Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mama of the Month: Erin

What a thrill it is to live in the information age—we have access to knowledge in ways our predecessors would never have imagined. The downside is that on any given day, we receive invitations to events and requests for donations, and we’re told that we have to read articles because they are poignant/hilarious/life-changing, and in the end, it can be overwhelming and hard to decide what deserves our attention.

At Somebody’s Mama, we find ourselves competing for the attention of our supporters, and we want to strike the right balance. We know that we are all are pulled in a million different directions, and we are humbled each and every time that you choose to read, share, and like the things we post. We’re still blown away every single time someone volunteers to start a Love Club or donate online for one of our projects. We recognize that you could just as easily choose to spend your time and money somewhere else, so we want to THANK YOU again for being a part of what we’re doing.

Our new Mama of the Month, Erin from WA, is a perfect example of who Somebody’s Mama is. We’re highlighting Erin this month for several reasons: 1) As a former university professor, she values education, 2) She’s got a lot on her plate, and she still makes time to be an avid supporter of Somebody’s Mama, and 3) She’s what we want to be—a smart, conscientious lifelong learner and global citizen.

When we asked Erin to tell us her motherhood story, about what it looked like when her youngest son received a diagnosis on the autism spectrum followed by her older son’s ADHD and relatively mild autism disorder diagnosis, this is what she had to say: 

Erin with her husband Jim and their sons, Nate and Finn
“I have two bright, hilarious, fabulous sons.  Finn is 10 and Nate is 8.  I've always wanted to be a mom, and in many ways I got exactly what I wanted: great kids and the opportunity to stay home with them. But the circumstances are not what I would have ever imagined…Nate was diagnosed with autism nearly 5 years ago, [and] our insurance did not cover behavioral therapy, so rather than pay a college student to be his therapy assistant, I reasoned that I was qualified and more invested than anyone I might hire.

For six months I worked under the close supervision of Nate's psychologist, learning how to chart behavioral programs. I continued serving as Nate's home therapist for another two years, at which point some alarming experiences at school led us homeschool. Within a year I was homeschooling both boys and had hired two graduate students to implement Nate's home-based behavioral therapy.  I attended workshops and conferences about speech pathology, sensory integration therapy, and new research about autism.  I sat in on weekly speech and occupational therapy sessions and took notes.  I read books.  Lots of books.  I beat down panic with research.  

There were times (honestly, still are times) when I felt angry—like being a mom shouldn't be this hard. It shouldn't involve so much fear—because, it turns out, we mamas don't get to live forever, and some of our kids won't stop needing us when they hit adulthood. Some kids aren't as resilient as others, and for them the world is an especially hostile place. Nate deserves more than my fear.  He deserves my faith in his future.  Which is not to say I should stop my advocacy, but that it should be enacted as a project of faith, of optimism, of my deep belief that Nate has so much to offer this world.  Because I do believe this.  Passionately.”

We asked Erin what valuable lessons she learned from her own mother, and she had this to say:

“My mother taught me the value of research and the pleasure of being an autodidact. From her own experience, she has encouraged me to claim my expertise about autism and education, never mind that my degrees aren't directly related.  She showed me how to walk in a room and be taken seriously, because you expect to be taken seriously. Interestingly, she has also showed me that I can be many things at one time without having to let any one thing be my identity.  And even when I don't want to hear it, she nags me to take time to write, to do something that isn't about being a mama.”

Aside from her work as a homeschool mom, Erin serves on the board of the Autism Society of Washington, an organization that focuses on supporting individuals with autism throughout their lifetime, and she also started Helping Hounds, the first ever dog 4-H club for special needs kids and their service dogs in Olympia, WA. When we asked why she has pursued this type of work, Erin said,

“Raising a special needs kid requires a different kind of parenting—I used to think of it as "extreme" parenting, but now I think of it as therapeutic parenting. I now know that there are so many mamas (and dads) out there who are just as panicked as I was (and still am, honestly) about our children's future. 

So somewhere along the way I decided that it wasn't enough to “work on” my own kids. I didn't decide to "change the world”—but if an opportunity didn't exist for my kids I realized that I'd have to make it happen myself.  Nobody in boy scouts knows how to handle kids with autism? Become a den leader. No special ed program at our homeschool co-op?  Find a teacher and lobby for a social skills class.

I didn't mean to be an activist—I meant to be a mom, and maybe a college professor or a writer.  But a funny thing happened—being a mom meant becoming active in the community, to make it a better community for my kids and for all the kids I've met who face similar challenges.  I didn't realize that being a mom could be a public (political?) experience as well as a private one.  And that's been surprisingly gratifying.  

Homeschooling my kids—especially Nate—is hard.  But it is the best kind of challenge—intellectually engaging, supremely gratifying (when it's not supremely frustrating), and vitally important.  Being a mama is important work.  I thought I knew that before having my kids, but I really didn't.  I didn't know it in the bones like I do now.”

Nate and his pups
We raise the proverbial glass to Erin this month because we recognize how each member of our community is finding her way in this world, finding the place where she can be a light in darkness. We are honored to know Erin and to read her story because each of our stories matters. Every time Erin supports us in some way, we know it’s her way of telling us that our stories matter, too.

Thank you, Erin, for telling your story and for being a part of our community! And if we have any Mamas who would like more information from Erin about her work as a homeschool mom navigating the world of autism, contact us at somebodysmama@outlook.com or on our Facebook page, and we’ll connect you.

Remember, friends, we belong to each other.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mama(s) of the Month: Leia and Erika

When we started Somebody’s Mama, we purposely relied on our friends to keep the party going—figuratively and literally.  The basic idea was that we could get together with our friends and change the world.  Over the last three years, our friends have invited their friends, and their friends have invited their friends, and because of social media, a bunch of other cool people joined the party.

In the meantime, we’ve been meeting and greeting and talking with new people every day about the magic that is Somebody’s Mama, and what we’ve come to realize is that this thing is big enough now that there are actually a lot of you who have never met the two women behind the scenes.

We have always and will continue to stand outside the spotlight as much as possible because everything good and fun and awesome about what we’re doing together is about so much more than two people. It will never be about us. That said, this little blog post…well, it’s about us.  For the benefit of all our new friends, we’d like to introduce ourselves formally.  We’re Leia Johnson and Erika Wright, co-founders of Somebody’s Mama.

Lomé, Togo, during food distribution at the fishing village in March of 2014
I’m Leia, and I’m the voice behind our blog and most of our social media efforts.  I am the daughter of the founder of our parent organization (4H.I.M.), Steve Hollingsworth, and I initially started Somebody’s Mama as a way to stay connected to the world while I was chasing two littles around the house all day.

Leia and her Littles, right around the time Somebody's Mama started

Before I was Somebody’s Mama, I traveled with 4H.I.M. teams and aboard the Mercy Ship to Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras, Belize, India, Togo, and Sierra Leone.  My heart has always been a traveler, which is good because I married an Air Force pilot, who has kept me traveling for almost eleven years.

I was motivated, in part, by the position in which I found myself as the mother of two small children and military spouse—I couldn’t travel as much as I had in my adolescence and college years, but I wanted to remain deeply connected to the friends I’d made around the world and to be a part of the solution in alleviating poverty, fighting injustice, and promoting long-term sustainability in the two-thirds world.  When I started talking to my friends about it, I learned that I was far from alone in my hopes and dreams to balance being a mom with being a global citizen.

My best friend, Erika, had been working in sales for over a decade, while raising her three lovelies, Madelyn, Charlie, and Vivienne (now 17, 6, and 2) with her husband, Matt, when Somebody’s Mama got the jolt of energy and passion it needed to truly become a movement.  Erika traveled with 4H.I.M. teams to Mexico and Togo and knew immediately that she’d found her calling, that thing that Frederick Buecher refers to as the place where “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

More recently, our combined efforts resulted in the launch of our first quarterly Love Clubs to build a maternity ward in Sierra Leone.  This quarter, we've raised almost 25% of our goal to build a school in Togo. Erika frequently invokes the wisdom of Bob Goff in our conversations about the vision and future of Somebody’s Mama.  As Bob says, “I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.”

That is the heart of our motivation—we’re saying yes day in and day out—to living intentionally; to raising happy, kind, and brave little humans; and to loving our neighbors, whether we’re separated by a street or an ocean.

Each of our previous Mamas of the Month have talked about their mothering experiences, and we’re answering the same questions here.

What has been rewarding or challenging about motherhood?

Erika: I guess the most rewarding for me today is witnessing my oldest daughter transitioning into such a beautiful adult.  Parenting through the teen years can be tough, especially when there are new babies in the picture.  But when you reach the light at the end of the tunnel, to meet an amazing almost adult person emerging, it’s an affirming moment.  Knowing that I succeeded at raising a young woman that has got herself on such a great track feels pretty awesome.  To know that, as an older and wiser mother, I get to do it again with two more little people, is better than winning the lottery.

Mama Love

Leia: Motherhood is the ultimate mirror. When I sew patience and kindness into their hearts, I see it reflected immediately.  When I sew impatience and selfishness, I see that reflected as well.  That is the daily challenge—being their first and most obvious example to follow. The reward is watching them become who they are outside in the real world, outside the soft space I try to be for them. Out there, among their peers, among other adults, they are sharers and givers.  They are people lovers.  They are live-out-louders, and they are brave in ways that I never knew possible.  They’re my heroes and who I want to be when I grow up.

What is the most valuable lesson you learned from your mother?

Leia: There are a few things that stick out from my childhood that have served me well to this day.  First, my mom taught me that to have friends, you have to be a friend. I have found myself in countless situations where I reminded myself of the importance of taking the first step in building relationships that matter. Secondly, my mom taught me to be aware of and include people on the fringes—the ones no one else wants around, the ones who may need extra help or attention, the ones who might fall through the cracks.  It’s hard work minding the gap, but there’s no other way of life more fulfilling.  And finally, my mom taught me how to be a mom—how to be present in their lives, how to be their biggest fan, and how to gracefully draw boundaries while encouraging independence.

Leia, her mama, Nancy, and her boys (and an extra special friend)
Erika with her daughters and her mama, Martie

Erika: The most valuable lesson I learned from my mother is the importance of taking the initiative to make your love an action unto others.  Long before Bob Goff ever wrote Love Does, my mother was an example to me of what it means to BE love to your family, friends, and community.  Showing up to cook for a friend with breast cancer.  Initiating and organizing the Food Pantry at her church.  Planting a sunflower maze for her granddaughters to play in.  She serves those around her with energy and passion, and doesn’t wait around to be asked to do what needs to be done.  She just does it.  She is Love in action.

Thank you for joining us on this journey—we’re so glad you’re here.  We hope this gives you a glimpse into who we are and why we do what we do.  The future is bright, friends. Let’s keeping moving forward together.

Lomé, Togo 2014: Leia, Nancy, Mawuli, Madelyn, Erika

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sometimes We Go with Plan B

We announced earlier this month our plan to build a school in Thonglong, a village in northeast India. This week, we communicated with our partners in India, and simply put—we’ve experienced a hitch in the plan.  Our quarterly focus is education, and we still want to complete a project to promote education, so we’ve been in deep discussion about how to proceed.

What we’ve learned in doing long-term development projects over the years is that sometimes unforeseen issues arise that end up taking longer than expected to resolve because of communication challenges.  Our hope is that we can work with the school in Thonglong in the future, but for now, we have to change directions.

Pictured: Madelyn (Erika's daughter), Erika, Leia, and Nancy (Leia's mom)

In March, our founders, Leia Johnson and Erika Wright, took a trip to check on some projects our parent organization, 4HIM, has been working on for over a decade. We visited Kalaveria School in the village of Badoughbe on the outskirts of Lome.  4HIM started Kalaveria School in 2006 with a handful of students.  Early on, many families in the hamlets of Badoughbe were unconvinced of the necessity of school, as they needed their children to work the farmland.  When we visited this year, we were greeted by a throng of children, a small percentage of over 300 students who now attend the school.

Onlookers in a field of cassava

A couple of young beauties

The girl in red

A few of the kiddos from Badoughbe

Leia's son, Ben, with some new friends
After first helping the community dig two water wells, 4HIM introduced a poultry project in 2012.  The proceeds from egg sales will support the long-term costs of running the school including supplies and teacher salaries.  During the trip in March, our team helped install a drip irrigation system for a community garden, which will also benefit the school and the families of Badoughbe.
Our chicks!
Planning the irrigation system with A LOT of helpers
As you can see, this multifaceted project has already seen much success, and our ultimate goal is to have the school running sustainably within the next two years. There is still a tremendous opportunity for growth at the school if they can complete an addition to the existing buildings.  With more students coming to school steadily, they are always in need of new space—a good problem to have.

The bamboo addition currently being used

Ready for school

Lining up for the school day
We asked the teachers to complete a list of needs, and the list included things like more desks, some locking cabinets to store their supplies, and of course—footballs.
A few of the teachers at Kalaveria School
So, this quarter, all proceeds raised at our Love Clubs will benefit the Kalaveria School in Badoughbe, Togo.  We are still going to raise the original amount of $10,000 which will cover an addition to the building as well as some of the items on the teacher wishlist.

We couldn’t be more excited to continue our partnership with Kalaveria School.  If you have any questions or concerns, we’re happy to address them at somebodysmama@outlook.com.  We thank you for your support and also for your patience in navigating this process.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mama of the Month: Mercy

In May of 2000, our co-founder, Leia Johnson, traveled to India with a 4HIM team to scout future partnerships.  During that trip, she met a young man named Sunny who would be key in linking 4HIM and eventually Somebody’s Mama to work being done all over the beautiful country of India.

Sunny and Mercy visited the U. S. earlier this year (pictured here with Leia and her family).

One of the most important relationships we would develop through Sunny is one with our July Mama of the Month—his wife, Mercy.  Mercy works alongside Sunny in their ministry to slum communities in Chennai while raising their three children. She is a woman whose faith is essential to the work she does and is the embodiment of what the New Testament describes as “pure and genuine religion,” working with widows and orphans and those Jesus would have described as the “least of these.”

We emailed Mercy a few simple questions, and knowing her story allows us a glimpse into why she chooses the work she does and inspires us to as Mother Teresa said, “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Mercy grew up in the Manipur region of northeast India, in a mountainous village called Thonglong.  Her father died when she was young, and her mother was attacked by wild dogs one day, losing an arm in the process.  Their life was harder even than many of their neighbors, all of whom are known as “tribals” in Indian society.  Tribals are a dual heritage people group with a long history of discrimination, considered to be lower than the dalits or “untouchables” of India’s caste system.  When we asked what lessons she learned from her mother, Mercy said, “The significant lessons I learned from my mother are accept any hard situation in life and put trust in God to open miraculous ways.”

Mercy made her way to Chennai, the sixth largest city in India, where she met Sunny.  They married “in the midst of huge opposition from family and friends because of intercaste marriage” and Mercy says she was deeply touched by Sunny’s “compassion for people’s struggle and love for God.”  

Together, they began working closely with “the most desperate people…women beaten by their husbands, struggling to raise children alone, dealing with depression and suicide, and pushed into prostitution; and children forced into work and sex trafficking.”  When we asked why she chooses this work, she said, “We prayed to God to use us as instruments to bring restoration in the lives of these women in pain and agony.  God has given me the compassionate heart to understand and feel the pain of the struggling women in the community.”

When we talked with Sunny and Mercy about partnering with them to build a school in Mercy’s home village of Thonglong, they enthusiastically agreed that education is key in preventing many of the problems they see. Statistics tell us that education can be freedom from poverty, and educating girls transforms communities and entire societies.  Here are just a few things we know: 

Of 163 million illiterate youth in the world, 
63% are female.  

Of the 115 million children ages 6-12 
not in school, 3/5 are girls.  

Education drastically reduces child marriage—
a girl with 7 years of education 
will marry 4 years later 
and have 2.2 fewer children.

Educated women are less likely to die 
in pregnancy or childbirth 
and more likely to send 
their own children to school.  

A child born to a woman 
with a primary school education 
is half as likely to die before the age of 5.  
One extra year of school 
boosts a girl’s future wages by 10-20%.

(Statistics from CARE)

That brings us to our big announcement!  We’re going to build a school in Thonglong. Through our relationship with 4HIM, we have an amazing opportunity to bring education to the children of Thonglong, rewriting the story for generations of families in this mountain community.

A little over a year ago, 4HIM helped build a rudimentary school after learning the closest school was miles away, and the children were unable to attend school at all. With overwhelming community support, the school quickly grew from twenty students to over 200.  The children regularly score very highly on the government tests and are also learning English.  The curriculum was approved by the Indian government, and the school met all requirements from the Ministry of Education…except for one.

The buildings have bamboo walls and dirt floors.  The Ministry of Education has declared (and rightfully so) the existing buildings to be substandard and a fire hazard.  The government officials have been very tolerant and patient; however, if the buildings are not completed to code, the school will be closed. 


Somebody’s Mama is going to commit to upgrading their current school to government standards.  Private donors have already funded one building through our parent organization, 4HIM, and the ultimate goal would be to build three additional buildings at a cost of $10,000 each.  Our community of Mamas is going to commit to building one building.  If we raise more than $10,000, it will go toward building the other two buildings.  We proved last quarter that this is possible when we built our maternity ward in Sierra Leone, so we have no doubt that we’ve got Mamas across the nation ready to step up and build this school.  Our quarterly focus is education, but really this project is one that will eventually affect all areas of focus—maternal health, economic empowerment, and trafficking.

The children of Thonglong with 4HIM founder, Steve Hollingsworth
We are so excited to be able to work with Mercy and her husband, Sunny, to build this school in her hometown in her honor. We are awed by her compassion and integrity, inspired by her ability to impact lives of so many in need while also shaping the minds of three littles, and humbled to be even a tiny part of this puzzle.

Join us in honoring Mercy this month and in building a school in Thonglong!

If you're ready to give now, CLICK HERE, and donate with a note of "Thonglong School" in the Somebody's Mama box.  If you want to start a Love Club to help fund this project, read this.  It will be the best kind of fun you can have with your friends!  Love on, Mamas.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Start a Love Club

Last quarter, we took a big step and completed our first ever large project, raising over $10,000 to finish a maternity ward in Sierra Leone.  This project was successful because we had YOUR support.

We are looking for new House Mamas who are willing to start Love Clubs in their towns.  Want to know if you qualify?  Here’s the application:

1. Do you have friends?
2. Would you like to help change the lives of women?

If you answered yes to those two questions, you’re hired!  And you know what we want you to do?  We want you to have a party!  A Love Party!  We want you to gather with your friends in the same way you always do—but this time, we want you to share the vision of Somebody’s Mama.  We’ve picked a really special project, and we can’t do it without you.  Here’s what you need to know in order to say YES to being a House Mama:

  • Our quarterly project involves building a school in India (more information to come shortly).  
  • Our goal is to plan our parties in the months of July, August, and September (you pick what works best for you in that timeframe).
  • You are in charge of what your party looks like!

Here are just a few ideas about how you can structure your party:

  • Host a potluck dinner party and tell everyone to chip in what it would have cost if you’d gone out to dinner!
  • Host bunco/bridge/game night like you do every month and instead of giving out prizes for the winners, dedicate one evening to Somebody’s Mama!
  • Is your group of friends into garage sales?  Pool your stuff together for a big sale and donate the proceeds to our project!
  • Come up with something cool that YOUR friends would love and run with it!  This is about connecting our everyday living with some simple giving.

Once you have agreed to be a House Mama, we will send you an information packet (via email) with more information about the project.  It will answer the who/what/when/where questions and provide instructions on how to structure your “presentation” to your friends.  We will equip you with all the resources to help engage others in the mission of Somebody’s Mama—and we hope you’ll have fun doing it!

Please contact us via Facebook or by email (somebodysmama@outlook.com) if you are ready to join us in our worldwide Love Party!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mama(s) of the Month: Amy and Ephrance

The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity for the Somebody’s Mama community, and we have had the opportunity to share our vision with hundreds of friends.  In the process, we’ve heard one question over and over—how did Somebody’s Mama start?

For the first time, we’re featuring TWO mamas as our Mama(s) of the Month, who were responsible for helping us turn our first good ideas into action.  Meet Amy Williams and Sister Ephrance Nuwamanya.

In 2011, our co-founder, Leia Johnson, met Amy at a local ONE gathering in Oklahoma City. Over the course of the evening, Amy shared about her NGO, the Bushyeni Alliance for Rural Health and Development (BARHD), which works in southwest Uganda.  About a week later, Leia attended an informational meeting and fundraiser at Amy’s house in Norman, OK and met Sister Ephrance, who was visiting the United States representing BARHD’s in-country NGO, Bushyeni Integrated Rural Development (BIRD).

At that time, Amy and Sister Ephrance (in Uganda, nurses are referred to as “Sisters”) were attempting to complete a clinic in a rural community, and Leia’s interest was piqued when they mentioned a need for a “placenta pit.”  In an area where blood-borne illnesses (especially HIV/AIDS) are a serious threat to community health, placenta pits are commonly used for proper disposal after birth.  Leia committed to Amy and Ephrance to help, and Somebody’s Mama was born.

After calling and emailing a few friends (check out this Mother’s Day post from Leia’s personal blog asking people to participate!), Somebody’s Mama was able to donate a little over $1,000 toward the effort to help complete the placenta pit, and we had officially sponsored our first project!

Amy standing on the completed placenta pit

Since that first interaction with BARHD and BIRD, their work has continued to grow exponentially, largely aided by American and Ugandan Rotary Clubs.  Recently, Amy emailed us about their progress:

“In the past eight years we have gone from one modest health clinic to four clinics which serve approximately 30,000 patients a year. Two of the clinics have maternity wards allowing mothers a safe and sanitary place for deliveries. We have seen more mothers opting to move from the traditional "at home" delivery assisted only by a female family member to the use of the Maternity Wards. HIV/AIDS has gone from taboo to something that draws hundreds of men and women to our clinics for testing. Our Orphan Sponsor Program has gone from just over 100 secondary students to 290 and twelve University students. To date we have distributed 11,000 mosquito nets with another 1,000 being given out this summer. Clean water and sanitation has been a focus the past four years. We have partnered with Water4 and Rotary Clubs to fund multiple wells and water containment systems.”

Amy pumping water at the dedication of a new well

One of the reasons we love what BARHD is doing is that they are constantly in tune with the needs of the communities in which they work.  Their success is heavily dependent on the work of their Ugandan friends at BIRD.  Sister Ephrance has received diplomas from Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the areas of Health Management, Reproductive Health Services, and Malaria Research respectively.  In addition to her professional training and service as a nurse for over thirty years, Sister Ephrance served as the first female member and then president of the Bushenyi Rotary Club.  She is married with six children—all of whom have received at least one degree from university.  

Sister Ephrance and her staff understand the needs of their community in a way that helps their American counterparts to pursue the most helpful and culturally-appropriate projects.  At Somebody’s Mama, we believe in building partnerships with people who are on the ground, serving in their communities just like we are at home in ours.  We recognize our strengths and passions as a piece of a much bigger puzzle—one that can not even begin to be put together if we don’t first listen to the stories of people who are living day-to-day in the communities we are hoping to empower.

We asked Amy what lessons she learned from her own mother, and she told us, “My mother was a strong influence in my life.  She became chronically ill when I was about twelve years old. She taught me to be strong and that you can do more than you think you can.”  Amy also noted her mother’s strong faith and commitment to hospitality.  As a mother of two boys and step-mother to two daughters, Amy refers to motherhood as one of the best God given blessings in her life.  She added, “It’s rewarding to have grown children who are respectful, thoughtful, and compassionate” and that any challenges she has faced in motherhood have paid off in the blessing of five little people who call her Grammy.  Her travels to Uganda have taught her that women—mothers and grandmothers—everywhere feel this pride in seeing their children and grandchildren thrive.

Amy administering a polio vaccine
A Ugandan Mama receiving services at one of the clinics BARHD/BIRD built

Sister Ephrance and Amy teaching about malaria prevention

Our partnership with BARHD three years ago was the beginning of what we hope will be a long and fruitful friendship, one that links Ugandan mamas to Sister Ephrance to Amy to us and to you.  No words can express how grateful we are to BARHD and BIRD for inviting us on this journey with them.  We are united in our love for each other, which knows no boundaries.

(To follow all that BARHD is doing, you can visit their website at http://barhd.net or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/barhduganda.)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Look What We Did TOGETHER!

Over the past few days, we had a smattering of random donations come in online and an improvised LOVE CLUB in Hawaii, AND WE HAVE OFFICIALLY FUNDED OUR MATERNITY UNIT!

1. We are floored by the generosity of over 150 people who made this happen.

2. We still have three scheduled Love Clubs this weekend, and any extra donations that come in will go toward buying supplies and equipment for the maternity unit.  We thought we were setting a reasonable but challenging goal, but apparently we underestimated how awesome you are.  Sorry about that.

3. The story about the Love Club that put us over the top is INCREDIBLE and too good not to share.

So, we have this friend, Nic, who is in the Air Force and stationed in Hawaii.  He wanted to start a Love Club to honor his mama, Jaema or “Marm” to her friends, who passed away about a year ago. 

Nic tried to plan a party, but as our military friends know all too well, it didn’t come together because his friends kept leaving to go on trips.  Did Nic let that stop him?  Absolutely not.  Instead, he started walking around his squadron telling people our story and collecting donations (snapping pictures of our friends in uniform all along the way!).

Nic, we thank you for your service to our country, applaud you for your persistence and commitment to Somebody’s Mama, and join with you in honoring your mama.  We are proud to call you a friend, and we know your mama is proud of you, too!  What an incredible way to honor her memory.

This maternity unit will serve women in Sierra Leone who would have otherwise had no pre- or post-natal care, saving the lives of thousands of mamas and babies for years to come. As we celebrate our collective accomplishment, we also celebrate Nic and Jaema.  Cheers, mamas!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mama of the Month: Tara

Last year, Somebody’s Mama co-founder, Erika, attended Idea Camp in Austin, TX.  The event was an opportunity for organizations like ours to gather, share stories, and become friends with other people who are changing their communities.  Our new Mama of the Month, Tara, and her husband, Troy, were presenters representing Heartline Ministries in Port au Prince, Haiti.  Erika was drawn to Tara’s story, one of adventure and grace, and we knew we wanted to be a part of what Heartline is doing!
Tara works as a midwife apprentice (and will be finishing her midwife credentials in August) and is part of a team of seven women, four Haitian and three American, who run the maternity center and prenatal program.  The team has facilitated over 350 births with no loss of life to mothers or babies.  That is quite the feat in Haiti, a country that has held the title of poorest nation in the western hemisphere for decades.  
Tara’s personal journey of motherhood is long and varied with seven kids ranging in age from 6 to 24.  Tara and Troy fell in love with Haiti through the process of adoption, and after their first two adoptions were complete, they decided to move to Haiti permanently in January 2006, nurturing seeds of both love and concern for their children’s home country.

Heartline Ministries began as an adoption organization and has been working in Port au Prince since 1998.  Their website describes what an integral role they have played in relief, restoration, and development in their city. 

“On January 12, 2010 everything changed as a devastating earthquake destroyed most of Port Au Prince. Millions were killed, injured, or made homeless. By the grace of God, our facilities experienced minor damage and none of the people working for Heartline were seriously injured.
We responded immediately by transforming the maternity center into an emergency clinic where we performed major surgeries and helped hundreds of people recover. We were one of the few places in the city that could function so quickly after the earthquake due to the experienced group of missionaries and medical professionals and their diligent work. After about a year we were able to resume full time maternity services.”
Aside from their life-giving work at the maternity center, Heartline also addresses the needs of the community through life skills training for both women and men as well as feeding and education programs for children.
When we asked Tara why she does this work, she answered, “The need for quality care in all areas of healthcare is great in Haiti.  Maternal healthcare is especially important in that it can reduce drastically the number of orphaned children.  I love and feel honored to be able to work with women during some the most important, frightening, joyous, and challenging months of their lives.  I love seeing a woman come to believe in her ability to give birth to and parent her child. Supporting a woman that truly only needs some encouragement and watching her rise to the occasion and become the mother she was always able to be is a gift.”
Three babies who were born last week at the maternity center
She also shared some of the joys and challenges of being a mother to seven children.  “Motherhood is insanely different than I imagined.  The highs are so high and the lows...well, they are soooooo low.  I guess I didn't know it would be as funny as it is (little kids are ridiculously funny), and I also didn't anticipate it being quite so challenging. We have kids spaced out over 18 years…this means we are parenting littles, mediums, and big adult kids all at once.  I think little kids are way easier.  Little kid stuff is so inconsequential, "You lied about eating the entire bag of candy”—guess what? That goes away with your tummy ache after you puke.  No big deal.  Bad choice equals two hours of pain.  I like that sin to consequence balance—one mistake doesn't equal a lifetime of anything.  Something about the weight of big kid mistakes makes it all feel so daunting. I am a young mom, so maybe someday this will all make sense but so far, it is hard to figure out how to do the big kid thing well. The line between letting go (that whole give them wings thing) in a healthy way, and offering advice, guidance, and warnings that drive your children insane, is razor thin.  I so want to nail it, but usually feel like I am hammering my thumb and missing the nail altogether.”
Luckily, Tara has some inspiration from her own mother about how to get through the hard parts of parenting. “My mom worked hard when she needed to and taught me the value of finishing what you start. I have wanted to quit various things in my life, but she and my dad noticed that pattern in me when I was in 7th grade and they just refused to allow quitting to be an option.  That honestly was a huge gift.  Just because it is hard (painful, not fun, whatever)—doesn’t mean quitting is the best answer.  There are rewards for pushing through.”
What a gift, indeed.  Whether Tara is parenting from afar (her two oldest are back in the States now) or helping women literally push through the pains of labor, she embodies the spirit of what Rabindranath Tagore wrote: “Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.  Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.”
Mamas and babies
Today we are honored to know Tara and to support the work she is doing at Heartline. Tara, we applaud your willingness to serve, your heart for the people of Haiti, and your ability to inspire the rest of us to love greatly.  Bravo, Mama.  Love on!