June 10, 2013

“We Go There, Too!” featuring Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com

We go there – we explore and dig deep into other cultures. We know you go there too. This new series will feature stories from world travelers; they’ve taken their first flight over seas with little ones, they’ve traveled back to their native country to introduce their children to grandparents, they’ve packed up only their necessities and traveled to developing countries. Here, you will find their stories and learn about how they’re going there too.

Kicking off this series, we have Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com sharing her trip to Liberia. It wasn’t necessarily an easy one, but you’ll see that it was a trip that’s changed her life forever. Thank you Jill for sharing your story with us on Studio T!

I had the privilege of traveling to Liberia in February as a parent ambassador for Right To Play, an organization that helps children learn crucial life lessons through sport and games.  The experience affected me deeply and I can still smell the heavy West African air.  The kids who touched my ‘soft hair’ and reached for my hand are now part of my history.  They grace screensavers and watch me from silver frames.  The polish of the silver juxtaposed with what I witnessed is disconcerting and constantly reminds me to not take my blessings for granted.

The adults and teenagers I met in Liberia had experienced terrible things in their lifetimes with a war that ended very recently.  Some had lost parents and raised themselves.  Most had a loved one who experienced sexual assault.  And every adult associated with Right To Play worked tirelessly to restore hope for the next generation.  Every day the same volunteers (many had no employment themselves but chose to devote their days to teaching children through Right To Play activities) emerged into an empty space and performed magic.  It was like a slow motion film.  The waiting children would all turn, smile and organize themselves into a ‘great big circle’ so they could begin.  The rhythms of their responses to the leader of the game formed a percussive music.  The empty, litter-filled space had become vibrant and full of life.

When I think about the diversity in cultures brought to mainstream culture by Tea Collection, I smile.  Each outfit I see my kids wear reminds me that we are all connected in this small world.  The women of Liberia donned incredible colors and patterns.  Their bright eyes and huge smiles pierced through the grey sand and cracked concrete.  Standing in front of corrugated metal shacks with red, yellow and purple wraps, these women provided what mothers always do – hope and comfort.  Dressing my boys in similar colors and styles gives a nod to these women;  A sign of respect and awe.  And these women deserved nothing less.

One sign on the side of the road has haunted me since my return.  This one advertisement was a definition of ‘Mother’: a person who ‘makes something out of nothing’.  That is exactly what I witnessed.  These women generated a meager income buying bleach in bulk and selling it in small bags, buying a case of water packets and a block of ice and hoping for extreme heat so they may sell a few individual bags of water to quench thirst in their community.

Hope resonated everywhere – through the games, the smiles, the handmade toys and the tiny children playing hide and seek with this North American girl who seemed so different.  I was brought back to the basics of life:  drink fresh water, keep your clothes and environment clean to prevent disease, help your neighbor.  A young boy bathed meticulously in a large bucket by the side of the road.  A woman carrying a huge bundle on her head picked over potato leaves in a market to find the best choices for her family.  It was all about hope.

As a mother, I can make a promise.  I will never stop visiting other cultures and allowing them to penetrate my own motherhood.  I will share the songs and bright fabrics with my children.  I will try to not take my life for granted.  And more than anything, I will remember that hope is all one needs.