You could say I’m a great packer, if only because of the amount of stuff I cram into a suitcase. I never want to be caught without a cardigan/the “right” jeans/my trusty swimcap. That means that I lug 26 kilos of shoes and shirts around the world and wear a fraction of them.
Now, preparing for my trip with ONE.org, for the first time I’m facing a whole new raft of challenges.
On Saturday I leave for Ethiopia with Michelle (@MichelleTwinMum) and a group of US bloggers and the ONE team to visit Ethiopia. ONE is a “nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.” We’ll be there tell and amplify the stories of the people and organisations that are making a difference on the ground. We’re there to show how the foreign aid our government pledges to Ethiopia is spent. ONE is not a charity or fund-raising organisation; it wants you to add your voice to the discussion.
Our mission is high-minded, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I have to have something to wear.
I’ve bought anti-mosquito trousers. I’ve raided my wardrobe for long-sleeved shirts to guard against the sun and long skirts to observe the customs. I’ve also gotten my yellow fever and hepatitis jabs and stocked up on (very expensive) malaria drugs. While the inner debate between the red patent heels or the black flats has been quietened this time (I’m pulled out my old hiking boats instead), I’m becoming more and more anxious about what to put in.
I think that’s less about whether to take the blue striped shirt and more about embarking with the right frame of mind. I’ve never been to Africa before, so I’m excited about the pure experience of being plunked down in a vibrant, exotically different culture. That in and of itself will be mind-blowing.
But I won’t be there as a tourist. I’ve talked to several bloggers who’ve traveled to other countries to shine the spotlight on issues of women and children’s health, and anti-poverty programmes, and they all talk about how the experience shifted their world view. They developed a greater understanding not only of the world but of how people cope, human nature and even themselves.
Right now, sitting in my bedroom trying to decide how many pairs of sock to take, I don’t think I can anticipate how this trip will affect me. I feel lucky to be one of the people there to document the stories of those I meet. I’m honoured and thrilled that bloggers like @dorkymum, @seasiderclare, @chez_mummy, @michelloui and many others will be supporting this undertaking, adding their voice and amplifying the message.
As a journalist I’m used to interviewing and writing about people. But this time, I’ll be connecting with the people I meet on a more intimate level. We’ll be hearing stories that can’t fail to move us as parents. I hope you’ll be moved emotionally and intellectually.
Many of us have told stories before. It’s already clear, as I sit with a suitcase that looks vastly different than my usual mountain of frivolities, that this trip is very different. This time, it’s political and personal.
Here’s how you can help
Follow our trip and posts from ALL the bloggers here
Read Michelle’s posts on her blog Mummy from the Heart
Follow #ONEMums and #ONEMoms on Twitter