Becoming an Agent of Change

asouthernmother
March 16, 2013

If your follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might hear my friends and I banter about being an agent of change or a change agent.  Did we spark your curiosity?  What is an agent of change and how do I become one?  

Change agents are people devoted to making changes in society and around the world.  You can change your own life and the life of those around you, often with very small acts.  How about checking in on a neighbor?  You can make dinner for a new mom or volunteer to babysit for a friend while she does errands.  It could be as simple as pay the toll for the car behind you or buying an extra cup of coffee.  A gesture of genuine kindness can go a long way, especially to someone who might be having a bad day or week.  

Think your ready for a bigger act of change?  Learn to lobby for causes that you love.  I have recently lobbied for several causes I hold dear global vaccination access, domestic violence, and military legislation.  Lobbying can be as extensive as a visit to your representatives office or as simple as a phone call.

Social media has given us better access to our family, friends and even politicians.  You can make your voice heard.  Participation in the Global Mom Relay is incredibly easy.  You just need to “share” the daily blog posts on Facebook and Twitter.  It is as easy as the click of a button!  

Do you believe that every child deserves a shot at a healthy life?  Did you know that vaccines are one of the most cost effective forms of humanitarian aid available?  You can help support the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign by pledging your support via email.  The pledge is simple and no donations is required but always appreciated!  
Shot@Life Pledge
I believe that every child deserves a chance to have a healthy life, no matter where they live. By pledging my support today, I add my voice to the U.S. movement to give children around the world the shot at life they deserve.
I understand that, for children in developing countries with limited access to life-saving immunizations, childhood vaccines are an essential part of ensuring healthy development and a productive future.
I pledge to do what I can to help children around the world gain access to life-saving vaccines.
I will encourage my friends, my family, my community and my local, state, and national leaders to speak up for children who need vaccines to survive and thrive.
By pledging my support and lending my voice to this movement, I believe we can give millions of children a shot at a healthy life no matter where they live.
Make your pledge to the Shot@Life campaign by signing up for the monthly newsletter by clicking here. It is easy and completely free, it can be your start to becoming an agent of change.  If you are compelled to sign up please note it that you learned about the campaign through a Shot@Life Champion and include my name Jessica Urgelles. 
I am hoping at this point you have the urge to do something, and maybe a little inspired to do more you originally intended.  These are just a few tips of how you can help change our society for the better.  It really does happen one person at a time. 
I also would like to personally invite you to the Shot@Life twitter party where you can make some new tweeps (friends for those who aren’t use to twitter lingo) and find other ways to become a #changeagent.  I hope to see some of you there!  You can follow me via my twitter app on the sidebar of my blog or find me at Bluegrass_Belle 

Happy Social Saturday!  
XOXO
~Jess 

Pinwheels for Prevention

 Five children a day die in the United States alone from abuse and neglect according to Every Child Matters.  Every child deserves a shot at a healthy future and life.  They should be dreaming, pretending, learning, and growing.  They shouldn’t be fearing their caregivers, dealing with physical or mental abuse, or worrying about food, clothing, and shelter.  Sadly, this is a reality for many children in the United States and around the World.

A pinwheel is often a fond reminder of happiness and childhood.  Please join the Bluegrass Junior Women’s Club and other Lexington area General Federation of Women’s Clubs in honoring children facing abuse or neglect on April 7 at 4pm with a Pinwheels for Prevention garden at Wellington Park.  The club is requesting $20 donations to Prevent Child Abuse America to be included on the sponsorship sign but any donation is welcome.  If you want to be included on the sponsorship sign please ensure your donation is made prior to April 1st and online donations can be made via paypal through this link.

Happy Friendly Friday,
XOXO
~Jess

Will a Stolen Childhood Inspire a “Girl Rising”?

This was a face of innocence and trust.  She loves going to church, reading books, and playing with her cousins.  She had her dads eyes and his ability to steal your heart.  She stole my heart the moment she entered this world and I am just her Aunt.  We both now share a very open wound, she lost her father at the hands of someone she should have been able to trust, and I lost my beloved brother.  

Photo courtesy of Jessica Urgelles Photograpy

She is one of countless girls in our nation and around the world who had her innocence taken.  Could you image being 6 years old and having your father murdered by your step grandfather following a domestic violence altercation with your grandmother?  No girl should ever have to endure such  a heartbreak, and certainly not at such a tender age.  She dealt with her emotions with maturity beyond her years.  When I wanted to completely fall apart, I held it together for her.  We sat graveside in front of his casket.  We shared our goodbyes and I was heartbroken when she asked for me to kneel next to her to pray.  She prayed with passion and fervor, asking for God’s comfort and mercy.  

I prayed for healing.  I was so angry.  I lost my brother but my nieces had lost their father.  Would they remember him?  They would never remember his contagious laugh or his kind smile.  They had their childhood stolen, and I was powerless to stop it.  

Did you know that 1 in 4 women around the world will experience domestic violence in her lifetime?  The women of my family were robbed of a loved one by someone we should have been able to trust.  It would be easy to let grief, anger, and hate consume me.  I can’t let my brothers death be in vain.  I want his legacy to be of kindness, hope, and charity.  He lives on in the people who loved him, by our words and actions.  

My hope is that no one would ever need such a heartbreaking personal experience to inspire them.  We can draw our inspiration from the people around us, hear their stories, feel their passion, and let it lead us to be a stronger society.  

My passion was renewed recently.  I attended a screening of the 10×10 film, Girl Rising.  The stories are powerful and poignant.  The issues discussed are a reality for girls everywhere.  Poverty, domestic violence, human trafficking, slavery, lack of educational opportunities, and child marriage are real.  The girls face unimaginable challenges.   They found triumph in their hardships and an astounding courage to fight not just for themselves, but to inspire girls around them.  

Image courtesy of www.10x10act.org 


I connected with Senna from La Rinconada, Peru.  She was the daughter to a gold miner who perished from complications of working in the mines.  I am the granddaughter and great granddaughter of a coal miners which you can read about in a previous post, You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.  She shared many of the same struggles that my own family did thousands of miles from her in Harlan, Kentucky.  My family did not endure the same harsh living conditions but they shared struggles for food, clothing, and the general brutal working conditions of a mine.  

I encourage everyone to find a local screening of Girl Rising and attend.  The girls are real and their stories are inspiring.  The proceeds from the film benefit several organizations including the United Nations Foundation Girl Up campaign.  The girls will renew your hope in humanity.  They are living proof that optimism and good can come from despair and evil.  

My hope is that my niece is a “girl rising”.   I hope that I can encourage and inspire her to turn a tragedy into a triumph.  I like to think that my brother is watching over us with pride and awe.  His legacy will not die with us, he lives on in this story and in our acts of kindness.  

Please visit www.girlrising.com to learn more about the girls and the film.  You can locate the closest screening or email them to help organize a screening in your area.  We are presently working to organization another screening in Lexington, Kentucky, and if you would like further information please feel free to contact me.    

You can also visit www.girlup.org to learn more about one of the films impact partners the United Nations Foundation Girl Up campaign. Inspired by this post?  Get involved with the Global Mom Relay which helps to benefit Girl Up and several other UN Foundation campaigns including www.shotatlife.org

“Inspire a girl and change her world.”  

Happy Witty Wednesday,
XOXO
~Jess 

And the “Ax” falls… Federal Tuition Assistance is gone

asouthernmother
March 8, 2013

I had a lovely blog post started in celebration of International Women’s Day, partially about my travels as a military spouse and all of the incredible international women that I have met.  My beautiful writing came to a screeching halt when I discovered that thousands of international women were suffering due to consequences of our government sequestration.

We all knew that the ax was going to fall and programs were going to be cut, but I am deeply saddened that one of them was the Federal Tuition Assistance Program.  One of the prime benefits of enlisting in the military is the option of having tuition assistance to help cover the costs of furthering their education.  I am not just saddened for women, it is equally heartbreaking for men and military families.  Today our international military women should be able to celebrate International Women’s Day, and not fret about paying for college or continuing their education.

I know what it is like to live on a junior enlisted soldiers salary and it isn’t easy.  Now our soldiers who signed contracts and essentially signed their lives over to protect our freedom have had one of their primary benefits taken away.  Active duty soldiers often use their education to help them achieve points which are used toward promotion.  I am upset over other cuts to programs such as education, but to take a benefit away from a military member that they were promised is entirely unacceptable.

I have been essentially a single mother for the last two years due to my husbands position.  He works in another country and his orders are considered “temporary duty”(although I don’t know how you consider a 3 year tour there temporary).  My son has been without his father and I take care of him alone.  It is a reality for any military spouse and family.  We know that there will be times we will be apart, and this wasn’t the first and probably not the last time he will gone for an extended period.  How does the government expect military families to sacrifice so much and then take away benefits?

My husband finished his bachelors degree using military tuition assistance, and had been using it to partially fund graduate school in International Relations.  This will essentially prevent him from progressing in graduate school until when or even if the program is reinstated.
It will be interesting to see how military recruitment for active duty branches fairs in the months ahead.  National guard soldiers shouldn’t be impacted at the moment unless they are deployed or attend an out of state school that was funded through Federal Tuition Assistance.  National Guard education benefits are funded through State Tuition Assistance programs.

I know that many of us feel helpless again sequestration but we need to make our voices heard.  You need to let your Senators and Congressman know that this is unacceptable.  We can’t blame parties or individuals, they need to make a collective effort to create a budget without slashing necessary and essential programs.

I hurt for the families of active duty military which were affected today.  I only hope that alternative solutions can be found to sequestration and military members are given a benefit they rightfully deserve.

Happy International Women’s day to all of the military women (spouses and service members) which sacrifice their safety and freedom to ensure ours.

Happy Facinorous Friday,
XOXO
~Jess

Global Motherhood: The Women of Eve

asouthernmother
March 8, 2013

Eve in Christian biblical history was believed to be the mother of mankind. She was born from the rib of Adam, and gave life to the human race. She is an icon to Christianity but she also a symbol of global motherhood. Whether you believe in Christian faiths, the theory of Evolution, one God or many, and anything in between, we are all sons and daughters of an “Eve”. Life cascaded down generations, mothers gave life to our mothers, who gave life to us. I have spoken previously about a Global Society but we are also a global motherhood. It should be a tie that binds us to one another, we are all sons and daughters of a mother. We need to unite behind each other to celebrate mothers and motherhood around the world.

www.unfoundation.org/globalmomrelay


Johnson & Johnson in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plan to help the United Nations Foundation promote global motherhood though the Global Mom Relay. Starting March 8 which is International Women’s Day and running through May 6th which is Mother’s Day, they will be relay from one post to the next highlighting stories of global motherhood. The goal is to create a relay chain around the globe to share these stories and raise awareness, and in turn Johnson & Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $5 for each shared Global Mom Relay post, tweet on twitter, or email share. Pinterest, Instagram, and blogs can also be great ways to share information, and if you use a service like Growthsilo then the reach of the message could mean more donations from the foundation. They are pledging to donate up to $8,000 per day to one of four United Nations Foundation causes so if that goal can be reached then all the better.



Girl Up @GirlUp

Do you know what is the leading cause of death girls aged 15-
19 around the World? Sadly it is childbirth. Girl Up trains
American girls to be leaders, and they use those leadership
skills to advocate and fundraise for impoverished and at risk
girl populations.





Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves @cookstoves
3 billion people in developing countries rely on open flames for heating and cooking. The exposure to smoke and flames results in nearly 4 million premature deaths per year. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is an initiative to provide clean cookstoves to those populations, providing safer cooking and heating options.

Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action @mHealthAlliance
Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action is aimed at educating and informing low income mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and while caring for an infant. They hope to provide critical healthcare information to women living in poverty.

Shot@Life @shotatlife

Every 20 seconds a child somewhere in the World dies of a disease which could have been prevented with a simple vaccine. Shot@Life hopes to raise awareness for global vaccines access.



Most of us live in places which routinely have scheduled labor inductions, safe caesarian sections, pain medication to aid in childbirth, treatments for pre-mature labor, and clean hospitals. We often fail to realize that every 2 minutes a woman dies from pregnancy related complications and most of those deaths are in developing nations. The numbers are daunting and entirely unacceptable. I hope by now your thinking, “what can I do?”

Visit the United Nations Foundation Global Mom Relay

Follow the hashtag #globalmom on Twitter along with all of the Global Mom Relay partners:

United Nations @unfoundation
Johnson & Johnson @JNJCares
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation @gatesfoundation
Baby Center @BabyCenter
Huffington Post @HuffingtonPost

The first official Twitter Party will begin on March 1 at 1pm with 3 more dates to follow. Here are two sample tweets they suggest but you are more than welcome to create your own, just please make sure to link to the Global Mom Relay page and use the hashtag #globalmom

Take ur mark! Virtual #globalmom relay starts now! Everyone can participate. Share to unlock the potential http://ow.ly/i74r7 #womensday


Kicking off today! @unfoundation @JNJCares @gatesfoundation @babycenter @HuffingtonPost launch the #globalmom relay! http://ow.ly/i74r7


You can also post the link to the Global Mom Relay on your Facebook page and ask your friends to share. They hope to multiply the campaign exponentially with that hopes that you will share with at least one friend, who will share with another, and create a growing network of people who want to celebrate the women in their lives.

Pinterest can’t be left out. The Global Mom Relay will be holding several Pinterest parties. The first begins March 8 and lasts til March 21st. They are asking that you pin photos of activities you do with your daughter or special girl in your life (I only have son, so I plan on posting photos with my nieces). You are suppose to enter the text, “Empower a girl, and change her world. Sharing an activity that we do together for #girlup and the #globalmom Relay. www.unfoundation.org/globalmomrelay”

Here is my first pin:



Source: Jessica on Pinterest


You could also post similarly on Instagram using the same image and text. You could also do similar on Instagram using the same image and text.

If you want to follow my actions on Instagram for the Global Mom Relay visit my Instagram account:


These are simple actions which could have a profound impact on a woman in the world, either through promoting issues directly related to her or her children. We are a global society and we should address global motherhood. It doesn’t matter if your a man or a woman, you can honor the woman in your life by promoting the Global Mom Relay. Speak up for someone who can’t, this is your chance for your voice to be heard. I will be posting more about the Global Mom Relay but until then check out the first few posts:



I am especially excited about the post for day 2. I had the pleasure of hearing Elizabeth Gore from the United Nations Foundation speak at our Shot@Life Summit in Washington, D.C. She is an incredible innovator for many of the campaigns within the Global Mom Relay, and a wonderful speaker. I was lucky enough to be included in a photo with Elizabeth Gore, the photo was taken by the Shot@Life event photographer



Happy Fearless Friday and Happy International Women’s Day.

XOXO
~Jess

Why do you run?

Lately I have been getting the question, “Why do you run so much?” I have the simplest response, “Once you have endured real emotional pain, you figure out a little physical pain never killed anyone”. I survived the emotional turmoil that was caused by the murder of my brother and a few miles definitely won’t kill me. My brother was a runner, actually the true runner in our family. When I hit mile 10 of the Disney Princess Half Marathon the remix of Forever Young came on my shuffled playlist.
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I knew my brother Brandon was running with me. He will always be forever young to me.

I also really like the motto of Sean Astin and his Run3rd crew.

“I run 1st for my myself, I run 2nd for my family, and I #run3rd for you.”
~Sean Astin
Running is very cathartic for me, just like writing. It helps relieve some of my pent up stress. I think, I sing, I cry (and rarely from physical pain). There is no drug – in my humble opinion – that could ever give me the stress relief or mental clarity that running does. Though I recognise we all have our different ways of coping.
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I do have friends who use galaxy glass pipes to take medical marijuana to help navigate their stress, as well as their exersise routine. Apparently it doesn’t just serve as a destresser but also as a reliver of joint and muscle pain so it may be an option if you’re considering running as well. Nowadays several online shops sell low odor strains for those who need help but don’t like the smell, which means that more can enjoy it and feel that sense of relief. I know for me, the run is what I need the most and I highly reccomend you try it out, not just for your mental health but for the health of others?.

How can we run to help others? Thanks to Smartphones and an app from Charity Miles, it is super easy to do charity while you run (walk or bike). You simply download the Charity Miles app which is free, swipe your screen to start and select your charity from a vast list of organizations.

I am not sure they could have made Charity Miles easier to use. I have heard of people using it while they are shopping at the mall, working (great for healthcare professionals who are on their feet in a clinical setting or hospital), and you can even help a charity while doing very dreaded house work!
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The app is absolutely free and ridiculously simple to use. They don’t spam your email or harass you. They use our everyday tasks to help out a whole variety of charities.

Two of my favorites are:
United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign which advocates for global vaccination
Wounded Warrior Project which provides life saving and sustaining services to wounded service members.

All of the current charities include:
United Nations Foundation Nothing But Nets
United Nations Foundation Girl Up
United Nations Foundation Shot@Life
United Nations Foundation World Food Programme
RED the Global Fund
Every Mother Counts
The Nature Conservancy
Pencils of Promise
Partnership for a Healthier America
Habitat for Humanity
Autism Speaks
Feeding America
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
Stand Up To Cancer
Wounded Warrior Project
ASPCA
Ironman Foundation
DoSomething.org
Achilles International

Please help spread the word about the Charity Miles app and the wonderful organizations that profit. It is an incredibly easy app to help some very deserving charitable organizations.

Happy Thoughtful Tuesday,
XOXO
~Jess

How close are we? This close….

asouthernmother
March 1, 2013

Polio has been 99% eradicated around the World.  How exciting would it be for our generation to say that we saw the end of polio just as the previous generation saw the eradication of small pox?  There are three countries in which polio still exists, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.    The wild polio virus still circulates in those countries.  Humanitarians risk their lives in those countries to administer vaccines, what will you risk?  Earlier this week a Pakistani police officer sacrificed his life while providing security to a United Nations funded vaccination team. Every child deserves a Shot@Life regardless of where they were born.  Hopefully the global eradication of polio is just of first of many victories for World health.  

There were 223 cases of polio reported in 2012 by the World Health Organization.  Germs do not carry passports and equates to 223 opportunities for polio to enter the U.S. through an unvaccinated population.  We have seen the resurgence of measles and whooping cough in the United States due to individuals not being vaccinated.  Geographic boundaries once confined us to a region but we are now a global society.  It is easier for germs to travel than we can with our passports.

Help show the World how close we are to the eradication of polio.  Lend your voice.
Rotary International started the campaign End Polio Now and in partnership with the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign, we are that much closer to eradicating a disease that once devastated our Nation.


The Best Of the World’s Biggest Commercial from End Polio Now on Vimeo.