giving back

Why Did We Choose to Support Women in Kenya When the US Is Struggling Financially?

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I have been asked on many occasions why Mom It Forward is supporting an organization that is empowering and providing business opportunities to women in Kenya when so many families in the US, where such a large part of our community is based, are losing their homes, their credit, their jobs, their insurance, and more.

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Before I dive in and explain the reason behind our choice for this charity, I wanted to share something a bit personal. My family has experienced some of the hardships I know many of you are experiencing... and in the not too distant past. I know these struggles are real. I know times are hard. A layoff or losing insurance is extremely unsettling and stressful. The lack of knowing when you'll round the corner or where the next meal is coming from is downright scary at times. Whether you live within or outside of the US, during this time of economic hardship, I encourage everyone to reach out to each other with support and love and kindness and to Mom It Forward on a daily basis both on and offline. And if you want to help on a larger scale and are wondering why Kenya, please read this post and let me know if you have any additional questions or feedback (momitforward [at] gmail [dot] com).

Why Kenya?

When we began planning this fundraiser in January, we seriously considered which charity to support.

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Several factors influenced our decision. I'd like to share a little bit about each one of them.

  • The Mom It Forward Mission
  • The Steps to Accomplish Our Mission
  • Our Global Community
  • My Personal Experience With Yehu Microfinance and BasaBody

The Mom It Forward Mission

The Mom It Forward mission is: “to change the world one mom at a time.” We will achieve that by 1) strengthening women, 2) helping them become the best moms and/or influencers they can be, and 3) providing ideas, opportunities to, and recognition for carrying out the Mom It Forward mission in small and large ways, locally as well as internationally, in their communities and beyond.

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Since the primary focus of our mission is to change the world one mom at a time, we have chosen to spearhead two major fundraisers each year and to rally around important causes that we, as a community, can support with our hearts, our pocketbooks, our volunteerism, our publicity and/or any of the talents and skills we are willing to offer. We recognize that not everyone is in a position to donate financially and we feel strongly that community members know that we see all contributions as important and valued, not just those that keep the Chip In numbers soaring!

The Steps to Accomplish Our Mission

For our two annual fundraisers, we'll have one in the spring and another in the fall. We have chosen to focus one event annually on a local charity (North America) and one event on an international initiative. Since our fall fundraiser was for Feeding America, which benefited families facing hunger in the United States, we felt that focusing on an international charity was important for our first fundraiser of 2009.

That said, we have not forgotten that many of the most impactful ways to Mom It Forward are acts of service and kindness performed within our neighborhoods and communities. They are small as well as large tasks and projects that rely on local resources and community outreach. To help women make an impact within their communities, Mom It Forward is setting up a worldwide organization. What this means is that women come together to form a Mom It Forward chapter in their area. Our first chapter is forming right now in the North East with @rachelferrucci as the president and @ginalaguardia as the vice-president. We also have been beta testing the chapter idea in Utah and finally feel ready to give it a go in another location.

While we don't have all of the details ironed out, here is what we know. Local chapters are in a much better position to reach out to organizations, families, and women in their communities since they have local resources and know of area-specific needs. In Utah, we have done big projects like serving at an assisted living facility and a center for abused and neglected children as well as taking meals into women in the Mom It Forward community who were sick.

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In Nashville, we prepared lunch for 1,500 people at the Nashville Rescue Mission.In the North East, they are planning a project for a center for women of domestic violence in Connecticut. In Utah, we also had a workshop where speakers came to talk about life balance, parenting, and other uplifting topics. It was a great way to network, come together for a great cause, and leave feeling uplifted and strengthed in our roles as women, mothers, influencers, and community members who want to make a meaningful difference.

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I point all of this out, because my greatest hope is to change the world one mom at a time. While Mom It Forward itself can certainly influence people toward a couple of major initiatives a year both at home and abroad, we cannot have the impact that local chapters can. Therefore, one of our greatest focuses will be to get these chapters up and going with enough structure and guidance so that the amazing women that sit on their boards can really make a positive difference in their communities.

Our Global Community

While focusing on our mission and the steps to accomplishing that mission is important, Mom It Forward is not anything without its amazing community members—the #gno gals (and guys!) as well as the bloggers, the IRL friends and family, and all the many people who support and contribute in meaningful ways to the community. We recognize that our community lives in or is from various backgrounds and countries. This is what makes us rich, diverse, and fun. But what makes us unique is the reason we all come together—our passion for making a postive difference in the world. So, at Mom It Forward, we wanted to show sensitivity to the fact that we are a global group and that together, we are facing a global economic crisis and hardship. While we took the US economy and the many hardships so many of us are facing into consideration when we made this decision, we didn't feel that focusing solely on US events for both of our major fundraisers would be sensitive and fair to the many people in our community that live outside of the US. That, coupled with our mission to change the "world" helped us decide to focus outside the US for our second fundraiser.

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My Personal Experience With This Charity

After going to Washington DC last summer, visiting the Holocaust Museum, and going through an exhibit on Darfur, I felt a call to action to help people in rural Africa. I returned home with hope and immediately put calls into and sent e-mails to a variety of organizations set up to do just that. To my dismay, not a single one returned my calls or e-mails. That is when I met Troy Holmberg. Troy lives in my neighborhood and is a VP of Operations for a corporation where I live. His "other" job, besides being a father of 5 children, is overseeing the US side of the volunteer operations of Yehu Microfinance, Basa Body, and Coast Coconut Farms (all falling under the same 501(c)3 founded by his family more than 12 years ago).

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If any of you have ever been stalked, you know how Troy felt when I began, in earnest, to demand suggest that he bring me on as a volunteer (think STALKING!). He brought me on in September and had me edit marketing materials for the Basa Body product line. By January, we were talking about partnering on this major fundraiser initiative. I knew, after having worked with him directly for 4 months, that he and his charitable organization were the right fit for Mom It Forward. He is trustworthy and puts his heart and soul into his volunteer work. He does everything from making and assembling the product and overseeing operations to making regular trips to Africa to work with the employees there and visit the women in the local villages. He is learning the language and loves the people. And, he does it all as a volunteer. These charities have no administrative costs. I was sold!!!

How Can You Get Involved?

If after reading this, you'd like to participate in this fundraiser; become more involved in Mom It Forward in general; or if you have questions, concerns. or feedback for us, please contact us at momitforward [at] gmail [dot] com. If you'd like more information on the charities, please visit Yehu Microfinance, BasaBody, or Coast Coconut Farms here or here. Together, we can change the world one mom at a time!

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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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