How great (or not so great) is your country to raise a child?

Photo credit to Save the Children.

Introduction to the Global Childhood Report 2020

How does your country rank when it comes to the lives of children? As World Moms, our hearts are with children, and we’ve been buzzing about Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report 2020 this summer in our contributors’ group and even on video calls. We’ve come to the conclusion that this year’s report is more important than most, and we’d love to pull our readers into the conversation! 

The Global Childhood Report measures the effects of ill-health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, early pregnancy, conflict and extreme violence on children. Its goal is to reveal where on the planet a child has a better chance at a healthy and happy childhood and where resources need to be focused to provide a better life for kids.  

The Convention on the Rights of the Child identifies the ideal childhood as “healthy children in school and at play, growing strong and confident with the love and encouragement of their family and an extended community of caring adults, gradually taking on the responsibilities of adulthood, free from fear, safe from violence, protected from abuse and exploitation.” 

Singapore has held the top spot since 2018, the year in which Save the Children began using national estimates instead of relying only on UN data. (According to the nonprofit, the change in data source made the rankings more accurate.) But what does holding the top spot mean? 

With possible points from 1-1,000, with 1,000 being the best possible scenario for children, the country scores measure the extent at which children living in their respective nations experience childhood enders, or situations which cause death or cause a child to have to enter adult roles too soon. Out of 180 countries this year the actual scores ranged from Singapore with the highest score of 989, where kids are more likely to experience an ideal childhood, to Niger with the lowest score of 375, where children are most likely to experience an early death or difficult living situations.

Joining Singapore at the top of the list, 8 out of the top 10 ranked countries were western European, and all 10 at the very bottom of the list were from sub-Saharan Africa, emphasizing an undeniable geographic and economic difference in the welfare of children. The good news is that globally 121 countries improved the well-being of children in their countries this year, while only 19 countries declined. 

Singapore #1

Hailing from Singapore, World Mom, Karen Grosse, recently joined us via video call, where we were able to get her reaction to her country’s top ranking. “Wow, Singapore’s #1! I had a quick read through of the factors, and I’d agree that our kids are very protected.”, she stated. 

What we learned from Karen was that only the first 6 years of primary education are mandatory in Singapore, and the government subsidizes education, which works out to be only $13 Singapore per month, or about $9.50 USD per month. She explained that the subsidies continue for secondary schooling with fees around $25 – $43 Singapore ($18 -$32 USD) per month for most schools and that the low school fees encourage most children to continue their education past the mandatory 6 years.

In addition, Singapore’s cultural emphasis on the importance of education also keeps kids in school, which attributes towards the country’s very low rates of adolescent marriages and teen births. 

Yet another contributing factor toward Singapore’s top ranking is mandatory vaccinations from birth against life threatening diseases such as TB, diphtheria, hepatitis, measles, rubella, and more. At school children receive free annual health checks, eye tests, and even dental visits. In fact, when we spoke, Karen, a teacher, explained that her students had just had their health checks and immunizations earlier in the morning by a health team which comes to the school to conduct the healthcare! Singapore also has a universal healthcare system, and all of the countries in the top 10 either have universal healthcare or some type of healthcare safety net for those who don’t have health insurance to ensure that everyone’s covered. 

As for gun violence, Karen described that guns are not legal in the country, and gun deaths are not existent to rare. In fact, the penalties for having a gun are quite severe in Singapore and can include imprisonment and caning according to gunpolicy.org.

USA #43

As for my own country, the U.S. dropped 7 places in the childhood index this year to number forty-three. For the previous 3 years, the US had been ranked at 36, still noticeably low for a wealthy nation. Here, one in five children continue to live below the poverty line, gun violence continues to be an issue, as well as, systematic racism.

Although the current administration has tried to expire healthcare and food programs that are already in place and support the well-being of children, these efforts have been blocked by Congress, and the programs remain. It is important that the U.S. keeps programs such as SNAP benefits, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act intact for those who need them most, as they also affect the welfare of the nation’s children. 

Vaccinations are mandatory for children entering school, unless there is a state exemption, which in some states is loosely used. This has caused vaccination rates to become lower in places in the country in more recent years and increases the chances of an outbreak of a possibly fatal childhood disease. Children who have healthcare receive their vaccinations from their doctors, and the federal and local governments have programs to ensure that children who need vaccinations can easily receive them without charge.

Children’s education in the U.S. is paid for in our local real estate taxes, and in many places in the country this includes those big yellow school buses to school seen in the movies! In 2017 the most recent year for published data, the teenage pregnancy rate was on a decline dropping below 18 births per 1000 girls. The high school graduation rate in the U.S. is on a uptick at 85%, with statistics being higher for White and Asian children, and below the average for Black, Hispanic, and Native American children.   

Currently even though the U.S. has only 4.25% of the world’s population, it has 24.75% of the world’s COVID cases as of Aug. 19, 2020, so the pandemic most likely will have an unequal negative impact on the U.S.’s Global Child Report ranking next year compared to other wealthy nations who were less exposed to the virus. Only time will tell. 

Canada #28, Italy #8, South Africa #119, and India #115

Next, let’s hear how some of the World Moms reacted to their own country’s listing in the Global Childhood Report.  

“Canada is 28th. Nowhere near where we should be given the wealth of the country and its focus on human rights.” – World Mom, Kirsten Doyle in Canada

“Although I have lived in South Africa since I was 8 years old (and both my children were born here) I still feel that I am Italian. I’m, therefore, proud to see that Italy is ranked 8th out of 180 countries and scored a very respectable 982/1,000 (the top score was 989/1,000). The Italian government keeps putting measures in place to assist families with children, because the birth rate is still relatively low, and they actually want to encourage more people to have children. Each child is considered precious – sometimes too much so (in the sense that I find many of them to be rather spoilt).

Unfortunately, South Africa, where I live now, doesn’t fare as well. SA is ranked 119th out of 180 with a score of 775/1,000 (the bottom score is 375/1,000). We have a dreadful, systemic issue with violence against women and children in this country. There is also a lack of adequate schools. A situation that is aggravated by “protests” that destroy the very schools that are so direly needed. All of this has been aggravated by the COVID-19 Lockdown. Currently 51% of families are not “food secure”.

They were living “paycheck to paycheck” and for far too many people the paychecks stopped in March! Unfortunately, millions of people have lost their livelihoods completely and are relying on charity to put food on the table. Sadly, the situation for far too many children in SA is only going to get worse. The South African government has failed its people.”  — World Mom, Simona Rinfreschi in South Africa

“India ranks #115. Earlier India had made a lot of progress in making childhood a safe and joyous phase for children. But with the ensuing COVID pandemic, whatever progress was made in child rights, child mortality, neo natal care, maternal care, schooling, etc., is now reversed. This is very unfortunate. 

Some specific things which I can see from staying at home during the pandemic are that mid day meals which were offered in school are no more available. That was the only reason some children went to the school, so not only are they not coming to school to eat, but they are also not being educated. Not all schools or children have the ability/privilege to study from home. Children below the poverty line are unable to buy gadgets to study from home and access online classes. 

Some schools also do not have this ability. Schools being shut also means there are no safe space for kids to escape domestic violence and child protection services are non-functional or semi-functional during the pandemic and with this huge population, not all can avail all services. I just wish, the schools find a safe and reasonable way to reopen, with medical precaution and education for social distancing, as schools are a haven for children in India. Food, education, escape! 

Also, because of COVID services of Anganwadis workers are unavailable. So essentially newborn and mothers have nowhere to go for their basic facilities. And it would not take just the 5 or 10 years to redo all this progress. It might need a whole new mindset to rise up! We have gone back at least a decade in the last 6 months!” – World Mom, Purnima Ramakrishnan of India

Conclusion

The feedback from the World Moms is quite worrying for children because the most recent data used by the 2020 Global Childhood Report is from 2019, which was prior to the impact on children from the COVID-19 pandemic. World Mom and RESULTS member, Yolanda Gordon in the USA stated, “After talking with some folks in the know and looking over some information, even the numbers that will come out with the US Census numbers this year will be based on the numbers from last year. We may see an improvement in the reports for this year, but the following year’s reported data will look different.” So, we may not see the full effects of the pandemic until 2 years out when 2020 data is fully reported. 

In conclusion, not only is it important that Save the Children compiles this information to see where childhood is stronger and weaker on an annual basis, this year’s report becomes an important baseline to measure the impact that the global COVID-19 pandemic has had on the world’s children this year and the years to come as the data comes in year after year. Then, we will be more easily able to identify the countries and areas on the globe where children were most affected by the pandemic and target programs in those places to help secure a better childhood for the world’s children. 

So where does your country rank?  View Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report.

Read World Moms Network’s post from last year on the 2019 Global Childhood Report.

Jennifer Burden is the founder of World Moms Network from New Jersey, USA. She also sponsors a child through Save the Children.

Jennifer Burden

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.

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World Voice: Gender Inequality Amidst #Coronavirus

World Voice: Gender Inequality Amidst #Coronavirus

As we all try to wade through the chaos brought on by Coronavirus, it has also given way to other sentiments that are less than desirable: gender inequality.

Women working in rice fields in Asia.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, there has been a large number of women who have been affected the most by it. Women who have jobs have had to cut back or leave their jobs in order to care for their children as a result of school closures. Service jobs that are held by women have had to endure work with less pay or no pay at all if they leave their job. The fallout from this outbreak not only affects women but their families.

Women from China, South Korea, and Japan have had to choose between working in spite of the outbreak or not working which takes away their pay and benefits. Recent statistics reported from an employment-oriented platform Zhipin, states that on average, women earn 84% less than men. That statistic takes into account the differences in industry, years of experience, and occupation. Since levels of education are used as benchmarks to garner one’s earnings, the pay gap is even less if women had earned a Ph.D. or Masters’s degree. The flip side of earning a decent living is not having the time to care for their children if the job requires long hours. While their contribution to the workforce is valuable in principle, the reality is far from it.

The age-old ideal of patriarchy is still alive and well in so many countries, but to see how it still controls women and their daily lives during this time is unbelievable. These women are willing to provide for their families but at what cost? It is unlikely that whether they keep working or not would make a difference since there are cultures who still see and treat women as burdens, not worthy of being cared for by their society.

What is just as unfathomable is that even if these women had jobs, they are still expected to take care of the children without help. It’s the notion that men bring home the paycheck and even if women did make money, it wasn’t seen as substantial enough to provide for their family. It’s not fair, but women who rely on a paycheck may back down from being assertive at their job, to ensure that they don’t get laid off or fired.

In this time of uncertainty, gender inequality should not be an added stressor or have such importance when it comes to providing for one’s family, but unfortunately, it is. 

I’m not saying that every Asian culture discriminates against women, but there are people in these cultures who don’t value women or their contributions to their society. How are these women being protected by their country during a pandemic if their society doesn’t support their needs? How can women feel empowered if their culture still considers them as second class citizens? 

Gender inequality is also present in the United States, not just in some Asian countries. While the treatment of women in the States is not as brutal as parts of Asia, it is just as palpable. Women in the States make less than men because they are perceived to be less committed to their jobs, especially if women have children. According to PayScale.com, in 2020 women earn 81 cents for every $1 earned by men. Men have been seen as being more productive than women due to their physical makeup or the perceived lack of commitment when it concerns childcare. In reality, women have been able to do the same jobs men can do in almost every occupation, regardless of their domestic situation.

They are faced with these notions even during a pandemic and it’s not going away anytime soon. So long as companies or society see women as less productive than men, women will have to keep fighting for their rights and risk their health until perceptions are changed. I do hope that it doesn’t take another natural disaster for women to be taken seriously or given the right to take care of their family without being penalized by society. 

To read the articles regarding this post, click below:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51705199
https://www.ft.com/content/6fdaa854-5798-11ea-abe5-8e03987b7b20

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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Social Distancing When We Are Socially Connected

COVID-19 has thrust so many from different countries to be on alert. Every day, the rules and regulations from different governments are changing, not just in the United States, but on a global level.

When this virus made its presence known in December in Wuhan, China, I heard about its existence from various news outlets, but at that point, it was a disease that was affecting people in China, not the United States. Even when I heard that the virus had affected passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, I was concerned for them, but didn’t think it would ever affect my neck of the woods; and I was so wrong.

When the virus hit Italy and the number of casualties kept getting higher, as well as fear of its spread to other countries, I started to wonder how we, as a country, would we react? I got my answer when the first confirmed case came from someone who lives in New York, not far from where my brother-in-law lives.

The result affected me in waves of disbelief and fear. Disbelief that this virus had made its way to my state and affected a whole community, and fear for how many more people would become casualties from one person. Since the confirmation of this person’s sickness a few weeks ago, his community has been on lockdown and continues to be so, making it impossible for my brother-in-law and his fiancé to leave.

As the number of casualties continues to rise, businesses, schools, and the economy have been affected, not just here in the States, but globally. My daughter is just one among thousands whose schools have been mandated to close for a few weeks or longer and continue their schoolwork remotely. While my daughter is able to continue learning remotely, others are not as fortunate.

As for my husband and I, we have been affected by this virus in a circuitous way. We had plans on attending a family member’s Bat Mitzvah in New York last week along with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew in tow. Upon learning that New York had become a hot spot for COVID-19 and more people were testing positive from this virus, my husband and daughter thought it best that we cancel our trip because my mother-in-law and I have compromised health issues. While I was initially disappointed and sad that we couldn’t be with our daughter and extended family for this special occasion, I knew that it was the right decision to make.

We thought we had dodged the virus until we found out that my sister-in-law’s ex-husband may have come in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. While my mother-in-law and I did not have any physical contact with him, my husband and sister-in-law did when they had to pick up my nephew from him in North Carolina. The intention was to have my nephew drive up with us for the Bat Mitzvah, before we decided not to go. Up until we found out about my ex-brother-in-law’s situation a few days ago, my husband and I were busy showing our family our new home and neighborhood.

The news of his possible contact impacted us differently. My husband, who had never been a doomsday believer went out to the stores and bought enough food to last us for a few weeks. In addition, he also installed a Purell dispenser in our bathroom so we could all use it as needed. As for me, the thought of not having my daughter living in the same state as us worried me. I started to realize that this crisis has no end date and we are all affected, one way or another.

In light of how this virus has affected us locally and globally, the idea of “social distancing” has become a necessity. For someone like me who loves to be around people, I thought social distancing would be hard to do; that it would make me stir crazy to have restrictions of socializing with people other than my family. I was wrong.

Social distancing is allowing me to be mindful of how I act around other people. It is helping me become aware of how my actions affect those around me and my community. Others may look at social distancing as punishment, but for me, it is a way to slow down and realize that doing this one action could help reduce the spread of the virus. I don’t know how long or how many more people will be affected by COVID-19, but I do believe that social distancing is one way of refocusing the way we think about this virus, those affected by it and how we move forward from it.

This is an original post by Tes Silverman written for World Moms Network.

World Voice Editor

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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Social Distancing is Kindness: #FlattenTheCurve


Americans are known for our spirit of rugged individualism. We love to celebrate individual creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and volunteerism. It can be inspiring!

Except when it comes to fighting a global pandemic.

The United States is a few weeks behind China, South Korea, Italy, and other countries hard hit by COVID-19. We’re now experiencing a national test to see if individualism will overcome the need for us to fall in line and adopt personal habits of social distancing to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. 


The plea from health experts for self-isolation distancing goes directly against a basic stubbornness to think, “I have the right to do as I please and you can’t stop me!”
But I believe that at our core, Americans are compassionate, too. Together, we can turn an attitude of forced isolation to one of solidarity in kindness. Part of that will be the spread of information and stories to ignite our collective compassion.


The Science of #FlattenTheCurve

It’s now too late to stop the spread of the corona virus, so we need to take every precaution to SLOW the spread. When people use the phrase “Flatten the Curve,” they’re talking about a graph representing the number of daily cases over time. This graph from the CDC illustrates the goal of social distancing: a reduction in the outbreak’s peak. We want to slow the spread of the virus, so a sudden increase doesn’t overwhelm our ability to respond.

The most important part of the graph is the location of the peak relative to the line showing the limits of our health care system. The worst case of a big spike in COVID-19 would be health care rationing! 


The Need for Kindness

In the U.S., crossing that health care line would be especially alarming because it tends to be our wealthy that get access to any scarce resource even before low-income folks who might need it more. High-risk medical populations and people experiencing poverty would be most in danger. The virus would spread quickly through people unable to self-isolate, including hourly employees without savings and homeless populations.


Isn’t it the most noble thing we can do…to use our personal actions to protect the most vulnerable? Isn’t it an exercise in kindness to protect the lives of our elders, our neighbors in ill health, and people struggling through this crisis in poverty?


Stephen and April

Folks are worried. They’re scared and asking for our help. Read two stories from my friends who depend on our actions and herd immunity to keep them safe.


Steven lives in Syracuse, NY, and is awaiting a kidney for transplant. I follow him on Twitter because the way he expresses his love of his family, Disney, and video games. He also tweets about what life is like waiting every day for a kidney donor.


Steven says:

“For me, I worry about being able to get dialysis as well as my increased potential for infection due to being immunocompromised. In all those articles where they talk about the people most at risk…well, that’s me. 


I’ve fought for so long to survive for my family. I don’t want to get sick and have to try and fight this…and if I have to go to the hospital, can I get dialysis? Will they be too overwhelmed? See, I can’t put off dialysis. It’s not something I can stop doing for a while. I HAVE to do it. Or I die. So, I worry about that. Then I worry about being able to pay our bills. We’re stretched as thin as butter over too much bread as it is. We’re not sure if my wife can work the next few weeks, either. And my “safety cushion” savings got used up long ago.”


April of St Louis, MO is one of the strongest women I know and not just because she’s my Taekwondo instructor! She’s not a complainer. When injured, pushes through pain as she performs jump kicks and other physically demanding feats in our workouts. Most people wouldn’t think she’s medically at risk.


April says:

“I’m really tired of how little concern some people are showing for those of us who would contract a serious case of COVID-19 and could die from this. Your jokes about the flu also are not comforting or funny. I end up in the hospital every flu season. I won’t be one of the “mild” cases, so when you make fun of those of us who are showing concern and taking caution, you’re showing me you really don’t care about my well-being. Please stop. I am scared and if you can’t be a decent human being and empathize with those of us who aren’t as lucky and healthy as you are, please just do us all a favor and don’t say anything at all.


What Can We Do?

Author Cindy Wang Brant posted an image of this brainstorming exercise a family did with “Family Quarantine of Love” written on top to remind them that these sacrifices are acts of love. 

This is an original post written by Cynthia Changyit Levin for World Moms Network.

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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India: A New Journey as a Published Author of Children’s Books

India: A New Journey as a Published Author of Children’s Books

Writing a book is a passion for few, an easy one for some, the most difficult exercise but which has to be done for a few others and for a chosen few, it’s a call from God.

Such people have no idea about the journey they would have to undertake to bring it out. Little did I know that I was among the chosen few by God to pen a book for children, when I began writing plays early this year. I realized that I was on a crusade only when I finished writing five plays for children (aged 8-12).

All the five were written for my nephew to enact in his school along with his classmates. Once the exercise was over, the plays chose a quiet place to rest – a folder in my desktop. They loved their cozy corner. Alas, their solitude was disturbed when a friend of mine surprised them by peering closely at them.

“They are lovely and not to be closeted like this,” he told me. I wondered whether he was being blandish. But, I realized it was axiomatic that I would reach out to the little ones.  As a messenger of God, I swung into action. I took it upon myself to bring them all out. I decided to neatly present them in good font and colors on elegant sheets of paper.

Once released into the computer, the letters and words ran amok on the pages as they had been in a lazy state for long. They had to be trimmed and tamed. This is where my expertise, of editing, writing, reporting and page making of 25 years, lent me a helping hand. The task before me was to take them along a defined path (going through the scripts) and lead them to a final destination, and give them a new home.

To ease my job, I introduced three protagonists to travel throughout the book. They took the words along a defined journey, all the while throwing light on different aspects of life in each play.

Their aim was to help children develop a sense of the world through inquiry, exploration and problem solving skills. In a few hours the protagonists completed their job. Lo and behold! The scripts were ready. The plays tumbled one by one neatly into the pages of a handy book.

What next?

The pages looked dull and the words clamored for a colorful look. I wanted to fulfill their wish and therefore sought the help of a popular illustrator – Mr. Kathiravan. After listening to me patiently for an hour or so, he asked me for a week’s time to complete his work.

Mr. Kathiravan’s work was brilliant. The words held his arm tight and he wove his illustrations in and out of them till they found their right place.

Now, they were all embellished and shone like gold. But, the words in the book held me tight and were too embarrassed to reveal themselves, in their new beautiful form, to anyone outside. I was proud of their new look and contemplated that time had come for them to be exposed to the world.

I nonchalantly told them that they had to walk out on a defined path in broad daylight. They smiled shyly and reluctantly agreed. So, my next job was to find a publisher. Here came the turning point. 

My friend who was instrumental in discovering the plays from my computer came along. “Are they still not free? Why are you holding on to them?” he asked. It was then I decided to be a self-published author. I have done the writing, editing and even laid out the pages, so what am I waiting for?

Having convinced my friends (letters in the book), I went ahead with the printing. Holding the first prints was the best thing that had ever happened to me. It was a proud moment, not because I had achieved something, but because it was MY book. My work in a national newspaper for over 25 years was all about carrying and editing the prints to and fro from the press. I understood that it was from the walls and corridors of the newsroom, that I had derived the inspiration from. My daily routine there had turned out to be a fecund source of ideas.

I gave the final nod after going through a few rounds of printouts. I could hardly believe that it was over finally. The hours spent at the press were very fulfilling ones as they brought back memories of my newsroom.

I had left the warmth of the newsroom for adscititious reasons, driven not by indignation but because of itchy feet. I had missed it so much and therefore bringing out the book soothed my heart and did away with my yearnings. Finally, curtains were up and the month of August beckoned the bright blue book_ Plays: In step with experiential education.

September 9, 2019, was the grand finale when I launched my book in a public school. I had printed 1000 copies and I was amazed that all of them were sold or given away to friends and colleagues and peers in just a week’s time. Due to the growing demand, I am going ahead with the second round of printing.

I have also translated the book into our vernacular language – Tamil. I hope to reach  out to as many underprivileged children as I can. I am sure the almighty will stand by me in many of my future ventures.   

About the book:

The book has been designed to help children understand science, Indian mythology and their environment effortlessly.

It will be hard for anyone to believe that each of the plays was written in just 20 minutes. Every time I spoke to a friend, the summary of a small play dawned in me. By the time I used to bid goodbye to the friend, the entire sequence used to be rehearsed in my mind. Putting it in black and white was just a small part of it.

The first play – “Left & Right Brain, A Win Win Situation”, throws light on the connection between the two parts of the brain and how it is important for us to know the effect of the mind and the brain on the human body and the difference between the two.

Another play – “Hey! There is More To What is On the Table”, is an eye opener to how food reaches our table. It talks about the hard work of the farmers and appreciates the essential facets of human existence.

The play, “Better Vision Sans Technology”, cautions children against the perils of being addicted gizmos such as a computer, iPad or any electronic gadget. All the plays plays have been carefully picked by me and can be enacted by children themselves. It will definitely be a pleasure to read through and be sure to be impacted by the values imparted by it.

Lalithasai

Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004. She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world. she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health. To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/

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WORLD VOICE: “Listen,” Said the Heart, “The Trees are Talking”

WORLD VOICE: “Listen,” Said the Heart, “The Trees are Talking”

Sometimes, when the breeze passes through the trees, I ask my children if they hear the wind and the leaves make music and if they see them dancing. Have you ever heard this music? Have you ever seen this dance? I hope you have. It’s quite beautiful. This past July I went to India for a few days. My first stop was in Hyderabad; specifically an ashram called Kanha Shanti Vanam (Kanha). I had seen photographs of the place, and the plant life looked beautiful, but you know… it looked just as beautiful as I have seen and felt plant life thus far. I was not at all prepared for what I would experience in Kanha, but I heard my heart and it said: “Listen. The trees are talking”.

It was around 11 pm when I arrived at the dormitories in Kanha. There was a very light drizzle and the grounds were quiet… sort of still and calm. I was shown to a dorm where I quickly set my things down on a bunk bed, took a shower, brushed my teeth & went to sleep to be ready for morning Satsangh (a type of group meditation). The next morning, as I was walking to get chai from the cafeteria, I heard that familiar song made by the breeze and leaves. I looked at all the trees lining up the roads, and they were gently moving with the wind. Monsoon season was upon us, but we only had a light drizzle that would just begin and end now and again, and a consistent cool breeze in the 80(F) degree weather.

It’s interesting writing about this now, after going through the experience, because I have had time to contemplate on it and understand my feelings. A month later, it still is hard to put it all into words.

See, in Kanha there are so many things going on. There are volunteers who live there, those of us who visit and volunteer, construction workers who sometimes work through the night, there are people taking care of plant nurseries, people planting trees, there is a school for children, seminars, workshops, apartments and houses being built, ponds being created, meditation halls being constructed. However, the one thing I noticed as I walked around is that plant life seems to be the priority in Kanha. Not to devalue other priorities, but I don’t know how else to say it. Plants seemed to be valued so highly that it looked like construction was planned around them. And while walking on the tree-lined streets, I could not help but feel like the trees were not only dancing and singing with the wind, but like they were actually talking.

Let me back up just a tad. Kanha is a place in Hyderabad. It is the Headquarters of the Heartfulness Institute. In 2015 this land was barren. There was nothing there. To experience it today, it’s just completely amazing! I mean, there are all sorts of trees, from various places of the world! The majority of the food eaten at Kanha is grown on property. The pictures don’t do this place any justice, and the feeling that you get while there, is one that stays with you and makes the outside world feel…different.

Let me say, I didn’t hear the trees say anything in particular. It was like how you know that the Earth is a living thing, right? That, so is the grass and the flowers we see, and the bushes and trees we see. We know they are alive. I have never felt them as alive as I did in Kanha; nor as respected. It felt like the plants’ level of spirituality was higher than of the humans walking among them.

Now being back in the outside world, there is both a feeling of longing for that experience, as well as a reminder to respect and value plant life in our own back yard (so to speak). The heart keeps talking, trying to communicate and help us lead a beautiful life with experiences currently beyond our comprehension. All we need to do is listen. The more we listen, the clearer the heart is heard, and the voice grows louder. This is something I have learned from practicing Heartfulness meditation. As I am finishing up this article, it seems apparent that what I felt at Kanha with the plant life there was an expression of love.

The way that nature is incorporated in the planning of the development of the land in Kanha, makes total sense. It’s something that is doable and would be functional in other places too; cities and rural areas alike.

Although the language of the trees felt like one I hadn’t heard before, the feeling I got from it is that they definitely are our ally; if we would just listen.

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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