In the Field

In the field

In Ethiopia with Save the Children, Kenya with ONE, India visiting Social Good Moms partners, and Zambia with the International Reporting Project

This is the reason I love traveling: getting in the field and learning what I’d otherwise not learn sitting behind a computer!

Photo credits: Michael Tewelde for Save the Children, International Reporting Project, and Elisa Morgan, Juliet Tembo for Marie Stopes.

[Photos] Motherhood in Africa and Asia

Yesterday I was in a collage kind of mood and decided to take photographs of mothers I have shot on recent trips to Kenya, Ethiopia and India and put them into one photo gallery.

Now, I am excited to take photos of mothers and their children in Zambia and South Africa this summer, and India again this fall..

Mothers from my travels

A Photo Montage from My Travels

Rio - Brazil - Coppacabana - June 18

From time to time I like to look back at photos from the places I’ve traveled and remember those cities fondly. This year I have a lot of travel in store and can’t wait to share with you.

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Why I’m Going Back to Africa & How You Can Come, Too

Since coming home from Kenya in July during the ONE Moms trip I have become a changed woman. I am now more committed than ever to use my voice and the platform I have built over the years to share the stories of people who live in poverty in developing nations. Yes, there is untold poverty here in the States, but this is my calling. I am of the absolute belief that people in developing nations matter, too.

I have learned so much since my trip to Kenya. I have learned about complicated issues surrounding global poverty and real solutions to eradicate it. I have learned about HIV/AIDS and how it is tearing through developing countries, but with a global effort it can come under control. I have learned about fair trade, fair labor, and workers’ rights. I have learned that through simple solutions like having access to better seeds, arable land, and working together in farming collectives people can grow more food thereby living more food secure lives. I have learned that maternal deaths are rife in developing countries and need to drastically be reduced. No woman should die because she’s bringing life into this world.

This all leads me to why I am going back to Africa.

By happenstance I met a woman at my neighborhood coffee shop last fall who it turns out is the founder of the Nyanya Project, a non-profit organization that helps African grandmothers care for their grandchildren in the event their parents die from AIDS.

The Nyanya Project helps African grandmothers form working cooperatives that generate the income necessary to provide healthcare, education and a loving home for their grandchildren. The Nyanya Project also runs a preschool in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Kenya.

The woman and founder of the Nyanya Project  is Mary Martin Niepold, a Lecturer in Journalism at Wake Forest University and an amazing woman. In 2007 Mary went to Africa to volunteer and came back with a strong desire to do something, anything. Now the Nyanya Project helps African grandmothers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

This summer I will be going back to Kenya to volunteer with the Nyanya Project to help children who have lost their parents and the grandmothers who care for them.

If you would like to go, you can! You will have to fund your own trip as all Nyanya Project funds go to the work they do in Africa.

If you’ve ever dreamed of going to Africa to do work that helps others, here’s a wonderful chance to do so. Contact me at to find out more information.

Or, if you cannot go to Africa, but would like to donate to the Nyanya Project to further their work, please take a moment and give what you can. They would be so appreciative!  Donate here. The Nyanya Project recently received a matching grant donation so everything you give is automatically doubled!

If you donate. Thank you! And if you would like to go to Kenya with me and the Nyanya Project, I can’t wait!

Why World Toilet Day is Vitally Important | My Story from Kenya

When I was in Kenya I had a rude awakening when we traveled to rural areas. There were not very many places for us to use the bathroom unless we wanted to go in the bush or if we wanted to use one of the local latrines. Now, when we were at the hotels and restaurants, using the bathroom was like being at home, but the rural areas were a different scenario altogether.

On the first day in Kisumu, in the western part of Kenya, I was forced to choose between using a latrine or waiting to get to a local hospital to relieve myself. I walked to the latrine with a few of the other moms and upon stepping in I could barely breathe and I almost hurled. The latrine smelled entirely of feces and urine and I absolutely could not force myself to use the bathroom there. While it was one of the more sanitary latrines I would encounter during our time in rural Kenya I had to really time my bathroom visits. It was then that I realized that something has to be done about sanitation in areas that need it in Kenya. Sanitation, in fact, is a problem in many developing countries.

The lack of sanitary latrines in countries around the world is serious business and the lack of sanitation claims the lives of thousands of people every year. There were also bags of feces all over Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, where cholera breaks out frequently. Sanitation problems lead to diarrhea and parasites. It is vital to get this problem under control in order to save people from sickness and death.

Today through the rest of the week is World Toilet Day. This initiative is to spotlight how important it is to get sanitation under control. I saw it first hand. There is good news, though. According to this article, Sanitation: Cholera and the Super-loo, in the Economist some universities with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are coming up with smart ways to manage sanitation issues in developing nations. What is needed now? More investments in sanitation as well as smart ideas to solve the sanitation problem.

On the Net:

My Week in New York for UN and Social Good Week

During UN Week I was hosted in New York by Vestergaard Frasen, a Europe-based international company specialising in emergency response and disease control products, and attended amazing Social Good events thanks to ONE.

The UN General Assembly convened talks about non-communicable diseases and countless NGOs and advocacy organizations continued discussions about reaching the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the UN in 2000. In fact, collectively we have four years until all of the MDGs must be met in 2015 and right now the maternal health goal is far from being met. Though significant strides have been made to save lives of women and children 350,000 women still lose their lives in childbirth every year in sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South Asia.

UN Week was an extremely busy time where I learned a tremendous amount about the Millennium Development Goals and saw the launch of several new initiatives designed to improve global maternal health.

Million Moms Challenge

ABC News and the UN Foundation launched the Million Moms Challenge ( that charges moms around the world to connect around the issue of maternal and child health. The Million Moms Challenge was created to make a difference in the lives of moms and children who need the most help. In fact, for the first 100,000 sign ups, Johnson & Johnson will donate $100,000 to several NGOs helping moms and babies around the world.

Social Good Summit – Panel about the Future of Maternal Health and Technology and New Media

At Mashable’s Social Good Summit, Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts discussed what led her on the path to devoting her life to educating people about the systemic worldwide maternal and child health problems. Heather Armstrong of Dooce fame discussed her new commitment to using her blog and voice for the larger purpose of amplifying the issue of maternal and child health and how the trip to Bangladesh  changed her life and the way she now views her platform for social good.

Million Moms Challenge Breakfast at ABC HQ

In the middle of the week I made my way to ABC headquarters on the upper east side of Manhattan. There we had a networking breakfast that celebrated the launch of the Million Moms Challenge.

Shot@Life Launch by the UN Foundation

I was happy to attend the launch of the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life program, a new UN Foundation initiative that educates Americans and advocates for vaccine health to stop the senseless deaths of countless children in developing nations.

Ministers of Health Forum

I attended the Ministers of Health Forum which featured Ministers of Health from Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire and Angola; Christy Turlington Burns, founder of the maternal and child health advocacy organization Every Mother Counts; and CEOs from Save the Children, World Vision, Africare and PATH. The event was hosted by the Princess of Africa FoundationWomen DeliverStrategies for International DevelopmentVestergaard Frandsen, and was supported by Merck.

Blogging for Good Panel – Speaker

I capped off UN Week as a speaker on the #Blog4Good panel put on in partnership with ONE, Vestergaard Fransen, and Women Deliver. I was able to share my experience about going on the trip to Kenya with ONE and also my thoughts on how to use social media and blogging for good.

I maintain that bloggers are interested in weighty issues and that when given the opportunity will use their platform for good.

This UN Week was a far cry from last year when I had the revelation that I can indeed use my blog for good. This year I am actually doing it.

Photo Credit: Jennifer James | Blogging for Good Photo:

Day 5: One Cow Can Change an Entire Community

Women are the backbones of Kenya. They are the ones who will feed the continent. They are the ones who will keep hunger at bay here. Their participation in the agricultural economy is vitally important to Africa’s future.

In Nakuru, Kenya we met Teresia Riungu, a dairy farmer who has managed to provide a living for herself in her retirement and has created enough work to employ others. Her small dairy farm is contributing to food security in her community as well as a food product that is nutritious for consumers which is important to the overall health of the country. Teresia Riungu through hard work, ingenuity, and spunk, has created an enterprise that has changed not only her life, but the lives of many others.

Teresia has been able to improve upon her dairy farm with the help of USAID. As a part of the five year Kenya Dairy Sector Competitiveness Program (KDSCP) that has been implemented by Land O’Lakes, Teresia has been trained to increase her milk supply, better feed her cows, improve upon breeding, and market her milk. Today her dairy farm produces 35 – 40 liters of milk per day and supplies cash flow to her on a daily basis. She earns $370 per month which is far above the one dollar a day that most Kenyans earn.

The Kenya Dairy Sector Competitiveness Program was designed to help small dairy farmers generate greater income through the sale of quality milk. Currently the KDSCP has reached 170,000 farmers, but its goal is to reach 300,000 farmers in order to create a competitive marketplace to sell milk straight to consumers, grocery stores and restaurants.

Land O’Lakes, who has worked in Kenya for ten years, targets women to help them form dairy cooperatives and work together to improve their household incomes. Teresia is a member of the Njoro Farmers Cooperative Society and has been since 2007. Due to the effectiveness of the collective, in 2005 the collective had 40 members and today there are over 400. Members of the collective, which is 60 percent women, were recently able to buy a two acre plot of land to build a processing plant. Now they are preparing to purchase a cooling facility instead of having to rent one.

These dairy collectives that you can find all over Africa, work because together the farmers are able to earn greater income by bulking their milk instead of selling it individually. Also, they have access to processing and cooling. Through the collective the farmers are also able to receive training on breeding, feeding their cows and growing more nutritious foods for the cows.

Before joining the collective, one of Teresia’s problems was losing her heifers to a shortage of food. Today she has a storehouse of hay that will last through the end of the year. She has also been trained to turn her heifer’s dung into methane gas that she will be able to use for lighting and cooking. This clean energy will enable Teresia to stop getting firewood and over time she will be able to have a small cooling facility on her own property.

Meeting Teresia showed us first-hand how well the program works. With three heifers and four calves, Teresia has earned enough to open her own bank account, an accomplishment she is extremely proud of. She no longer has to rely on her husband for money and is proud that she has a profit making small business to call her own.