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Foreign Aid: Reasons Why Moms Should Add Foreign Aid to Africa to Their Lives

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Let's get honest, shall we? I'll let you in on some thoughts in the forefront of my mind.

Talking about foreign aid feels overwhelming.

I'm a busy mom just trying to raise happy and healthy kids. Sometimes I can barely extend my focus beyond the walls of my own home, let alone across an ocean.

And "mom" only covers one of my roles.

The longer list of the roles I play with their accompanying demands on my time sometimes makes me want to turn from that face on the cover of National Geographic. You know? The little girl with a perfect head barely covered in hair. A tummy distended. With those big, dark, beautiful eyes, beckoning you to not move past the newsstand or the page online.

I'll be honest. Sometimes, I look away. Sometimes, I run away. Sometimes, I put away the compassion I feel for that child and her mother in the recesses of my mind and I hug my own children, volunteer in their classrooms, donate to local charities, and don't beat myself up over it. And sometimes, it's OK!

Why Now Is the Time to Care About Families in Africa

But now is not one of those sometimes. You know, those times when you feel OK patting yourself on the back for doing all you can, even though you're doing nothing to help the world's poorest and most desperate. Why? Because 30,000 people have just died from the famine in Africa with an estimated 750,000 more at risk of death in the next 6 months.

I would like to say that I can't relate with the mother in Africa who, while she wants to focus on her children's future, can only focus on this moment, wondering: "Will my child have anything to eat? Can I get him the medical care he needs? Will my family be safe to see tomorrow?"

But, the truth is that though our realities are different, our concerns are based in the same desire to raise happy and healthy children who have opportunities for growth and who will be able to be contributing members of their societies. So I ask myself the question: "If I were in dire straights—really dire straights—wouldn't I want an outreached hand? Someone to help me get back on my own two feet and step out of the struggles I face?"

And that's where I want to continue this candid conversation if you don't mind.

Your Volunteer Efforts Can Help Stop the Famine in the Horn of Africa

If you are like me, you don't feel that your involvement is helping or that focusing any amount of your busy schedule on families in Africa would be futile.

But that's where we both would be wrong! The drop we contribute to the bucket of foreign relief is saving and improving lives.

Let's talk pregnancy for a second. This post-partum ward in western Africa I visited, made possible in part by the CDC, helps women move their deliveries from their homes to the hospital. The mosquito nets provided there and given to them to take home, prevents against Malaria. And this is just one outreach that is making a huge difference in both increasing the infant mortality rate as well as human lives.

How are these programs made possible? By one click of a button to sign an online petition, one letter or call to your congressman, one partnership from organizations like the CDC and USAID often in partnership with non-government organizations and corporations. And, it all starts with people like us—moms who took a moment to make time in their busy schedules or carved a small amount out of their budget to take action.

Isn't it exciting to consider that your individual effort alone is exactly what the Horn of Africa needs right now? That whatever small or large step you take yields a huge return when we look at the sum of all of those individual parts. One click to sign a petition to not cut foreign aid multiplied by 100,000 other clicks can make a big difference to our government leaders. And the story goes on.

In addition, just like we can't undervalue our own individual contribution, we can't underestimate how one life changed can impact generations of people. For example, it only takes $40 to educate a child for a year in Somalia. Think of the potential ripple effect of that child being educated—the opportunities she'll have, the education she can then pass down to her children, the lives her grandchildren will lead, and the change for their country they can impact.

I met with and heard from government officials in Washington D.C. over the past couple of months. While lobbying, I heard questions ranging from: "Why should government invest in foreign relief?" And I heard: "What more can we do to help?"

I walked away, pondering on the fact that less than 1 percent of the nation's budget goes to help developing nations. And while that amount seems far from enough, I felt great knowing that I not only listened to both sides of the foreign aid argument (for and against), but I also voiced my opinion to not cut foreign aid—one small thing I could do to help.

Ways Busy Moms Can Help Fight Famine Within the Walls of Their Own Homes

So, if you're a mom—or a mom at heart—and you want to help, stop your busy life for a second (I promise it'll wait) and do something to reach out your hand to mothers in Africa. This digital age we live in makes it easy to lift others up without leaving our own homes. Here's how:

  • Check out the awesome new FWD campaign by USAID. They offer lots of options for getting involved. Click on the FWD site to learn more.
  • Become a member of ONE.org. This will help you add drops to the foreign relief bucket without spending a cent.
  • Write a letter to your members of congress, encouraging the not to make budget cuts to foreign aid.
  • Consider future generations. When you see the starving child on the cover of a magazine or featured in an article you're reading online, look at the child and consider the future generations of people that will be impacted by helping her in any way, small or large, that you can.

What can busy moms do to make a difference for women and families who are struggling in Africa and other developing nations? What are you doing to make a difference?

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.

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