Parenting

Making a Difference, One Child at a Time

Cynthia Dermody
18

 

Underwear for Africa

HeadMutha in Africa, April 2008

Photo by HeadMutha

So, you have a new baby. And now she's the sole reason you exist. Everything you do, every second of your life, is all about her.

How do you possibly find the time to volunteer when you can't even find the time to take a shower?

You can, as one ordinary and at the same time extraordinary CafeMom, Racquel Turner, aka HeadMutha, shows us.

"A few years ago, I was lost in my own world, too," HeadMutha says. "I was a mother of four boys and I wasn't aware of what life was like for others outside my culdusac, let alone outside my own borders. I knew what was going on out there, but never did much about it. I went on my way and lived my life in what I thought was a normal way."

I asked HeadMutha, mother of six, including two adopted daughters from Guatemala, to inspire us all to do our part -- even if it's only a small one: 

Did you have any help starting your organization?

Although she's not involved in the group anymore, another CafeMomer, FallingonVegas, was a driving force to start MFFO, and I'm so grateful to her for that.

And because of CafeMom, I met two other moms who were inspired and decided to go to Kenya also: Aimz and greeniiiiz. It was a very cool time to meet online friends for the first time in Kenya!

Tell me about your first trip to Africa.

One night I decided to research volunteer work in Africa. I had a lot of questions and Global Volunteer Network was my answer. They not only gave me the opportunity to go to Africa, but to work and care for children one on one, to finally live it. A few months later, I began packing for Africa.

Was this the beginning of your Underwear for Africa initiative?

Yes. A few weeks before my departure, I had asked my Kenyan volunteer director what I could bring that was not on the suggested donation list. Her first response was underwear. She told me how expensive it was and that it was a luxury to have underwear, especially if you were orphaned. Easy enough I thought. I'd just start collecting underwear and writing about it.  Amazing things started to  happen. Not only did my family and friends help, but strangers from all over the country started donating as well.

Tell me about Kenya.

I flew with my sister-in-law and 250 lbs of underwear to Nairobi, Kenya. We delivered over 1,700 pairs to Kenyan orphanages. What an amazing, life changing experience. The smiles I saw on those children's faces are forever burned into my memory. My favorite story was told to me by Sister Faith from Mary Immaculetta. She was passing out the underwear we brought to the boys and one young man asked her if it was Christmas. She asked him why and his response was," I have never received anything so new and so nice before. Christmas must have come early."  All because he received a new pair of underwear. It really put life into perspective for me. We've collected over 4,000 pairs to date and I know that is only the beginning.

Does any one child you met stand out?

There were so many. But I was especially drawn to one woman named Esther because of her beautiful little baby. We sat and talked. She and her family were at this refugee camp because of the crises that happened after the elections in December 2007. She and her children were brought here because they didn't have a place to call home.

After the uproar occurred they were separated (not by choice) and he was not with them at the camp. She was devastated that her family was not together. But she had an inner strength and faith that this was temporary and that her family would be reunited one day. So because of this beautiful little baby she was holding, I was able to learn and be inspired by her. I will always remember Esther.

What other work have you done in Africa?

In October 2007, we were placed at Saint Monica's Children's Home For Girls near Kahawa West. For two weeks we lived like a family. They call me Mum.

Uniforms needed to be bought, so we purchased all new uniforms for each girl. They also didn't have funding to put the three eldest girls into high school. So we rallied the family in the states and started our first annual Gift Of Education Campaign and raised $4,000 in December 2007.  We then raised over $9,000 the following year and put ten girls into private boarding school. Our goal for 2009 is to raise $16,000 for sixteen high school girls.

How can all the busy moms out there make a difference when they don't have any time?

You don't have to be a celebrity, or have a lot of money to make a difference in our world. You don't have to cross oceans to make a difference either. You can start in their own home and in your own neighborhood. It took me over 37 years to do it. I am living a new normal now. Soon you may find it leading you down a path you could have only dreamed of.

++How are you making a difference in the world? Do you find time to volunteer with a new baby in the house? 

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