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To make a difference for one

I feel so blessed, I get to combine so many of my passions.  Both my family and the organization I work with are incredibly supportive and understanding of how important The Leaky Boob is to me giving me time to write, speak, and otherwise advocate for moms, babies, and families. One of my biggest supporters is Anna, my boss at work.  I asked her to share why she believes so deeply in the work we do with Initiative 31.8 and I’m honored to share it here.  While you’ve never heard Anna’s voice in the context of TLB before, her wisdom and passion have been influencing this community for over a year as she has mentored and encouraged me.  Reading this piece helped me better understand why she so freely supports my involvement with The Leaky Boob, her heart is in supporting women.  Meet Anna, one of the most influential women in my life.  ~Jessica

Have you ever had a moment in your life that you knew would forever change you?

That happened to me several years ago during a trip to N’Djamena, Chad in sub Saharan Africa.  Ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world and harshest places to live as a woman, its beautiful people and land have found a permanent place in my heart.

One evening near the end of my trip, I went to visit the home of a young woman in her early twenties named Sarah*.  Sarah wanted to show me where she lived.  As I stood on the dirt floor of her tiny room, I listened as she described her life to me, a life of hardship, suffering, abuse, and loneliness. Her room had barely enough space to spread out a mat on the floor. There was a curtain serving as a door for privacy, and she had a small shelf against the wall, holding a bowl, a bar of soap, and a change of clothes.

She didn’t seek my sympathy, but rather we were two women sharing a private moment.  And yet, I saw how hungry she was, being given just one meal a day by the extended family that had taken her in. I saw how trapped she was by her life circumstances, desperately trying to get an education and find work. I saw how much she sought meaning from empty pursuits, relying on harmful relationship after relationship to survive. Even though our lives are so very different, we connected on a deep, soul level.

As my heart broke for this new friend, I knew in that moment that I wanted to devote my life to being part of the answer for people like her.

Through my work at International Teams, I have found myself in the company of many more people who want to take part in transforming lives of people like Sarah, of seeing communities become a place where no one is invisible.  Where a young woman in hunger, isolation, and powerlessness can build a life of opportunity.

I am just one person, and there is so much hurting and hardship in this world. But if my life can be part of seeing change in the life of just one person, then it is worth it. I would do it for Sarah, and I know she would do it for me. By joining together, we can all make a difference.

If you knew that you, just one person in a world of great suffering and injustice, could make a difference in the life of just one other person, would you do it?  As mothers we’re drawn, compelled to invest in the lives of our children and know first hand the meaning that comes from doing so.  It is in our nature as humans to feel compassion for others, even those that don’t call us “mom.”

You can do that right now. Saturday Jessica and I will be hopping on our bikes to ride to raise funds for the oppressed in the RIDE for Refuge.  Jessica thinks she will be sore and barely able to walk after. Possible, but I just smile and know the great sense of accomplishment we both will feel after giving just a few hours of our lives to change the life of another.

We haven’t reached our goal yet, but it’s not too late! Will you donate to our sponsor page?

 *not her real name

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Have you ever had a moment that forever changed you?  Did it alter the direction of your life?  Did it develop new passions?  Has it inspired you to help others and make the world a better place?

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My kids broke me and now I have to change the world- ride with me

I became a mother nearly 15 years ago for the first time.  At only 20 years old it undoubtedly changed me and it would have no matter how old I had been.  Because having children does change you.  As we shape them, so they shape us.

Children Shape Us

My parents tell stories of how as a child I was always deeply burdened for others, I would cry and want to rescue every creature from the circle of life if I had the chance.  The hurt of others impacted me deeply.  Somewhere, probably sandwiched between being a little sister and being a big sister and surviving puberty, I hardened and stopped feeling quite so deeply.  Enough so that I thought I wanted to go into health care, sticking people with needles didn’t phase me and blood was cool while still appealing to my desire to help people.  I became calloused in many ways though, even the commercials of beautiful celebrities with children in drought stricken parts of Africa asking for money didn’t touch me and I was just annoyed at the pleas for money.

But then my daughter was born and suddenly, my tear ducts were broken.  I had leaky boobs AND leaky eyes.  Constantly.  I cried over everything.  The natural course of the circle of life didn’t bother me still but injustice, particularly injustice against children, could shatter me.  That and Hallmark commercials.  I kept thinking it would go away and get easier with time and I wouldn’t fall apart over the card commercials, holiday marketing, every news report involving a child, every issue brought to my attention that impacted children even those on the other side of the world, every billboard featuring a hungry child, and every art piece depicting a child with no advocate.

It didn’t really get easier though, my tear ducts are still broken.  Today, stories of human trafficking overwhelm me, children sold into the sex trade, little kids the same age as my kids being forced to harvest cocoa beans so we can have cheap chocolate, families in India stuck in a cycle of poverty and lack of education and no hope for their children to change it, boys and girls kidnapped and forced to serve as soldiers being traumatized and traumatizing, communities without access to clean water and disease running rampant and killing the most vulnerable, refugee women and children abandoned and penniless without hope far from home, orphans with special needs suffering in institutions being considered un-adoptable, and on and on.  I moved from just being sad to being angry and then to being numb until it turned into something else.

I haven’t stopped crying for these stories and many more.  But I’m not just crying about them any more.  Motherhood changed me, I couldn’t bring children into this world and not do my part to fight to make it a better place.  The needs are too big, I know I can’t fix it all, I’m not sure I can even fix anything but I can try.  Hopefully in the effort my children will be inspired to rise up and try too.  And as a mother, I have to try, if it was my family suffering I hope someone somewhere would try too.  It’s not enough that my children are privileged and safe, no, just as my children deserve a better world, so do the little boys forced to harvest cocoa beans (and I’m not talking a family farm here) and the little girls in the brothels.  That is why I’m participating in the Ride for Refuge.

Over the years how I’ve responded has evolved moving from awareness of oppression to education to doing one thing to participating in events and fundraisers to a career change working in nonprofit work to help the oppressed and now to getting off my butt and doing something about it.  Different stages of my life have afforded me different opportunities and ways to make a difference and today I have more resources, more time, and more conviction to do even more.  With my family, we’re getting up off our rear ends, getting on a bike, and riding for change with Ride for Refuge.  Then, in January 2014, The Piano Man, Earth Baby, Sugarbaby, and I are headed over to A.Konduru, India with a group of artists to learn how we can better speak up for the oppressed and celebrate the new school this community has this year.

That is why I am thrilled to be working with International Teams. We realize that everyone has the same need for food and freedom, but not everyone has the same access. By the year 2020, our goal is to be in 50 communities where no one is invisible and everyone has access to the basic human rights.

To help fund our vision, I am joining hundreds in Elgin, Illinois on October 5th, in the 10th annual Ride For Refuge.  This is where I ask you to go with me.  Maybe you can’t take a trip to India right now, but could you get on a bike?  Ride with me!  October 5, 2013 in Elgin, Illinois I’m the team captain for a Ride for Refuge team with Initiative 31.8.  If you’d like to meet me there, I’d love to ride with you and have lunch following our ride and hear about how your children inspire you to make the world a better place.  This is a family friendly event and the proceeds from this ride go to support the work of International Teams bringing people together to help the oppressed.  By getting on a bike and riding, you would be helping the oppressed.

Can’t join us in Elgin?  Jeremy and the girls will be staying behind in the Portland, OR area and while it’s not an organized event, they will be doing their own Ride where you are experience at a local park.  We’ll be announcing where within a week (actually, any suggestions?) but if you are in the area and wanted to join them that would be great.  Anyone, anywhere can organize a casual Ride Where You Are Ride for Refuge event and Leakies from all over could participate, get together, and work to help the oppressed.  And if you can’t ride, you can sponsor me to.  Be it $1 or $10,000, every cent counts and goes toward work such as the school in A.Konduru, helping refugee families find hope, work to end slavery, and helping child soldier victims in Uganda find a new life.

I’m passionate about this, as passionate as I am about helping moms and babies reach their breastfeeding goals and to help change societal attitudes about breastfeeding and women’s bodies, I’m even more committed to speaking up for the oppressed.  Alone I can’t make too much of a difference, but with you, my community of mothers, I know we can change the world.  Our children certainly deserve for us to try.  Having them broke our hearts for a reason, we can’t accept the status quo.  The Leaky Boob has taught me many lessons, the sheer power of mothers being one of them.  We can change the world.  We already are.

My fundraising goal was initially huge, then with moving I aimed for a more modest number.  Now though I just don’t think that’s acceptable.  We’re thousands, a few hundred thousand read this site monthly and our Facebook page has over 110,000 followers.  Even if only a handful of you ride with me, if the rest can donate $1 we can easily raise $100,000 if not more.  Let’s do this, we’ve got a bunch of kids and a world to change with them.

Will you sponsor me to ride?  This is the link to my sponsorship page so you can do so quickly and easily online.

This is the link to sign up to ride with me in Elgin, Il or to do a Ride Where You Are experience.

Let me know if you’ll be joining me at the ride outside of Chicago, I’d love to meet you in person and thank you for helping to make this world a better place with me.

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What moves you?  How has having children impacted how you interact with the world and what you care about?  What are you doing to make a difference and how are you involving your children?

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