I am an avid reader, especially during the summer months, reading outside each evening with my daughters under the stars on our back porch. I go back and forth between fiction and non-fiction, between heart-wrenching and laugh out loud funny, and between popular bestsellers and hidden gems. So, I thought I would share my meaningful reads list for this summer. These are most often the hidden gems that aren’t featured on lists of number one hits but are just as good, if not better, than those popular reads.
I won’t go into detail about plots and story-lines, but will say that each of these books was a page turner that left me pondering what I had read for weeks after.
If I had to pick a favourite, I would decline…it would be too difficult. But, if I had to pick one that resonated the most with me, it would be “If Nuns Ruled the World”.
Being a Catholic myself, I have always felt that nuns were never given the credit they deserved for the work they were doing throughout the world. We all know of Mother Theresa and her work with the sick, lonely and poor, but not much more is known of nuns working in this day and age. We often hear stories of the Pope and those of the Vatican, but what about those hard-working nuns who are on the ground changing lives every single day in the most adverse of conditions???
This book features the incredible stories of nuns who have taken chances, gone against protocol, helped those that others had given up on, and did it all under the watchful eye of many who disapproved of their work. These nuns are courageous, spunky, lively, funny and most of all, selfless and good-hearted.
I was so inspired by their stories that I wrote to a few of them to let them know….and they wrote me back!
I can honestly say that if the nuns who were featured in this book, really did rule the world, it would be a world of peace, justice, love, acceptance and empathy.
When my three young daughters saw me compiling this list, they too wanted to be involved. They hurried to find their favourite meaningful reads and have compiled them here as well:
Quynn, who is 8, loves the book “Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors” and has wanted to become a doctor ever since.
Camryn, who is 10, loves the “Who is/was…” series. She has read about Jane Goodall, Hellen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman and Amelia Earhart, to name just a few. Wanting to be a pilot, she especially loves all books about Amelia Earhart.
Ryleigh, who is 11 loves to read about Anne Frank and anything related to the Holocaust. She read “Number the Stars” in two days and has not stopped talking about it. It is so hard for her to wrap her young mind around the stories of girls her age who survived such atrocities in our history.
So, if you are looking for some great books to read this summer, we hope that you will enjoy some of our recommendations. And, if you have suggestions for us, we would love to hear those as well!
What is on your summer reading list?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Alison Fraser who is founder of the non-profit Mom2MomAfrica.
Save The Children
There are some causes that are tricky to rally people around: not everyone wants to ban fur coats, for instance; not everyone thinks that restaurants should post calorie counts on their menus. There are other causes, though, that seem pretty much no-brainers: access to clean water, for instance. Is anyone really going to say “yeah, dirty water, I’m a big fan!” Or saving children. Is anyone really going to say (publicly, anyway) that it’s not a good idea to save children?
Even if we all agree that children should be saved, however, we know that all over the world there are children who need saving, in places where governments and infrastructure don’t seem capable of doing what needs to be done. That’s where organizations like Save the Children step in: they help stitch together the services that can help families survive and give governments a much needed hand.
Save the Children came out with its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” list, which uses five metrics to determine where it’s good to be a mother (and a child). The metrics – maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status (of mothers), economic status, and political status— are combined to give an overall score, which determines where a country falls on the list. Of 179 countries, there are the usual suspects at the bottom of the list—countries where war, natural disasters, and poverty combine in a perfect storm of catastrophe: places like Haiti, or Sudan, or Pakistan.
But there are surprises, too, like the fact that the United States doesn’t even crack the top twenty. Nope, the good ol’ US of A pulls in at 33.
Thirty-third in the world, for a country whose overall wealth and education trumps pretty much everywhere else. The US was beaten by, among others, Slovenia, Belarus, Croatia, and the Czech Republic, as well as all those Scandinavian countries that consistently outperform everyone else when it comes to quality of life issues.
You know what most of these places have that the US does not? A significantly higher percentage of women in government. I suppose a statistician would say that fact is not causal but correlative, and I’m sure that some people would insist that just having women in government won’t automatically make things better for women and children (and thus society), but maybe we should try, and then see what happens?
I live at the moment in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, another wealthy country that doesn’t crack the top twenty on this list. I suppose that for many Westerners, it might seem impossible any Middle Eastern country would score well on a list having to do with women’s lives, but the statistics on this list might help defuse those stereotypes. According to this index, 17.5% of seats in UAE government organizations are held by women, compared to 19.5% in the US; in terms of lifetime risk of maternal death, it is better to be a woman in the UAE: 1 in 5800 versus 1 in 1800 in the US. Women in the US average about 16 years of schooling, women in the UAE about 13; and women in the US tend to be wealthier than women in the UAE (53K for the US, 38K for the UAE).
The Save the Children list doesn’t index maternity leave policy, but that offers another interesting point of comparison.
Women in the UAE only receive 45 days of maternity leave, which isn’t enough, obviously, as any woman who has given birth understands. Women in the US get twelve weeks of maternity leave (although I had to call it “disability” leave in order to ensure that I got the requisite number of days). Twelve weeks, that is, of unpaid leave. John Oliver brilliantly skewered this policy on Mother’s Day, pointing out that the United States aligns with Papua, New Guinea, as the only two countries in the world with no paid parental leave policy. In the UAE, if a woman has a medical certificate that attests to her need for more time at home, she can take up to 100 days of additional (unpaid) leave.
Organizations like Save the Children do invaluable, back-breaking work among desperate populations, but their work raises a question that those of us who live with more privilege should be asking–loudly–of ourselves and our communities: why aren’t we all tied for first place? What has to happen to force “resource-rich” countries take care of its most vulnerable citizens? Why aren’t we doing better?
Where does your country rank in this list? And how do you think your country can do better? Any thoughts?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn in the United Arab Emirates of “Mannahattamamma.”
Photo credit to ‘Save The Children’.
When it was time for my son to start school, I knew I wanted him to go to private school and thankfully, he was accepted into one of the international schools near our house.
Private school has its pluses and unfortunately its negatives too.
My son’s classmates are from the upper-middle class, those whose spring breaks were spent going to Japan or Hong Kong to visit Disney Land. The same kids who also have their own iPads and the latest cell phones.
I realized this might cause a challenge for us—with me being a single mom, who had just recently returned to the corporate world—but I try not to let their different lifestyles make my son feel that he’s different.
So that’s why, on Easter weekend, I took him on a mini-getaway to my new job.
We did not take a taxi to get to my office, which is in a hotel. Instead, we rode the train like I do daily. I wanted to show him this is what his mother has to do to get to and from work. He got to see views that he won’t see from inside a nice air conditioned taxi or private car.
He loved staying in the hotel, just like most kids do, so we had a blast. But on our way home Sunday afternoon, the train was full. Not as full as it normally would be on a week day, still, we had to stand. We were leaning against the wall that separates the engine and the passengers. With the train swaying, it didn’t take long before my son told me he wished he could sit down.
Part of my mama bear instinct wanted to give him a seat but part of my tough love was to allow him to feel and experience how not everyone is blessed with a comfortable life.
I hope by showing him what I have to go through on a daily basis it will help him realize that I am working hard, that as the sole bread winner, I am providing for him. Yes, his father pays for school but outside of that, he is my responsibility and I’m doing my best to take care of him.
Yes, I told him I would love to be able to take him to Disney Land someday but for now, we have other priorities. Bills to pay, medicines to get for my parents, uniforms to alter, the list goes on.
Through our short train ride, my son was exposed to life “outside the fence”. What he saw through the windows of the train: makeshift shacks, houses built only inches away from the train tracks, kids playing soccer barefooted with garbage piling up around them. Hard life. The other side of glamorous Jakarta living.
We discuss this. He asked me why these people are living in such poor conditions. My heart ached having to explain that some people are not as fortunate as we are and that poverty is real.
We have a house to live in, a roof over our heads, while others came to the big city to chase their dreams and never made it. That’s why it is important for him to get his education so he can make a living for himself, one that hopefully he will love. I told him it is easy to look up and want what other people have but we need to be in the now, to be grateful for what we already have. To remember that there are those who need our help, who are struggling just to eat.
My wish is for my son to understand this, to grow up being grateful for what we have and to have a heart that is kind and willing to help others.
How do you explain poverty to your children?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer and single-mom to one in Jakarta, Tatter Scoops.
The image used in this post is attributed to Hideki Yoshida. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
The author Alison Fraser pictured here with General Romeo Dallaire
I have written before on the trials and tribulations that go hand in hand with running a not for profit organization or charity. As we all know, negative words can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves and our work.
What I now realize, is that I have completely underestimated the power of kind words.
Let me explain…
Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to meet General Romeo Dallaire at a local charity event. General Dallaire is a highly respected Canadian general. He braved the Rwandan genocide of 1994, essentially remaining to help when most everyone else left Rwanda, and the world turned a blind eye to the extreme brutality taking place in the African country. As the guest of honour at the event, he spoke of the global injustices plaguing our world and causing, what he refers to, as global rage. We see this rage daily as the stories make headlines. According to General Dallaire, two of the main sources of this rage are our failures with respect to the: (1) empowerment of women and (2) education of children. I felt so uplifted to hear that the work we at Mom2Mom Africa are doing addresses two of the most important social injustices identified by someone as worldly and experienced as General Dallaire.
I raced to introduce myself to him after he spoke, and we chatted briefly about my work in Tanzania. I was so nervous but he put me right at ease. He was so humble and kind. And, at the end, he turned to me and said;
“young lady, keep doing what you are doing. It is the work of small, grassroots organizations like yours that will change the world”.
I could have cried right there on the spot; not out of sadness but instead out of pure joy. This man, who had inspired me in so many ways, just washed away all of my insecurities and doubts, with only a few words.
As the Buddha once said..
“Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world”.
How great it is when someone, who is such an inspiration and role model, takes the time to encourage others, no matter how small their impact is on the world. Imagine what would happen if this was common practice? What if we built each other up instead of tearing each other down? What if we collaborated and focussed on common goals? Imagine what would be accomplished if we all spent more time being kind and supportive, especially those in positions of power. I am not sure if General Dallaire will ever know just how much his kind words meant to me. He gave me the strength to keep moving forward, to keep tackling and overcoming the obstacles that so many of us face. I will be forever grateful to this man, and I can only hope that others, who are in positions of influence, will follow General Dallaire’s lead. I am so proud of my fellow Canadian!
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Alison Fraser of Mom2Mom Africa
Do you remember kind words from another that may have inspired you in your life?
In October, several #WorldMoms attended the ONE Girls & Women AYA Summit at the Google Headquarters in Washington, DC. One of the many powerful panels we heard from was entitled Change Through Economic Opportunity, where both major fashion companies and small start-ups weighed in on how they impact the lives of women through economic empowerment. With the holiday season upon us, World Moms decided to share some of the ways we love to use our purchasing power to give back, and how you can too.
Sydney Price of Kate Spade NY spoke about the Kate Spade On Purpose line at the AYA Summit panel. Each piece in this collection is handcrafted in Rwanda creating sustainable economic opportunities for women and reshaping their community.
Jane Mosbacher Morris , founder of To the Market, also participated in the panel on Change Through Economic Opportunity at the AYA Summit. To The Market provides a marketplace for the beautiful handcrafted goods that give women survivors of war, disaster or abuse a chance to support themselves and their families.
World Moms Elizabeth Atalay and Nicole Melancon had the pleasure of visiting the FashionABLE factory in Ethiopia this past summer and we have all been writing about and wearing the gorgeous scarves made in Ethiopia for years. It was great to finally meet founder Barrett Ward at the AYA Summit this past fall where he participated on the panel as well. FashionABLE is now expanding operations to include products made in Kenya and a beautiful line of leather products, all while providing social service programs of health care, education in a trade, and assistance with child care for their artisans to help them build better lives for themselves and their families.
“Through your purchase, you are ABLE to provide opportunity, and a woman is ABLE to have a new choice.”-LiveFashionABLE
The Giving Keys provides jobs for those transitioning out of homelessness, giving them the opportunity to rebuild their lives. The necklaces & bracelets are super cool as is the message of the Giving Keys:
“When you get this Key, you must give it away at some point to a person you feel needs the message, then write us the story of why you gave it away. We employ those looking to transition out of homelessness.” -The Giving Keys
You can read Giving Keys stories of those who have given and received keys on their site.
Shop the ONE Campaign store Holiday Gift Guide for some fabulous items where you know everything is fair trade and ethically sourced. By doing so you support the ONE Campaign in it’s goal of eradicating extreme poverty.
Alex & Ani Bracelets
Alex & Ani Charity by design products are another of our favorites. A percentage o profits goes back to designated non-profits. Their products are made in the USA from recycled materials, and spread the message of positive energy! They have branched out from bangles to key chains, and candles, wine charms & more!
From South Africa, The Mielie bags employ women of the townships in South Africa.
Mielie Bag Made in South Africa
Our mission is to design and produce innovative, export-quality hand-crafted products using reclaimed materials – with the aim of creating employment and restoring dignity and financial independence to South Africans.- Mielie
The Anchal Project Mission merges design, business, and education to empower marginalized and exploited women living in India. Their scarves are gorgeous and the company was founded by two Rhode Island School of design Grads.
Anchal is an Indian word that means shelter, or refers to the edge of a woman’s Sari used to provide comfort and protection for loved ones.-Anchal Project
Kids Books from Little Pickle Press, a B Corporation, are some of our favorite books for kids!
Lollie Beads Bracelets are created from fair trade recycled glass beads made in Uganda. So they are not only gorgeous (the glass beads look and feel like sea glass) but they are good for the environment AND help support sustainable living in a developing country.
Tom’s keeps its designs fresh while still managing to provide shoes and glasses to those who need them. We love their One for One business model (and pledge to support it with as many shoes as we can get away with!)
1000 Shillings Ugandan Paper bead necklaces. The women artisans earn capital for their own small businesses by making limited-edition products for 1000 Shillings. Each product sold through 1000 Shillings helps a woman establish a small business, which enables her to support her family. They also aim to tell the in-depth story behind each artisan. The company works with six single mothers in the Namatala slum, Uganda.
A Gift As A Gesture:
Sometimes it is hard to find the perfect gift for someone who has every material thing they desire. Still you want to give something as a token of your appreciation to them and the below gifts are the perfect solution that everyone can feel good about.
Photo by Elizabeth Atalay
Heifer International :
“Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. It all started with a cow. Moved by the plight of orphans and refugees of the Spanish Civil War as he ladled out meager rations of powdered milk, Dan West, an Indiana farmer, volunteer relief worker and Church of the Brethren member, grasped that the people needed “a cow, not a cup”—cows that could produce milk so families would not have to depend on temporary aid. From that simple idea, Heifer International was born.” – From the Heifer International Website
Save two lives, those of a mom and her newborn baby, with CleanBirth.org and the perfect holiday gift of Bags of Love and Miracles, a handmade bag with a beautiful full-sized honor card inside ($20) and 4 mothers in Laos will receive birthing supplies and safe birthing education.
Mom2Mom Africa is a Canadian Not-for-Profit Organization, established to help empower women and children through education. The benefits of education and global awareness apply to us all. Your gifts this season will help to buy books, school uniforms and school supplies for the Mom2Mom Africa students in Tanzania.
Wishing Happy Holidays to You All,
May You Give As Good As You Get!
Do you know other organizations or shops that belong on this list?
Jane Mosbacher Morris,
Founder of To the Market
What is To the Market and how did it get started?
TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods (TTM) combines the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations. We’ve developed a three-pronged social enterprise model that we believe reflects the needs of organizations employing survivors of abuse, conflict, or disease to help ensure that these organizations can continue to provide steady work to the survivors.
Our goal is that the survivors in our network eventually achieve economic independence, meaning that they aren’t dependent on someone or something else.
Our model includes (1) promoting survivor-made goods via our multiple distribution channels, including pop-up shops, custom sourcing, retail partnerships, and our online marketplace; (2) offering a platform for survivors and their champions to share their stories through TTM’s Stories and Huffington Post blogs; and (3) providing tailored services, such as trend forecasting and basic mental health resources, to our partners to improve production and management.
I started TTM after a trip to Kolkata, India revealed a way to impact the most vulnerable survivor communities by offering them an opportunity to earn an income.
I saw the light in the eyes of the survivor turned artisans when they were given the chance to earn—they wanted the dignity of work. I began speaking to incredible people all over the globe (including in the U.S.) who had created social enterprises to employ different survivor populations, usually by employing them to produce handicrafts.
I heard really positive feedback about the model of employing survivors (and all of the incredible benefits to the self-esteem and trajectory of the survivor and his or her children). However, I also heard about the challenges of making this model work—TTM aims to help augment these challenges.
Who are the artisans at To the Market?
TTM identifies and teams up with existing organizations currently employing survivors of abuse, conflict, or disease. We call these organizations “local partners”. Local partners consist of non-profits and for-profit social enterprises that have already set up shop, hired, and trained survivors to produce products.
TTM focuses on certain types of survivor populations. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to; survivors of abuse, such as survivors of domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and human trafficking; survivors of conflict, such as war widows, refugees, or persons living in conflict/post-conflict states ; or survivors of disease, including populations living with HIV/AIDS, leprosy, or physical disabilities.
We have partners across the globe, including in the U.S., South America, Africa, and Asia.
Do you see a pattern in consumers’ behavior when it comes to shopping responsibly?
I think there is a desire to shop more responsibly, but it often comes down to what people can afford. I am really proud of the fact that our local partners make a variety of products at all different price points—on-trend bracelets for under twenty dollars to timeless cashmere scarves for several hundred dollars.
Can you share a personal story that you think best represents the mission of the online shop?
I recently spent nearly a month in Nepal and India visiting with many of our local partners. I was particularly reminded of how transformational economic independence can be to these survivors when I spent time with their children—their daughters, especially. Most of the survivors we work with are women. When the women achieve economic independence, their daughters are so much less likely to be exploited. We recently wrote about a shelter in New Delhi, India that employs HIV/AIDs infected and affected women. You can see the video about the shelter and read about it on our Stories blog here.
How did you get involved with this work?
I began my career in counterterrorism with a focus on the intersection of women and security. Much of my mission was to try to elevate the role of women in national security-related issues, but I consistently found that women with some form of economic independence had so much more leverage in their family, community, and country than those with none.
That (five year) experience got the wheels turning quickly about the importance of economic independence in empowering vulnerable populations. When I went to work for the McCain Institute on human trafficking, I really saw how vital it was for survivors of some sort of trauma (whether it be abuse, conflict, or disease) to have access to some income.
It brings me extraordinary joy to be a part of the life-changing process of gaining even the slightest bit of independence.
What are your favorite picks for this holiday season?
- For Mom: I love this 100% cashmere scarf hand spun by master spinners in the Kashmir Valley! Each scarf contains the women’s initials that made it.
- For Dad: I love this red spice and merlot trivet. It’s the perfect size for cuff links, receipts, or coins and is neutral enough to sit comfortably on a nightstand or office desk. It’s hand-woven by craftswomen in Rwanda.
- For college kids: I have to suggest the patrice signature bag, which I am currently carrying by No41. It has two major points of impact!
- First, it provides a stable job and sustainable income to a young woman transitioning into a life of independence from living in an orphanage in Rwanda.
- SECOND (and perfect for the college student), it provides 240 meals to a secondary student in Rwanda!
- For kids: I love these brightly colored elephant ornaments (in pink or blue) hand-sewn by women in the Ivory Coast. Pink and blue patterns make it easy to pick for a boy or girl.
- For the office or book/dinner club gift exchange: I selected either a Sari Coin Purse hand-sewn by human trafficking survivors in Kolkata, India or this Hope Ornament pounded out of recycled metal oil drums in Haiti. Even if you don’t have a tree, you can hang this Hope sign up to encourage you! Both come in under $10, the perfect price point for small gifts.
- I am also including a couple “splurge on yourself “ items because I feel like most moms that I know only spend on others! I’ve included the Holiday Festive skirt, because it’s the perfect pattern for this time of year and also because it’s made by stay-at-home moms in Belize who are caring for sick children. Or, this Soledad Peru bag. The Suede straps and bottom make it strong enough to carry six wine bottles (yes, please!). The bag was made by women weavers in a valley deeply scarred by the Shining Path.
How can World Moms help spread the word about shopping responsibly this holiday season and beyond?
What a great question! Helping to get the word out about social enterprises like TO THE MARKET via social media and blogging is a tremendous help, in itself. Someone doesn’t have to have a huge following, either! Just telling your family or friends that these social enterprises exist makes a difference. So much of why so many social enterprises struggle is because they don’t have the marketing budget that big box retailers have to tell their story. There is nothing more flattering (or effective) than a personal referral!
This is an original interview with To the Market founder, Jane Mosbacher Morris, for World Moms Blog. You can learn more about the good work and great products To The Market sells by visiting their website (http://www.tothemarket.com/goods)
The image in this post is used by permission from To the Market.