Sandals That Make You Strong
I am a regular gym goer – about three times a week. Working out regularly helps me feel stronger physically, which helps me feel stronger mentally. As a leader, I need that feeling of strength – both physically and mentally.
My gym – like similar ones around the U.S. – is full of people trying to lose weight. We all know we have a huge and serious obesity problem in our country. But it stands in sharp contrast to the poor communities worldwide where ChildFund works – malnutrition is their problem, and trying to get enough food at times is their challenge. Sometimes I think if I ever explained to families I meet during overseas visits that I pay money to join a place where I run and lift weights to lose the calories I just gained from eating – they would think I was crazy.
These two worlds always collide for me after I finish my workout. I take off my sneakers and put on a pair of sandals I keep in my gym bag. I always pause for a second when I see those sandals. They were a gift given to me by a youth in one of our employment projects in Senegal when I visited a few years ago. Like his father before him, this young man – tall, slender and shy - was becoming a shoemaker, and our project was helping him turn his skill into a profitable business.
I think of the other feet his handmade shoes would protect. The wearers would most likely be walking down dirt roads or across muddy fields – focused on making a better life for themselves – not coming back from the gym working off last night’s dessert. The sandals are really a bit too small for my feet. But I don’t mind. They make me feel very grounded and very strong.
Mothers: Gifts That Keep on Giving
The phone call came in the middle of the night. My mother had fallen and broken her hip. Tragic as this was, the situation was even more complicated.
Where was I? I was in Ethiopia for work.
Where was my mother? My 75-year-old mother was at my home in Georgia taking care of my two young children while both my husband and I were traveling for work.
Like many other working women I know, our mothers have helped us manage our careers by helping us with our own children. Many women would not be in the workforce, or would not be able to manage the heavy travel demands many jobs require, if it were not for our own mothers being willing to pitch in.
Mother’s Day on Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to thank these moms who keep on giving.
In developing countries like the ones where ChildFund works, it’s really the norm that moms–when they move on to being grandmothers–become an integral part of an extended family. Three or four generations often live together, and grandmothers play an active role in helping rear the youngest generation.
A gathering of grandmothers in Senegal. Photo:Catherine Karnow
In Senegal, ChildFund even has a special project reaching out to grandmothers,who assist and mentor younger women in their communities. Because grandmothers play a huge role in the decisions made about the well-being of children in their village, ChildFund has worked to engage these matriarchs, providing health and nutrition information and opening up discussions that ultimately benefit children.
What happened to my own mom? She recovered from that broken hip and my sisters came to stay with her until I came home. Two months ago, at the age of 91, she fell and, again, broke a hip. Unfortunately, her recovery this time is a lot less certain. But moms can be tough and when I saw her recently, she was again up and walking – unsteady, certainly – but still walking.