I’m sitting on a step in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC. I’m attending CARE’s National Conference and it’s the end of the first day. I’m tired, inspired and a little bit wired. I’ve spent the day surrounded by people making a difference. I know that phrase, “making a difference” is vague, overused and somewhat overwhelming but here, it’s specific, action oriented and practical. More than 900 people, representing all 50 states and many countries have gathered to learn about how CARE makes the world a better place for millions of people. They’ve also come to talk to our senators and congressmen directly as CARE supporters to ask them to make a difference too.
CARE is my special-favorite humanitarian organization and I’ve blogged about them before. I traveled with them to Peru to report back to Fit Pregnancy about their crazy-successful maternal health program. I wrote about their work in Haiti after the earthquake and how they were helping pregnant women who had to deliver their babies in makeshift camps in Port au Prince.
We opened the conference this morning with remarks from Dr. Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE who told the story of two women in Nepal. One was a midwife in a small village, the other, her patient, a mother of four girls and pregnant with her fifth baby. The mother had no prenatal care (there wasn’t any in her village) with her daughters but was lucky and delivered safely at home. With this pregnancy, however, she joined a CARE-sponsored women’s education group and connected with a midwife. This midwife had minimal formal training but had recently received an upgraded education from CARE about safe birth practices and basic resuscitation skills. They don’t have the high-tech skills and tools we have here in the US. They have their hands, hearts and brains. That’s all it takes to make a big difference.
The midwife attended the mother when she delivered a long hoped for baby boy. Then her joy turned abruptly to horror. The baby didn’t cry, didn’t breathe and layed limp and motionless. The midwife told the mother the baby was dead and asked what she wanted done with the body. Screams drowned out her question but startled the midwife into remembering her training. She began massaging the baby boy and initiated mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. For twenty minutes, nothing happened and the baby didn’t respond. Then, all of a sudden, he did. He whimpered, breathed, cried and lived. As the midwife guided the newborn to his mother’s breast, she realized she’d had a miracle. That baby is now 10-months old. What would have happened if that mother and midwife had never met? If that midwife had never received that life-saving education. If CARE had not come to that village. That’s how one person makes a huge difference.
I’ve talked to so many people today who care deeply and firmly believe that one person can do something and make that difference. People like Jessey Jansen, an artist and designer committed to poverty eradication. She’s created and sells a line of greeting cards called “The Written Collection” with the tag line, Empowering Little Ladies Of The World, One Greeting at a Time. The backside of each card has a picture and the story of a woman whose life has been touched by CARE. Jessey is donating a percentage of all her sales to CARE.
People like Malaak Compton Rock, author of It Takes a Village, Build One. As co-founder (with her husband, Chris Rock) of the AngelRock Project, she’s written a book that’s part memoir of her life of service and part how-to for people who are ready to start volunteering or become socially active but don’t know where to start. Her book provides the framework for people ready to make a difference.
People like Sarah, Amanda, Giulia, Katie, Shannon, Christina and oh-so-many more than I can name here today; CARE staffers who have made CARE their career and organized this conference. They hosted almost a thousand people who came to learn, connect and start making their own difference. Every staff member I’ve met has been entirely helpful, dedicated, kind and so brilliant it makes me squint.
And two particularly amazing women who spoke at the conference today:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (click to watch highlights) , a long time CARE supporter and global advocate for women, who talked about why poverty eradication and women’s issues are interconnected and why it matters to Americans. Simply put Madame Secretary said, “We care about this.”
Christy Turlington Burns, model, CARE supporter and now filmmaker. Turlington-Burns documentary, No Woman No Cry (which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last month) left me in tears. Her film documents the personal stories of pregnant women and their care providers in four countries (Africa, Guatemala, Bangladesh, and the US). She perfectly highlighted the universal struggles women face, just trying to safely deliver the world’s children with dignity.
Every one of you readers has your own unique talents, voice, vote and support. What can you do today to make a difference to someone you care about?
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