Catherine Connors, @HerBadMother, Does Good for Africa
If you have not yet discovered the herbadmother blog, you are missing out on a treat. This mommy blogger talks about motherhood, religion and spirituality, grief, social causes, her nephew, cupcakes, social media, feminism, and even zombies with a unique humor, eloquence, and wit. Catherine Connor, the bad mother herself, is a mother of two young children, a writer, and a "recovering academic" from Toronto who "traded the lecture hall for the playroom and discovered that university students and preschoolers have much the same attention span." She discovered blogging about four years ago and immediately "fell down the rabbit hole." She is now the epitome of a mom making a difference through social media.
In September, she had the opportunity to visit Lesotho, Africa (Lesotho is pronounced "li-s00-too") with the Born HIV-Free Project, a UN-funded organization devoted to stopping the transmission of AIDS from mothers to their babies. Visiting a foreign country, not even one as poor as Lesotho, can be a hugely eye-opening experience. Catherine, rarely at a loss for words, found her eyes so huge that her brain could barely process what she saw. For a week, she and other bloggers were escorted by the country's Ministry of Health to as many as six clinics, hospitals, and homes a day, witnessing first-hand how truly pervasive the AIDS/HIV epidemic is and learning about the obstacles the Project faces. Eighty-percent of the population is affected by AIDS/HIV. That is huge. What keeps the the percentage from going down, though, are even bigger, deeper problems: cultural myths, biases, and poverty.
For example, Catherine found that many Lesothoans, or Basotho, particularly the men, don't seek medical help because it's offered by Westerners. Traditional healers tell them that the West created AIDS. When a woman contracts it, she has difficulty getting to the clinics for treatment due to lack of money. If she gets pregnant, she has difficulty keeping her baby from getting sick because she can't afford to feed him or her formula, which is a key means of transmission prevention.
How does one post about such things? How does one fight through the overwhelming details, frustrating mindsets, and engrossing grief? Amazingly, Catherine posted every day from Africa, usually after 12 long hours of physically and emotionally exhausting activity, in her hotel, which provided somewhat of a "psychological break." You can find her posts here. "The best thing I can do," she says, "is to support the programs that help these women and children [by getting] their stories out...in the most personal, intimate way, so that my readers can experience [Lesotho] the way...I did. We can get numbed by the onslaught of Sally Struthers' ads for helping starving kids in Africa because it's depersonalized, it's overwhelming. But if you're a reader of my blog, and engaged by my stories, then you're more likely to be engaged and moved by my personal experience of what's happening in countries like Lesotho. And then maybe do something about it, like pressure your political representatives to support the UN's Millennium Development Goals, and think more closely about what life is like in the so-called less-developed world, and how very, very privileged we are."
Most of us reading this post are privileged, particularly when compared with the people of Lesotho. Our children are definitely privileged: they at least have the possibility of having mac and cheese for dinner. Most of us, through our reading, can also learn and expand our world view and that of our children's. And hopefully at least some of us can follow Catherine's example, if not by going to Lesotho, then by reading about it and acting on what we read.