Green Tip of the Week #22 – Pull a fast one

I know I blogged about this a couple days ago, but it’s worth repeating.

showercoach.jpegDid you know that the average shower length is 8 minutes*? By reducing that to 5 minutes, you can reduce the amount of water you use by nearly one-third, or roughly 10 gallons per day. I’m challenging all of my readers to reduce their shower time to 5 minutes. If you already take a 5 minute shower, perhaps you’ll consider cutting back a little bit more? Reducing the length of your shower by just one minute could save you up to 1,825 gallons** of water each year.

I’ve already had over 60 people commit to reduce their shower time to just 5 minutes for the months of June, July and August in an effort to help conserve water. (Check out the right sidebar to see all of the people who will be having a quickie with me.) I’d love to see that list grow to 100 or even more. Won’t you join in too?

Today, May 31, is the last day to be entered into a drawing to win one of five shower timers. Visit the I’m having a Quickie – 5-Minute Shower Challenge post to sign up for the challenge and be entered into the giveaway. Of course, you can enter the challenge at any point during the summer. Feel free to tell your friends too. (You can snag a button on the original post or from my sidebar.) The more, the merrier, and the better for the earth! 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has signed up already and to those of you who’ve blogged it or added the button to your sidebar.

I will have a check in post at the end of the first week of June (on June 8) so everyone can chime in on how they are doing with the challenge, post helpful tips, share stories, ask for advice, etc. Then I will try to have another check in post every two weeks (on Sundays) so we can encourage each other and maybe even inspire more people to sign up. 🙂

* GreenPrint Denver
** Utah.gov

Have any green tips you’ve recently learned? Please email them to me and I may include your tip with a link to your site or blog in a future post. 🙂

China’s heroic mother and the importance of breastfeeding in natural disasters

By now many of you have probably read about police officer Jiang Xiaojuan of China who became a national, and then international, hero practically over night. After the devastating Chinese earthquake on May 12, the 29 year-old mother of a 6-month-old son, was called to duty. What she encountered when she reported for duty was babies crying in hunger and that’s when her maternal instincts kicked in. Jiang breast-fed the infants separated from their mothers or orphaned from the earthquake, at one point breast-feeding nine babies.

Jiang Xiaojuan“I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies. I didn’t think of it much,” she said. “It is a mother’s reaction and a basic duty as a police officer to help.”

Jiang doesn’t believe what she did was noteworthy. “I think what I did was normal,” she said. “In a quake zone, many people do things for others. This was a small thing, not worth mentioning.” The local media, however, named her “China’s Mother No. 1” and there are many others around the world praising her efforts as well.

On MOMformation at BabyCenter, Betsy Shaw wrote:

It’s stories like these, stories of ordinary people performing extraordinary, selfless acts in times of tragedy, that make all this bad news just a little bit easier to digest. They also make me proud to be a mom.

Would you do, could you, do the same if you were in a similar situation: lactating in the presence of many hungry babies?

Of the 73 responses there, the vast majority said they would do the same and breastfeed another woman’s baby, though interestingly enough, many also said they would not want a woman they did not know breastfeeding their own child.

A few of the people who commented at BabyCenter, as well as one at Milliner’s Dream expressed their concern about the possible transmission of HIV/AIDS through breast milk. There is conflicting information on what the risk of infection is if the woman is HIV positive, but, as another commenter at Milliner’s Dream noted, Jiang would have likely known her HIV status having just recently given birth 6 month ago.

Over on Broadsheet on Salon.com Jiang was named “Hero of the Day.” Sarah Hepola says:

As the death toll soars past 50,000, it’s nice to have a little good news to celebrate. You can remember Jiang next time someone complains about the evils of women popping out their boobs in public.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes at The Moderate Voice found the story to be “beautiful” and said:

Most every night, I stay up late-late, long after everyone else is sleeping. I fly over the internet, looking, looking, trying to find something beautiful or restorative to share with you here at TMV, so either you go to sleep with a beautiful idea or image, or wake up with one.

Tonight, finding something beautiful in this wide and groaning world, was easy. Because there is Jiang Xiaojuan, a young provincial policewoman.

She went on to add:

As a mother who nursed til her offspring was practically old enough to go to school, and as the mother of a grown daughter who while nursing her own child also gave her nourishing milk to my ailing elderly father (expressed, not nursed), I feel certain we stand with many mothers worldwide who salute Jiang Xiaojuan profoundly.

It’s a mystery women don’t often speak of publicly, what it’s like to nourish another human being or many from one’s own blood and bones. It is, one of the greatest honors in the world.

I think, despite the restrictive and suspicious regime of China, it’s people like Jiang who really represent the true spirit of modern China, the compassionate soul.

Tonight, it was easy to find a beautiful story to tell you. I would that it were as easy on all other nights too.

It is stories like these of this selfless mother that remind us not only of the power of human kindness, but also how important breastfeeding can be in an emergency or natural disaster.

Melissa Kotlen Nagin notes on the Breastfeeding Blog on About.com:

Unfortunately, natural disasters are out of our control, but women like Officer Xiaojuan remind us about yet another important benefit of breastfeeding. We’re typically so focused on the health benefits and lose sight of the bigger picture. Here is the International Lactation Consultant Association’s position paper on Infant Feeding in Emergencies, which is a wonderful resource.

Tanya at The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog recently wrote a post dispelling some myths about breastfeeding in emergencies. She also shares:

In a disaster such as the one in Burma, breastfeeding can be a life-saving act. Why? In emergencies f*rmula is often not available. If it is available, water supplies are often compromised. F*rmula mixed with contaminated water can cause diarrhea and dehydration, which can quickly become life-threatening to infants. Power to sterilize and refrigerate f*rmula is also often not available.

Sometimes, well meaning humanitarian efforts result in such an influx of f*rmula that efforts to protect and support breastfeeding are disrupted. This is such a concern that in 1994 the World Health Organization adopted the following policy, urging member states to “exercise extreme caution when planning, implementing, or supporting emergency relief operations, by protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding for infants,” and to ensure that f*rmula is distributed only under specific conditions.

We often like to think of ourselves as untouchable here in the United States, but Hurricane Katrina was just three short years ago and was another instance where breastfeeding saved lives. From an open letter to health care providers attending to families affected by Hurricane Katrina: The Role of Human Milk and Breastfeeding:

Human milk is a valuable resource that can not only protect the vulnerable infant from disease, but can also promote psychological health and comfort during stressful times. Human milk reduces pain and promotes more rapid healing after injuries and infections. While maternal health is of great importance, it should be recognized that even the malnourished mother will produce milk of good quality for her infant.

To learn more about the important role breastfeeding plays in emergencies, please visit the links below.

I will close by adding that I think what Jiang did was amazing and I’m so glad to see breastfeeding receiving such positive attention. I hope she has already been reunited with her son (that relatives were caring for) or will be soon and that her breastfeeding relationship with him can continue to thrive.

And lastly, just a friendly reminder that BlogHers Act/Global Giving is continuing to accept donations for the Chinese earthquake victims as well as other maternal health causes.

More information:
Keep Abreast – Breastfeeding ensures survival in a disaster
Black Breastfeeding Blog – Breastfeeding Saves Babies During Natural Disasters
La Leche League International – Keep Breastfeeding: Supporting Mothers After Natural Disasters
KellyMom – Infant Feeding In Emergencies

One more important breastfeeding note – The Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned women not to use or purchase Mommy’s Bliss Nipple Cream, marketed by MOM Enterprises Inc. of San Rafael, California.

The cream, promoted to nursing mothers to help soothe dry or cracked nipples, contains ingredients that may cause respiratory distress, vomiting and diarrhea in infants, the agency said.

Mothers whose children may have suffered adverse effects because of this product should contact the FDA’s MedWatch at 800-332-1088. – CNN report

I’m having a quickie – The Five-Minute Shower Challenge

showerchallenge.jpgIf you are new here, please consider subscribing to my RSS feed. Thanks!

Inspired by challenges put forth by Crunchy Chicken, and in hopes of motivating myself and others to treat our planet better, I’ve decided to do my very own green challenge. Aren’t you excited?! I am. 🙂 I hope that this will be the first of many challenges held here at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

Now let’s talk water conservation. I saw a button on CafePress a few months ago that said, “If you think we have bad fights over oil, just wait until we start fighting over water!” And that, my friends, freaked my sh*t right out. I thought about my kids and their future and I knew I had to do something, anything right now.

Did you know that the average shower length is 8 minutes*? By reducing that to 5 minutes, you can reduce the amount of water you use by nearly one-third, or roughly 10 gallons per day. And that’s where this challenge comes in. I’m challenging all of my readers to reduce their shower time to 5 minutes. If you already take a 5 minute shower, perhaps you’ll consider cutting back a little bit more? Reducing the length of your shower by just one minute could save you up to 1,825 gallons** of water each year.

I honestly didn’t know how long my showers were lately. Some days I’m lucky to get one at all so it’s pretty darn short and sweet, other days I skip them on purpose (generally when I’m not leaving the house), and still other days (like when I have a migraine and the water beating on my neck feels good) I tend to linger in the shower a little longer than I should. I figured I spend on average about 5 minutes in the shower, but I got myself a handy Shower Coach timer (with a suction cup that sticks to the shower wall) to find out for sure.

My first timed shower, I rushed like a crazy woman to make sure I could do it in under 5 minutes. I got done in about 3 1/2. The next day I took a somewhat more leisurely approach and took the full 5 minutes. You definitely can’t dilly-dally, but 5 minutes is longer than I thought it would be and totally attainable.

So, what do you think? Can you commit to taking 5-minute showers (or shorter) for three months? Leave me a comment below to let me know you are participating in the challenge and I will add your name/link to a list of challenge participants in my sidebar. Feel free to join in the challenge any time over the summer. It’s never too late to sign up to make a difference.

I’m not going to be a total hard ass on this challenge. If you have a rough day and really need a longer shower (I’m talking like 8 minutes, not 15) every now and then to help you relax or whatever, you can still take part in the challenge. You just have to skip your shower the following day to make up for it. 😉 I kid, I kid. Seriously though, it’s up to you to police yourself on this challenge. I will have a check in post at the end of the first week of June (on June 8) so everyone can chime in on how they are doing with the challenge, post helpful tips, share stories, ask for advice, etc. Then I will try to have another check in post every two weeks (on Sundays) so we can encourage each other and maybe even inspire more people to sign up. 🙂

Oh, and if you are looking for some bloggy bling, I’ve got this fun goofy totally suggestive catchy button (above) for you to proudly post on your blog if you feel so inclined. 🙂 It will let others know about the challenge too. The more people join us, the better!

More Tips To Help You Conserve Water

In the shower:

  • Turn off the water while you are lathering up your body, washing your hair or shaving, then turn it back on when you need to rinse.
  • Replace your showerhead with a low-flow showerhead
  • While you are waiting for the water to warm up, catch it in a bucket and use it for watering your plants or garden or for flushing your toilet
  • Shower with a buddy 😉

Elsewhere in the bathroom:

While the challenge is officially only for the summer – June through August – it is my hope that you will keep up with the shorter showers and continue to conserve water year-round.

And now for the GIVEAWAY…

showercoach.jpegI’m giving away FIVE “Shower Coach” 5-minute sand timers, courtesy of USA Landlord. All you have to do to be eligible to win one is leave a comment committing to the challenge and your name will be entered into the drawing. Be sure to include a valid email address so I can contact you if you win.

While you can sign up to take part in the challenge all summer long, the deadline for entering the contest is Saturday, May 31, 2008. The winners selected by Random.org and will be notified via email on Sunday, June 1.

If you don’t win a Shower Coach, you can buy one for less than $3 (plus use the coupon code CDG for 15% off any purchase from USA Landlord through the end of June) or buy a dinging kitchen timer the next time you are at Target, set your watch timer for five minutes, etc. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The earth, our children and I thank you for participating in the 5-minute shower challenge. 🙂

* GreenPrint Denver
** Utah.gov

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Breastfeeding while pregnant: trying at times, but ultimately worthwhile

Welcome to the May Carnival of Breastfeeding, hosted by Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. This month’s topic is pregnancy and breastfeeding.

When I became pregnant with my son, my daughter Ava was about 20 months old and still nursing regularly. While I had friends who’s children had self-weaned when they became pregnant, I had my doubts that my “na-na”-loving kid would consider weaning for a second, even if my milk dried up.

Photo courtesy seanmcgrath
Photo courtesy seanmcgrath

At that age, Ava was still a comfort nurser, and still woke at night to nurse. After finding out I was pregnant I worked towards gently night weaning her by letting her know she could nurse as much as she wanted during the day, but at night the na-na had to sleep and she had to wait until the sun woke up in the morning to have mama milk.

By 22 months, miraculously (or so it felt) she was sleeping through the night. (Can you hear the angels singing? I thought I could. 😉 It was wonderful. 🙂 She was still happily in our bed, but no longer waking for na-na, and I was able to get the sleep I needed while growing a baby.

Of course, night weaning her did nothing to reduce her desire to nurse during the day, even when my milk dried up (somewhere around 16 weeks I think). However, as my pregnancy progressed, I decided that I wanted/needed to cut down on the number of nursing sessions per day for a variety of reasons. 1) My nipples were becoming increasingly tender. 2) My hormones were all kinds of crazy and the feeling of her nursing when there was no milk to be had sometimes honestly made my skin crawl. 3) I had my qualms about tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler.

The negative and skin crawling feelings were very much a surprise to me and I admit I felt guilty about it. I felt fortunate that I had a group of friends to bounce these feelings off of and was happy to learn that while all pregnant women don’t feel this way, my feelings were certainly not out of the ordinary and others had experienced similar feelings as well.

I used distraction to help reduce the number of times Ava nursed and my husband Jody helped out a lot too. We would ask Ava, “What else could we do to make you feel better instead of having na-na?” and often sang silly or happy songs together rather than nursing. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes I let her nurse even though I didn’t want to, but eventually (about a month or two before Julian was born), she was down to nursing only 1 time per day – before bedtime.

Before Julian was born we talked a lot with Ava about how he would be a little baby and need a lot of mama milk to grow up big and strong like his big sister. We really wanted to get the point across that he would be nursing all the time. And we talked up how she was a big girl and got to do lots of things that Julian was too little to do. I was also sure to let her know that we’d still have our “special na-na time” every night before bed. It honestly worked pretty well.

There were a few weeks towards the end of my pregnancy that I seriously considered weaning her all together. Like I mentioned earlier, my hormones were wreaking havoc on me and nursing her, even only once per day was hard because I had some seriously strong negative feelings that were hard to control. There were a few times that I had to tell her that I was feeling frustrated and needed a break and I would have to take a minute to calm and center myself before letting her latch back on. I think keeping the lines of communication open like that and being honest with her was helpful.

Part of the reason I didn’t wean her completely then was because I felt like it’d be harder to try to do that, than it would be for me to just suck it up and muscle through the last few weeks. I know that sounds horrible, but I knew that when my milk came back in and my hormones weren’t so crazy, nursing her would not affect me so. And I was right. It got easier, much much easier once Julian was born and the milk started flowing freely again.

At the end of my pregnancy, I remember every night I would lay down for some quiet, cuddle time to nurse Ava before bed, she would hold onto baby (put her hand on my belly), and I would wonder if it would be our last night together just the two of us before her baby brother would join us.

In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t wean her, despite my strong feelings because I think tandem nursing has been a nice bonding experience for the two kids. On the somewhat rare occasion that Jody is traveling for work and I’ve had to get both kids to bed by myself, we’ve shared some pretty special (though definitely awkward) times together with both of them at the breast, holding hands or giggling at each other, and it’s moments like that that I wouldn’t trade for the world. 🙂

I want to add that this is my experience only. Just because it was trying at times for me, does not mean it will be for everyone. It’s impossible to know how pregnancy and breastfeeding will go for each woman until she experiences it for herself and then can decide what is best for her and her family.

To read more about others’ experiences and thoughts on pregnancy and breastfeeding, please visit the other carnival participants listed below:

Green Tip of the Week #21 – Recycle Your Crocs

crocs.jpgCrocs. You either love ’em or hate ’em. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you love ’em. You love ’em so much that you wear them all the time, in fact, until the tread is worn out, but then what are you supposed to do with them?
Throw them out? No.
Donate them to charity? That’s better.
How about recycle them? Recycle them?! Yes, recycle them!

Thanks to Soles United – a Crocs program – your used, worn-out Crocs will be recycled into new shoes and distributed to people in need around the world. For more information, to watch a video about how it works and to find recycling locations in your area, visit Soles United.

Thanks to Forever Daisies for this green tip.

Have any green tips you’ve recently learned? Please email them to me and I may include your tip with a link to your site or blog in a future post. 🙂

P.S. Check out a great Green Party Supply giveaway over at Recycle Your Day!

Raising Awareness about the Life-Shattering Condition of Obstetric Fistula

If you had asked me a few days ago what an obstetric fistula was, I’d have shrugged my shoulders and told you, “I don’t know.” Thanks to advances in modern medicine and in obstetric and midwifery care, fistula has been eradicated in North America for over 100 years. Although the condition has been long since forgotten here, there are at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region living with fistula, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year. These estimates are believed to be low.

Obstetric fistula is an injury of childbearing that has been relatively neglected, despite the devastating impact it has on the lives of girls and women. It is usually caused by several days of obstructed labor, without timely medical intervention — typically a Cesarean section to relieve the pressure. The consequences of fistula are life shattering: The baby usually dies, and the woman is left with chronic incontinence. Because of her inability to control her flow of urine or feces, she is often abandoned or neglected by her husband and family and ostracized by her community. Without treatment, her prospects for work and family life are greatly diminished, and she is often left to rely on charity.

When a woman (especially a young woman who’s pelvis is not fully developed) experiences an unusually long labor (several days long), the soft tissue of the pelvis experiences lack of blood flow between the baby’s head and the woman’s pelvis bone. The lack of blood flow causes the tissue to die and a hole forms either between the woman’s vagina and bladder or vagina and rectum (or both), resulting in the leaking of urine, feces or both.

The vagina can also become perforated by violent rape.

A Walk to BeautifulPBS recently aired a NOVA program called “A Walk to Beautiful,” produced by Mary Olive Smith, about women in Ethiopia living with fistula. You can watch the entire documentary online.

The women profiled in “A Walk to Beautiful” are treated as virtual lepers in their villages, where they are shunned by family and made to live alone. One women admits to contemplating suicide.

Through chance they learn that there are other women who share their affliction, and that the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital exists to help them—if they can manage to walk for hours to the nearest road, find public transport to the capital, and then search out the hospital in a strange and forbidding city. Once there, they enter a haven that they never imagined, surrounded by women like themselves and a medical staff of Western and African doctors who treat them like human beings, not outcasts.

It’s an eye-opening story of hope and triumph over adversity. What’s rather shocking is that the cost of fistula repair surgery and rehabilitative care is only $300, though many women don’t know that treatment is available (or are even told by doctors that there is nothing they can do to correct fistula), they have no way of getting to a fistula hospital or, in many cases, they simply cannot afford it.

Though not a part of the documentary, Sarah Omega Kidangasi has her own fistula story to tell. She became pregnant as a result of a rape when she was a 19-year-old Kenyan schoolgirl and then developed fistula after a prolonged labor. Her baby was stillborn (as so many are who’s mothers endure prolonged labor) and, upon returning to her village, her uncontrollable leaking urine made her into a social outcast.

Sarah had been living with fistula for 12 years when the pressure of her situation began to consume her, “I suffered rejection, isolation. I lived the lonely life,” she said. “Life with fistula traps you. It makes it impossible for you to interact with others. I was suffering from depression. Many times, I considered suicide.”

In 2007, she was taken by a neighbor to a teaching hospital for fistula surgery as well as psychiatric support. “The surgery really changed my life,” said Sarah. “That was the moment I could offer a genuine smile.”

Sarah has now set her sights on spreading the word about fistula and getting maternal care on the international health agenda. This week she will tell her story to members of Congress to raise awareness about the condition that is affecting the quality of life for millions of women. “I’m going beyond our African culture and tradition, going public and telling my story, so that the victims know that there’s help,” she said. “Fistula can be repaired.”

To learn more about fistula and how you can help, please visit the Campaign to End Fistula.

Other information can be found at:

United Nations Population Fund – Obstetric Fistula: A Tragic Failure to Deliver Maternal Care
The Fistula Foundation

All Africa – Liberia: Living With Fistula
NPR – Film Captures Ethiopian Women’s Medical Sagas

Blog posts about Fistula:

Kimberly at Go Green Travel Green wrote Fistula Horror Stories: Socially Conscious Travel & Human Rights
Yolanda at Perfectly Imperfect wrote about A Walk To Beautiful
Trisha at Ideas for Women wrote Obstetric Fistula – the Tragedy of a Nightmare Within a Nightmare

Cross-posted at BlogHers Act

My new beauty secret or why my face smells like Italian food

After being plagued with seriously dry skin, as well as some patchy red spots on my face for the entire winter, despite putting on moisturizer and Kiss My Face hand lotion (figuring I needed all of the moisture I could get in Colorado’s dry climate), I have finally found something that has fixed the problem. It’s natural, non-toxic and most likely located somewhere in your kitchen. What could this miracle moisturizer be? OLIVE OIL!

oil_extravirgin.jpgI recall reading something a long time ago about using olive oil as a skin moisturizer, but then, not having a need for it at the time, it slipped right out of my head. However, I’d been racking my brain the last few weeks wondering if I would ever get over this skin condition and if maybe I needed to see a dermatologist, when the olive oil idea popped back into my head.

It certainly couldn’t hurt, I thought. So I went to the cabinet, got out the bottle of extra virgin olive oil, put a small amount on my fingertip, headed to a mirror in the bathroom and applied it to the dry patches on my face.

The very next day my skin looked a little bit better, so I started a nightly regimen with the oil. It only took a few days for there to be a dramatic difference and I’m kicking myself now for not taking before and after pictures.

Before you think I’m crazy, I will tell you that I did a Google search on using olive oil as a moisturizer and came across this post at The Frugal Life where a woman says, “I use olive oil for a moisturizer on my skin. It does a great job and I get compliments all the time.” I also found this thread on Thrifty Fun where a woman advises, “You should never use on your face something you cannot actually eat!” Good suggestion, especially in light of the recent findings on sunscreen. (Check out Skin Deep to find your moisturizer’s or any other cosmetic or personal care product’s safety level.) And then there’s The Olive Oil Source that recommends, “You’re not going to be using that much so use the best olive oil; extra virgin. Pure and Light olive oil has been chemically processed, avoid it.” So I’m a little relieved to find I’m not the only one who is doing this, though I wonder what Rachael Ray has to say about using EVOO on the face? 😉

Honestly, my face doesn’t really smell like pizza. :oP The only possible bad side effect that I can think of is if you apply the oil before going out in the sun you’ll likely cook your face. So I advise only putting it on before bed, and only a very small amount at that.

And now I’m kicking myself again for buying nearly $11 Cetaphil lotion (recommended by a dermatologist) this weekend to treat the dry skin on the backs of Ava’s arms. I totally should have tried EVOO first!

Best Shot Monday – 5/19/08

I’ve been slacking in the photography department and am going to use today’s post as an attempt to play catch up. My “best shot” will be at the end.

Between my birthday, Mother’s Day, Ava’s preschool May Pole Celebration, and every day life, there have been a lot of photo ops lately. Here are just a few (from the point & shoot and SLR). Oh, and I should mention I didn’t take the ones that I’m in. (Mouse over for captions.)

Julian LOVES his fruit. (Shirt from Polly Tod):
Julian eats a pear while wearing his “I love fruit” shirt - 5/4/08

My 33rd birthday (with a delicious carrot cake made by yours truly):
Happy birthday to me - 5/7/08Me and the kiddos - 5/7/08Julian is very eager to get his hands on the cake - 5/7/08

Mother’s Day:
a Mother’s Day walk with Julian and Ava - 5/11/08

The kids playing in the yard:
Julian in his new hat - 5/12/08Ava on the “new” playset - 5/12/08

I couldn’t pass up this photo op when I woke up before everyone else Saturday morning. Julian and daddy co-sleeping. :
Julian cosleeping with Daddy - 5/17/08

Ava’s Waldorf preschool May pole festivities:
Ava waiting patiently for her “crown” at the Maypole Celebration - 5/17/08Miss G putting on Ava’s Maypole crown - 5/17/08Watching her friend get her crown - 5/17/08Maypole dancing and singing - 5/17/08

More Maypole dancing - 5/17/08

– And my BSM –
You give a boy ONE piece of chocolate, step away for two minutes, and this is what happens…

Chocolate-faced Jules - 5/9/08
(Shirt from Trendy Tadpole)

Head on over to Mother May I to see what everyone else has in store for their Best Shot Monday posts.

red BSM button

Women, Children Resort to Eating Dirt Cookies in Haiti: The Global Food Crisis

This post is part of Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

If you live in the United States or North America and are reading this blog, chances are you’ve never known what real hunger feels like. Sure most of us have uttered things like, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse,” “I’m starving!,” or “There’s nothing to eat” while staring into a refrigerator or cabinet full of food (I know I’m guilty of all three), but the reality is that the majority of us always know where our next meal is coming from and we don’t truly want for much.

We may also complain about the rising food costs (again, I am guilty) and perhaps have had to scale back on the groceries we buy or forgo other luxuries, but we are still able to provide nutritious meals for ourselves and our families. We are very fortunate.

HaitiElsewhere in the world in developing nations, people are not so fortunate. The rising cost of food is taking it’s toll on the poorest of poor. In countries like Haiti, people are resorting to literally eating dirt in order to fill their bellies and stay alive. “Cookies” made from dirt, salt, and vegetable shortening have become regular meals for many Haitian men, women and children.

The price of food continues to rise and even the dirt to make the cookies, which comes from the country’s central plateau, has gone up in cost.

At the market in the La Saline slum, a two-cup portion of rice now sells for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk, and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.

Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared with food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day.

I thought long and hard about what topic to cover for Bloggers Unite for Human Rights. Given that I’ve already written extensively in the past about maternal health both because of my personal interest and CE position with BlogHer, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and tackle something I didn’t have much knowledge about. While there are so many human rights crises going on in the world right now – the Myanmar cyclone and China earthquake just to name a couple of the most recent – I decided on something slightly less in the spotlight, though no less significant, in hopes of educating myself as well as others.

Emerson - age 1Clara (age 3)A friend of mine named Heather is personally invested in the situation in Haiti as she and her husband (along with their two biological children) have been trying to adopt two children – Clara (age 3) and Emerson (age 1) – from an orphanage there since March 2007. I took the opportunity today to ask Heather some questions about their adoption experience thus far and find out more about how the food crisis is affecting the lives of the children in the Haitian orphanage. She was kind enough to share personal information and provide me with some pictures of her children.

Amy: Have the living/food conditions changed between your first visit to the country (and/or orphanage) and your most recent visit? If so, how? And when, roughly, were those visits?

Heather: Our last visit was in January 2008. The visit planned for April 2008 was canceled due to the rioting in Port au Prince over the rising costs of food. We have also visited in July and October 2007 and plan to go again in July 2008.

We aren’t able to see much of the country during our visits as our orphanage only allows us to visit on escorted trips and we are not allowed to leave the hotel while in the country. From what we see driving from the airport to the hotel, Port au Prince seems cleaner and there are more functioning traffic lights. There are still canals filled with garbage and wild pigs eating that garbage. There is still the stench of burning garbage.

The conditions in the orphanage appear about the same since our first trip in April 2007 with the exception of there being 50-75 more children in the 3000 square foot house where they live. We believe there are now approximately 150 children living in what is a mansion by Haitian standards. There is no yard – the house is surrounded by concrete which extends about 10-20 feet from the walls of the house. The property is surrounded by a 15-20 foot tall cinder block wall topped with broken bottles. Laundry is done by hand and hung anywhere possible to dry.

The infants are all kept on the main floor of the house – probably in what used to be the living and dining rooms. Children who are walking up to about age five live upstairs. They sleep in double- or triple-decker cribs with at least two children in each. The orphanage’s directors and their children also live upstairs. There is one bathroom. Older children generally live in one of the other two buildings the orphanage leases in the suburbs of Port au Prince.

Amy: How is the current food crisis affecting the orphanage?

Heather: Parents are given very little information about the daily life of their children, however, we know that they usually eat two meals per day and one snack. This food is usually rice and beans – little to no protein, dairy, or fresh fruits and vegetables. Their water is rationed as they do not have a safe source of water other then bottled water which is expensive. Infants are weaned off formula well before they would be in the US as the costs of formula are astronomical compared to rice and beans.

Parents are attempting to collect 36,000 pounds of food to be sent by container ship to the orphanage in July.

Amy: Have your visits to Haiti changed the way you look at food and food waste in our country of plenty?

Heather: Every interaction I have with other people, every show I watch on TV, every news report I hear or read, every purchase I make reminds me of the overabundance we have in our country and how just a small fraction of what we have would provide Haitians with “luxuries” they’ve never experienced – daily protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, proper medical care, shoes, and so on. Listening to people complain about the hardships in the US makes it ever so clear that we have absolutely no idea what true need is.

Amy: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your children, the orphanage or your experiences visiting Haiti in general?

Heather: This is the most painful process I’ve even participated in – politics taking precedence over children’s lives, the different value placed on children in a country where it is common for children to die, the lack of urgency, difficult communications, arbitrary laws enforced (or not) at someone’s whim. Every day we live with the reality that our children might die before they come home. Clara, at age 39 months, weighs 18 pounds. She has not gained any weight in 15 months. She has TB. This is in the orphanage where her biological mother brought her to receive better care than she could provide at home. International adoption is not an undertaking for the faint of heart. I’m not sure I will survive it with my sanity intact.

Heather’s children are at Foyer de Sion orphanage. She doesn’t expect Clara and Emerson to get to come home to the United States until 2009. If you’d like to make a donation (PayPal accepted) to the orphanage, please visit Sion Fonds.

What can we do here at home to help with the food crisis?

Aside from making donations to charitable donations, there are other things we can do in our own part of the world that can have an impact on the global food crisis.

– I wrote a couple weeks ago about why growing even a little bit of our own food is so important. Even if you only start a container garden for some herbs and a tomato plant, every little bit makes a difference.

– We can also reduce our meat consumption. Meat is much more costly to produce than grains and energy is lost in the process of feeding grains to animals. “Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.” – Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

– Become aware of your food waste and look for ways to reduce it. Take smaller portions and go back for seconds if needed. Buy only what you will consume so you aren’t throwing away produce once it goes bad. Teach your children about food waste and how to reduce it.

Compost your food waste.

I want to hear from you too. What do you think will help with the food crisis? What are you personally doing to make a difference?