Up to now, this blog has been devoted entirely to recipes and the stories behind those recipes, but today I want to share another one of my passions with you.
First some background on me: I’ve spent the past twelve and one half years almost entirely in full-time mothering, but my full-time mothering gig is changing because my little people are getting bigger. My 12 year old has a solid case of embarrassment against me, I went to the school maturation program with my 10 year old, and my 8 year old fries up eggs and studies her own spelling words. My 4 year old still requires my care or he will paint my couches and cover the mirror in Vaseline, but he only has one more year of preschool before Kindergarten. So, I’m thinking about the next ten years of my life when I’ll have time on my hands to do things other than cooking, diapers and laundry.
This past week I had the opportunity to invest in my future life and one of my passions: global health and development. I boarded a plane to Washington DC with the first suit I have bought in 14 years to attend the Shot@Life summit. In case you are wondering, Shot@Life is completely focused on developing countries getting access to vaccines and doesn’t take part in the vaccinate/don’t vaccinate debate in the U.S.
It wasn’t easy to get myself on that plane. I had to employ a babysitter, it was a few hundred dollars for a plane ticket, I didn’t know anyone who was going, my stomach drops to my feet when I leave my kids, and of course the biggest hurdle for me: I had to buy business clothes. It took some pep talks from a dear friend and some tips on jackets, belts and the color of shoes to give me the confidence to just go for it.
Here are my lessons learned and observations from going to this conference:
– A child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine preventable disease.
– It was invigorating to be part of something bigger than myself, part of a movement. In summarizing her experience at the summit, Sunny from Memphis said, “Now I know what passion looks like.” I thought it the ultimate complement to the people who support Shot@Life.
– There are mothers who walk for 20 miles to get vaccinations for their child.
– I’ve never called my congressmen’s office before, but going in to talk with staff about an issue that is important to me was as much fun as I’ve had in weeks. It makes you feel powerful. The energy at the hill is palpable.
– Best surprise of the week and why I want to be a senator: there are trams and a train that you can ride on between the congressmen’s office buildings!
– We saw a technology and education group, a school lunch group and supporters of Israel just in the office of Jason Chaffetz in the span of 20 minutes. I realized that I needed to speak up about the issues I am passionate about because there are so many people willing to speak about the issues they are passionate about. If I don’t speak up, there are plenty of other people who will.
– There are mothers so accustomed to death in the developing world that they do not name their child until their child has been immunized.
– I met Jenny from Seattle who compared finding a place to sit at dinner to being in the junior high lunch room. While it took effort to step outside our comfort zones, making new friends and connections was the best part of the three days. I realized that what the CMO of UN Foundation said is truth: “diverse voices unified together sing a beautiful song.”
– At a conference of over 100 attendees, I’m pretty sure I was the only one waking up at 6:15 to go out for early morning runs.
– Most everything shuts down on the East Cost when it snows, everything shuts down when it rains ice.
– There were so many facts, quotes and figures, but I found this quote from Nelson Mandela the most poignant: “Life or death of a young child too often depends on if he is born in a country where vaccines are available or not.” I don’t think that’s fair. I want to change that. It’s exciting to be at a point in my life when I can.
I am proud to be part of a movement that believes change is possible and is recruiting volunteers all over the country to ensure that every child in the world get’s that shot at life they deserve. I love that Shot@Life values their volunteers enough to properly train them and to give us great tools to use in our advocacy. Look who is in front of me! It is super-nanny!!
We need YOUR voice. If it seems intimidating or scary or if you don’t have time to go to DC, it doesn’t matter. You could support this cause for 2 hours per year and still make a difference.
I’m curious what your favorite organizations are and how you make a difference in your community.
And, just so you know, my stomach drops before I leave my kids and I become irrationally nervous, but the kids were all alive, the house was clean and the trouble-maker had even had found new places to hide for hide and seek.