restrict or slow vaccine exports.

Meanwhile, Cousin Rachel is settled in for what she calls the Great Wait. She told me, “Until then Trinidad & Tobago’s borders remain closed, only receiving nationals locked out since March [2020]. We’ll just continue to mask-up and absorb more alcohol through our hands than from our glasses.”

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin is a mother, advocate, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.” A rare breed of non-partisan activist who works across a variety of issues, she coaches volunteers of all ages to build productive relationships with members of Congress. She advocated side-by-side with her two children from their toddler to teen years and crafted a new approach to advocacy based upon her strengths as a mother. Cynthia’s writing and work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, the Washington Post, and many other national and regional publications. She received the 2021 Cameron Duncan Media Award from RESULTS Educational Fund for her citizen journalism on poverty issues. When she’s not changing the world, Cynthia is usually curled up reading sci-fi/fantasy novels or comic books in which someone else is saving the world.

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