A Call With Malala

Tonight on International Day Of The Girl, I tucked both my daughter and son to bed with visions of a world where all girls can paint their hopes and dreams in vivid color and light.

Hopes For International Day of the Girl

There is so much work that needs to be done. Globally there are 124 million children who are not in school and girls are first to be excluded. I recently shared my thoughts on the film “He Named Me Malala” and its power to inspire and engage the activist within everyone to join the film’s movement.  It has been a rewarding and enlightening project to participate in the film’s promotion – and a true honor to be granted a phone interview with Malala and other film ambassadors.

Fittingly introduced as “our fearless leader,” listening to Malala’s passion, purpose, and humility radiate through the phone lead me to tears.  She spoke of the amazing relationship with her father, teacher and founder of her Pakistani school – and his ability to instill in her that girls should have the right to education, independence, and forward thinking – despite the social climate.  “He did not clip my wings,” she said.  While Malala’s mother instilled wisdom saying “It is your duty to tell the truth, whatever happens don’t worry, tell the truth.”

A Phone Call with Malala

Malala continues to use her platform as an education advocate while drawing attention to crucial issues worldwide.  She described opening a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon on her 18th birthday as one of the best days of her life and asked leaders to respond by “thinking about their own children.”

Let’s not forget her visits to Nigeria as part of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and her Nobel Peace Prize win to which she said, “It was not that I won the Nobel Peace Prize – Children won it that year.”

A Phone Call With Malala

Malala had several message for girls: “It is important for girls to believe in themselves, there is no limit, they can do anything” and “it is important to know your responsibility and believe in yourself.”

On this International Day Of The Girl – join in the movement and stand #WithMalala. See the film, and engage in the conversation #WithMalala #HeNamedMeMalala.  Utilize this helpful parent discussion guide to talk about the film with kids.

I was not compensated for this post.  Second and third images via Fox Searchlight.


He Named Me Malala

Exactly three years ago this month, the world came to know fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai.  Her name was murmured over and over and over again – in prayer – in outcry – in hope for a full recovery from the gunshot wounds inflicted by the Taliban in an assassination attempt. All because she spoke for the right of education for all girls in her native Swat Valley of Pakistan.

Not only did Malala recover, but she also carried on with her courageous fight for girls education worldwide.  She became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  And her 18th birthday was marked by opening a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon while calling on world leaders to invest in “books not bullets.”  Malala is passion and purpose personified.  She is truly a symbol of hope for social change and a pillar for girls’ and women’s rights worldwide.

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Her story is one that needs to be known and is compellingly captured by Oscar-winning documentary director Davis Guggenheim in the film He Named Me Malala.  The incredible film, newly in theaters, shares an intimate glimpse of Malala’s life – both public and private – with her family, as a student, as a teenager, and as a powerful activist.

He Named Me Malala

At this time, my young children don’t know Malala’s full story – but they do know her name and her devotion to education.  Someday they will read her book and see this film.  And perhaps one of the things that I love most about “He Named Me Malala” is the brilliant captures of ordinary life  – because this particular type of storytelling allows viewers to see the potential within themselves.


Watch the official trailor above and join in the conversation #WithMalala and #HeNamedMeMalala on Twitter and Instagram (@MalalaFund).  Stay in touch with Malala’s work via The Malala Fund.

I was not compensated for this post in any way.  It is an honor to be an ambassador to the film.   All images via Fox Searchlight. 


The United Nation’s Global Goals For Sustainable Development | Ensuring Healthy Lives and How to Help

In just one week, the United Nations will bring countries and citizens together to finalize the Global Goals – formally known as the Sustainable Development Goals.  These seventeen goals provide an action plan to end extreme poverty and its most devastating corollaries.  As successors to the expiring Millennium Development Goals (announced in 2000) – it’s imperative that we use our voices and collectively call upon leaders to make the Global Goals implemented and well-known everywhere. They need to be famous.  They won’t succeed otherwise.  And in a world of amplification via social media, this is possible.

During my graduate school years, I was introduced to the literature of Paul Farmer and the ways in which he revolutionized the delivery of health care worldwide. His extensive work in health, human rights, and the consequences of social injustice and inequalities very much influenced my career path in street-based HIV research.

A truly committed quest for high-quality care for the destitute sick starts from the perspective that health is a fundamental human right.  – Paul Farmer, Pathologies of Power

Among sixteen other Global Goals that concurrently spill into one another is Goal #3 – Good Health and Well Being – To Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages.  Right now, there’s a measles epidemic sweeping the Democratic Republic of Congo – and every single day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth worldwide.  We need to hope for a world where no child has to die from a disease that we know how to cure and prevent.  We need to reach those living in humanitarian crises.  We need to live in a world where proper health care is a lifelong right for us all.  And we need the Paul Farmers of the world who ignite social change with advocacy and care for the world’s most vulnerable.  This goal matters.  Without health we have nothing.

Here’s how to help:

        • Join the movement to make Global Goals famous and take action here.
        • Share your #GlobalGoals selfie on social media to tell the world about the goal that you are passionate about, from gender equality, climate change, education, poverty, hunger and many others.

    global goals


    This post is not sponsored in any way. Thank you for reading. 



Engaging Kids In Social Good

It’s never too early to try to teach children about social good.

When impressionable young minds learn about the most pressing issues of our times, it helps spark their passion for social justice, innate empathy and interest in making the world a better place.  We believe in the power of raising solid citizens through prioritizing family service projects while doing our best to model giving.  And children bring energy, innovation, and thoughtful perspectives in ways that only little people can.

We’re not experts in the parenting arena – but it’s our belief that these seemingly small acts of charity will help to shape a moral imperative for living a life of contributing to social good.

food bank donations with kids

Amidst National Service Month, it’s an honor to partner with Child Hunger Ends Here to help fight child hunger.  Here is the U.S., one in five kids are at risk, affecting every single county in America.  With 16 million kids in need, ConAgra and the ConAgra Food Foundation are harnessing the power of youth to tackle this issue – and we’re inspired by all of the simple ways to help change the trajectory for food insecure children and families.

fight hunger together food bank donationsservice projects with kidsservice projects for kids

Armed with a $50 sponsored gift card and our family’s matching $50 contribution we made two trips to the market to shop for food pantries and shelters.

donating food with kidsfood bank donating with kids

We drove the kids to take the bags of non-perishable food to Rockaway, NY – an area devastated by the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and home to the second largest concentration of public housing projects in New York. This is where my husband and I discovered the beauty in volunteer dates and where the kids first participated in service projects including family giving during the holidays. This month’s family service projects may have felt small, but we prioritize them and know that they all add up to something good.

Find a few of our tips for getting kids involved in fighting child hunger below:

  • Invest children in all aspects of the project: Create kid-appropriate dialog surrounding economic hardship and food insecurity – and help kids to participate in the project as much as possible.
  • Keep the emphasis on the recipients:  For our recent food donations project, I explained to the kids that we were only purchasing food to donate.  Despite needing coffee and paper towels, and despite my preschooler loosing it over a box of character-emblazed crackers – we stuck to the plan. It may be a challenge, but it helps little ones to imagine themselves in the shoes of others.
  • Point out avenues to help in your community:  From designated boxes in our church to organized activities in our community – there are ways to help contribute all around us. Point out these avenues and participate in helping, to show children that giving is a social norm and a way of life. 
  • Repeat and celebrate stories of family service projects: Children find security in family togetherness.  Talk about and celebrate family giving and have others speak to your kids about their service experiences. I often ask my mom, the kids Abuela (grandmother), to talk about the ways in which we helped hungry children while growing up. This helps to solidify family values and a long-term commitment to serving public good.

We’re so inspired by the young agents of change who have won $500 grants from the ConAgra Food Foundation as part of generationOn’s Make Your Mark on Hunger campaign. And it’s our hope that our little-ones follow in the footsteps of our local winner, Roseline Ulysess from Brooklyn NY.

Discover more about ConAgra Foods’ approach to fight child hunger and please share your family’s tips and strategies with the hashtag #FightHungerTogether.

getting kids involved in service

We partnered with The Motherhood and ConAgra Foods to share a sponsored story about Fighting Child Hunger.  The message is important to us – thank you for reading!



Sharing a Sweet Future || Food Security in Bolivia with Truvia

This post is sponsored by Truvia via One2One Network.  Opinions, as always are my own.

The kids went back-to-school this week, and I carefully packaged each compartment of two stainless steel lunch containers with proportioned amounts of healthy variety that I had been thinking about for quite some time.  I found myself worrying about my son’s super early lunch time until a partnership with Truvia came along.  It opened my eyes to chronic malnutrition and the astounding amounts of food insecure households in Bolivia, one of Latin America’s poorest countries.  I  couldn’t wait to work with a company anchored in social goodness, and determination to help feed Bolivian school children while establishing self-sufficiency within the community.

In Bolivia, an astounding 40 percent of the population are unable to secure adequate food for a healthy life and a whooping 65 percent of all rural households can’t meet the minimum recommended caloric intake.  That’s why Truvia recently announced it’s “Sharing a Sweet Future” initiative in collaboration with The World Food Program USA, which will help to feed 49,705 Bolivian schoolchildren in the first two years of a three-year partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme.

Truvia #SweetFuture

Nutrition, safety, environmental sustainability and education have already been improved through Truvia’s provision of 97 metric tons of vitamin-fortified vegetable oil and 125 fuel-efficient stoves in rural schools – with training provided to over 750 parents and school employees.  These stoves replaced dangerous traditional stoves and require substantially less fuel while reducing harmful smoke.

Truvia Bolivia #SweetFuture

Help raise awareness for this amazing initiative by visiting www.shareasweetfuture.com, and share videos of Bolivian families with the hashtag #SweetFuture on social media.  Also help Truvia’s continual corporate responsibility program’s future organizational partnerships by viewing and voting for charitable partners.  I would love to see the momentum continue with a partnership with Feed the Children one of the largest charitable organizations in the U.S. rooted in providing hope and resources for those without life’s essentials.


HIV & Women || Stories of Hope in Motherhood

I haven’t stopped thinking about a conference call that I recently participated in facilitated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with Michele and Masonia – women and mothers who shared their first hand accounts of living with HIV.  Their intimate stories detailed the complexities of risk, exacerbated by poverty, severe intimate partner violence, and early childhood sexual abuse.  Their paths have been enmeshed with stigma and discrimination rooted in misinformation.  But their greatest message is one of hope, empowerment and resilience.  Masonia’s HIV diagnosis went hand in hand with a new pregnancy, and at the time, she didn’t even receive proper HIV post-test counseling.  Yet she drew upon her strength to adhere to treatment, and she effectively prevented perinatal (mother-to-infant) HIV transmission.  As brave and inspiring mothers and HIV advocates, Michele and Masonia are true testaments to the fact that living with HIV doesn’t mean giving up on hopes and dreams of motherhood.

With over 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S., the virus is indeed about all of us.  It is affecting our loved ones, our friends and community members.  According to the CDC, at the end of 2010, one in four people living with HIV in the United States were women.  Did you know that 84% of new HIV infections in women are from heterosexual contact? Did you know that about 16% of the 1.1 million people living with HIV are unaware of their status?  Advocates like Michele and Masonia are joining the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign, to share their compelling stories to increase awareness about transmission, reduce stigma and help others recognize the imperative of testing and treatment.

HIV testing

This campaign is dear to my heart because I spent over a decade working in the HIV arena – from street based harm reduction and syringe exchange programs to federally funded research. However small my role was in impacting the course of the disease, and however small my voice is in this online sea, I come from a place of compassion.  Because I know what it’s like to draw someone’s blood and walk them through an HIV positive diagnosis for the first time.  I know what’s it’s like to advocate in a hospital emergency room, and confront stigma in the most unexpected places.  And I know what it’s like to listen to hundreds of stories  highlighting insurmountable risk factors including fear of intimate partner violence, severe economic hardship and survival sex as an only option.  I’ve also seen people I greatly care for thrive through treatment adherence, as opposed to remaining uninformed.

Along with the Together Network, Michele and Misonia are reminding us of the importance of dialog.  Because risk is real and HIV does not discriminate.  And it is clearly time to put an end to stigma.  Please stay up to date on the facts.  To find a testing center in your area simply add your zip code here, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, or text your zip code to KNOWIT.  Also join the conversation on facebook and twitter, and follow the hashtag #StopHIVTogether.


This post is made possible by sponsorship support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign and I’m honored to be a part of it.  Opinions, as always are my own.