World Vision Ambassador Melissa Doyle with Syrian refugee children in Jordan.
This is an excerpt from World Vision Ambassador Melissa Doyle’s new book Alphabet Soup. We have 10 copies personally signed by Mel to give away to readers of our blog. Tell us your favourite Mother’s Day memory in the comments below for your chance to win.
There is something extraordinarily levelling about motherhood.
Our circumstances are vastly different, as are our challenges, but mothers the world over share one particular common trait: an instinct to do anything to protect our children.
That mother-lion streak was what surprised me the most when I first had my babies. The belief that I could and would do whatever was required to keep them safe and loved.
Maybe that’s what unites us as mothers. For it was meeting other women in remote, poverty-stricken parts of the world that taught me no matter how different our circumstances are, our motivations are the same.
Travelling to the Dadaab refugee camp in 2011 was one of the most depressing assignments of my career. But there I met women whose dignity and determination will stay in my memory forever.
Dadaab is a small remote town in Kenya, in the north-east of Africa, which is home to one of the world’s biggest refugee camps. It’s an enormous, dry, dusty expanse of tents, children and uprooted lives. It’s been there for close to twenty years, but recent droughts and civil war have forced more people to seek refuge and when we arrived nearly half a million were living there, having to queue for food, water and basic household items.
It’s a desperate, volatile place. One thousand five hundred people were pouring into the camp every day, the majority of them women and children. Most had walked all the way from Somalia.
Babies were crying, toddlers were tired and hungry. Between 40 and 50 per cent of all children there are acutely malnourished. Their mothers seemed to be barely holding it together. But they were the lucky ones. They told me the camp is better than what they left behind.
Such families had endured unbelievable heartache as many children had not survived the long walk to the camp. One woman I met had lost two children, her home and her livelihood, but not her dignity. She was tall and stood proud, her beautiful face clearly sad but positive at the same time. She carried her youngest child on her hip while the rest ran around and played behind the UNHCR tent that was now their home. They still managed to find some fun in this desolate environment, as only kids can do.
Tent, mud house or two-storey brick home—the details and challenges may be different but there is something so consistent and familiar about motherhood. And the recognition of that between mothers is a bond that unites us.
As a World Vision Ambassador I am humbled that I can be a voice for these children, and raise help funds to make their lives a little easier.
As a woman, I have a profound respect for the women I have met and admiration for what they face and how they manage.
I used to think I would never understand how these women in the Third World kept going, what strength drives them to walk hundreds of kilometres to a refugee camp, how they face another day when they lose a baby or worse, more children.
And although I don’t for a moment pretend to have an ounce of their strength, I think I understand a little more about what motivates them and drives them to survive at all costs.
Such drive is at the core of all mothers. Whatever our children need, we will do what we can to provide it for them, and I can see in these women a determination to fight on. I can’t imagine losing a child would hurt any less living in a refugee camp than in a comfortable four-bedroom suburban home. And I can’t imagine the desire to keep your babies close and safe is any less strong either.
These are the women I admire. Women whose sense of family is as strong as mine but whose challenges make mine pale. ‘First World problems’ as my husband says when I have a whinge about something that really doesn’t matter.
I wish we could all have a little more understanding for our wider mothers’ group. Meanwhile, I will teach my children to grow up with compassion and kindness and hope they will one day do their bit to extend a hand.
I feel so very proud that I too am a mother lion.
Stand up for mums and bubs this Mother’s Day:
Don’t forget to share your favourite Mother’s Day memory below for you chance to win a signed copy of Alphabet Soup. Our judges will choose the best 10 entries and the winners will be announced on this blog post on Friday May 9, 2014 at 5pm.