Guest blog and photos by Stasia Schmidt
In Canada, Mother’s Day is a Sunday in May that usually involves messy breakfasts in bed, some version of a bouquet, and children expressing their love for their mothers. Around the world, different countries celebrate Mother’s Day on varied days and in various ways throughout spring, but generally the sentiment is the same – recognizing and appreciating motherhood and celebrating the influence mothers have in society.
For the last four years I have had the amazing opportunity to be involved with UNICEF Canada’s 25th Team, a group of 60 Canadian philanthropists, all women, who are passionate about maternal, newborn, and child health. Our investment went to five different countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Namibia, Ethiopia, and Peru.
During this journey with UNICEF Canada I travelled to both Ethiopia and Cambodia to better understand the difference that our investments made. The funds directed to Cambodia were allocated to health and nutrition programs in an effort to reduce maternal and infant mortality, and in Ethiopia money was put towards helping create a sustainable birth registration program. During my time in both countries, it was driven home, over and over again, that no matter what country or culture mothers come from, we all want the same thing. We yearn to see our children thrive.
In Cambodia I witnessed mothers walk hours through the jungle in 40 degree heat, carrying their small children, to access lifesaving vaccines. I saw mothers in Ethiopia turn from centuries of tradition to recognize the importance of registering their daughters’ births, thus keeping them in school, and hopefully eliminating the threat of child marriage. Reflecting back on my observations, I can’t help but recognize the wonderful privileges we have in Canada, simply owing to the fact that vaccines are free and readily available, and birth certificates come in the mail after you fill out a couple of forms. Somehow though, it goes much deeper than that.
As Canadian mothers and parents, we are incredibly fortunate, yes, but we also have the wondrous opportunity to lift up mothers everywhere. Whether in Canada, Ethiopia or Cambodia, we all understand what it means to experience helplessness caring for a sick child, to feel pride when your daughter or son achieves good grades in school, and we know our own monumental strength to move mountains for our children when we need to. It is this bond of motherhood that pulls on us to support each other in our communities, our countries, and around the globe.
This Mother’s Day, as I’m treasuring the homemade cards and sticky maple syrup kisses from my daughters, my thoughts won’t be far from the other mothers I’ve met in my travels. The mothers who blessed me by sharing their lives and experiences, the mothers who overcome tremendous hardships to ensure a healthy future for their children, the mothers who also receive sticky food kisses, no matter where they are in the world.