The Power of a Voice

When I attended the Social Good Summit in New York for three days last week, I had the opportunity to watch several presentations and panels on global issues that impact us all. Speaker after speaker talked about things like access to clean water, climate change, hunger, preventable diseases, philanthropy and more.

In addition to the rich summit agenda, I was also invited to off-site events. I heard about upcoming campaigns that support The Global Fund from (Red) over breakfast. I learned more about the humanitarian efforts in Syria from Save the Children, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ONE.org at a luncheon. I had a nightcap with Wateraid to meet the lovely ladies I’ve only talked to through email. I was even escorted through several layers of security to listen to a panel on Factivism at the United Nations Headquarters.

A gentleman from Time Magazine asked a question at one of these events. My fellow social good bloggers and I laughed that we were even at the same table as someone from such a large and esteemed news outlet. We were quickly told that our voices are just as valued and needed because of the strong, personal connection we have with our audience. Moms, in particular, can relate to our blogs because we’re sharing our own relatable perspectives as mothers.

The overall theme of Social Good Summit was how we’re using digital to pave the way for a brighter future by 2030. (Check out the hashtag #2030NOW on Twitter for lots of discussion.) By the time I left New York on late Tuesday night, my mind was spinning and I had several pages of notes. I felt a renewed dedication to my work in the social good world and a desire to dig in deeper to what it means to empower others to give back in the simplest of ways.

And then I saw this picture come across my Facebook feed.

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If you don’t recognize this face, it’s Alexa of the No Holding Back blog. She is a friend of mine and an advocate for those affected by a too little known disease called TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome). As I was leaving New York armed with information and ideas, Alexa was in the trenches in Washington, DC representing the March of Dimes and moms everywhere. She met with representatives and was making change.

When Alexa came home, she buried her beloved Kathryn, the twin she lost to TTTS at only two days old. The next day, a bench was dedicated in Kathryn’s Butterfly Garden.

This month (September actually) I donated to the Historic Columbia Foundation to support Kathryn’s Butterfly Garden, a spot in a Children’s Garden that Alexa and her husband adopted in honor of Kathryn, as part of my Giving Pledge. I can’t think of a more fitting way to end my week.

Alexa is a prime example of someone who is taking an issue and tackling it head on. She is a strong woman and mother and I have no doubt that she is saving lives through her blog and advocacy work. She is doing what we discussed for three days in New York. If you have a moment, I encourage you to take a look at her new website dedicated to Fighting TTTS.

How did you give back in September?

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another jennifer giving pledge

Is Your State Prepared to Save the Children in a Disaster?

Unfortunately, for 28 states in the US, the answer to the question in the title of this post is “No.”

Save the Children launched a report last week that shows how prepared each state is (or isn’t) if a natural or other disaster happened. As part of its Get Ready. Get Safe campaign, Save the Children’s report is a state-by-state assessment of U.S. preparation and safety standards for children in child care facilities and in schools. This is the sixth year the organization has released a preparedness report.

While progress has been made, more than half of the states still fall short on preparedness.

get ready. get safe.

Only four states – New Jersey, Tennessee, Nebraska and Utah – were congratulated by Save the Children for taking action to protect children over the past year.

In Maine, where I live, we are not prepared. Maine’s rating is “Unsatisfactory” because we do not have a plan to evacuate children from child care, for reuniting families after a disaster or for children with disabilities and those with access and functional needs. The only criteria Maine does pass is having a multi-hazard plan for all K-12 schools.

I know that my 8-year-old has practiced lock down drills in his school since the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and I have noticed more security measures being put in place each year since he started public school. But is it enough?

A street sign among the burnt out homes in the after math of Superstorm Sandy (photo credit: Save the Children)

A street sign among the burnt out homes in the after math of Superstorm Sandy (photo credit: Save the Children)

I hate to think of what would happen if an event like Hurricane Sandy or the Sandy Hook shootings occurred in my town. How long would it take for me to be reunited with my kids if they were at school and/or daycare?

“The devastation left by Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, the Oklahoma tornadoes and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School should be a wake-up call, but too many states won’t budge.  It’s like they’re stuck in a pre-Katrina world where the gaps in protecting children weren’t so clear.”  ~ Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, one month after my oldest son was born, it took 6 months to reunite the last child with her family. Imagine not knowing the fate of your child for six entire months.

Save the Children set up a child friendly space at the Reed Intermediate School in Newton following the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. (photo credit: Save the Children)

Save the Children set up a child friendly space at the Reed Intermediate School in Newtown following the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. (photo credit: Save the Children)

We tend not to think about disaster until it’s too late. As Save the Children notes, you can never be too prepared for a disaster.

When I read the report on Maine, I immediately emailed the governor. I also downloaded a disaster checklist for child care providers and gave it to the owner of my daycare.

Save the Children provides some easy actions steps you can take to help your state become more prepared:

Read the full report:  Disaster Preparedness in America: The 2013 Report 

How prepared is your state?

I wrote this post as part of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of Mom Bloggers for Social Good members who focus on maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls.

Sign a Petition for a National Commission on Children

Another State of the Union address is happening tomorrow (2.12.13). President Obama will be talking about many topics, including his proposal to curb gun violence.

While I don’t want to get too political on this blog, I do want to make my readers aware of a campaign from Save the Children.

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organization for children. Their vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation.

Though they endorse President Obama’s proposal to curb gun violence and expand mental health services, they believe the issue is extremely complex and that steps need to be taken to ensure the well-being and safety of all children. As they state on their website, “every child deserves a happy and safe childhood. But for too many, including the 20 young lives lost in Newtown, CT, that isn’t a reality.”

Save the Children believes that we need a national conversation to find “bold, new ideas” to address the violence, poverty and other threats that are affecting childhood in the US. To do this, they are proposing a National Commission on Children and are aiming to send a signed call for action to the White House prior to the President’s State of the Union address on February 12th. The petition was launched with other organizations, including Children’s Health Fund, Every Child Matters, First Focus, Harlem Children’s Zone and Share Our Strength.

Here is what the petition states:

On behalf of America’s children, we call on President Obama and Congress to establish a new National Commission on Children to:

  • Create a national policy on children;
  • Set goals for protecting children’s well-being, including reducing poverty and violence; and
  • Monitor progress on stated goals.

Kids are growing up in a different world – it’s time for bold, new ideas. We can safeguard our children from violence at home and in school. We can ensure that all kids, especially those living in poverty, reach their full potential. We can do more.

If we can, we must.

 What can you do to help? Here are some simple action steps:

Will you sign the petition today?

I wrote this post as part of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of Mom Bloggers for Social Good members who focus on maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls.

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