Pinky Power In Portland: Two Montessori Moms for Milestones

June 21, 2012 BY Jen Barth

By Jen Barth and Anna Choe, Portland Oregon


It’s amazing to think back to five short months ago, when I attended the Shot@Life Champions Summit in Washington, DC. Since then, I’ve had the great honor of working with so many incredible champions from across the country, and around the world, who know in their hearts, like I do, that every child deserves a shot at childhood, and every mom deserves to see them get there.

One of the most powerful parts of this experience for me has been seeing how other moms are stepping up to support our growing movement.  Recently, I teamed up with another mom in my community, Anna Choe, co-Founder of Nomad Brush, on a fun and creative gathering with preschoolers and elementary school students at the Providence Montessori School in in Portland, Oregon. Here’s a snap “shot” of our event…Pinky Power in Portland!


As the mom of two young boys — my sons are 3 and 6 — I couldn’t quite believe it when I learned that children in developing countries are dying of completely preventable diseases every 20 seconds. I knew I wanted to get involved, so our company, Nomad Brush, donated some products and a portion of product sales to support the initial campaign launch in May.

As I’ve watched the movement grow, I became curious about what else we might do to
help raise awareness and generate more dialogue in our local community. So, we turned to some people we thought could really relate to the notion of helping kids around the world: kids!


As preschool parents, we know how naturally curious kids are about the world around them. We started a “Community Connections” program at our preschool last year to provide monthly opportunities for families to participate in kid-friendly community service projects, which have mostly been focused on supporting local causes. We were really excited to introduce a broader global issue to the program.

We started by looking at a map, and naming each of the continents. Then we talked about the various areas of the world where access to vaccines is not easy, and what it might feel like to travel a long way — on foot — to try to get a shot to keep you healthy. The kids loved looking at Shot@Life photos of moms and kids benefitting from Shot@Life’s recent efforts. They loved hearing stories about Champion Holly Pavlika’s recent trip to Tanzania.

We then explained that in Africa — one of the areas of the world where children are at most risk for contracting polio — doctors and nurses visit children to vaccinate them, and mark the pinky fingers of children after they’ve received their vaccine. This ink lasts for a whole week, until the campaign ends. Kids were fascinated!


This simple idea was such a strong visual for them, and for us, that it became the inspiration of a digital art activity that we led. We decided to create a “Pinky Power Portrait Collage” using Nomad Play brushes and the Art Set App so kids could “paint” their pinkies to show their solidarity for Shot@Life. Here are a few of the images we created, which we’ll be integrating into a broader digital collage. What an experience!


We also challenged kids in the days leading up to the event to gather pennies, nickels, and dimes; our goal was to collect and count enough coins to vaccinate one child against polio and measles. When the tally was completed, we had enough to vaccinate 3 kids. While this number may not seem huge to many of us, to a room of 4-6 year olds…it was incredible.


We had a great collaboration with Amy Williams, Enrichment Director at Providence Montessori, who shared with us a bit more about Maria Montessori’s outlook on raising community-minded kids. “Montessori education methods are based on the idea of supporting a child in the creation of their own deeply compassionate self.  When given the opportunity to be loving, supported by an understanding that they are a part of a community, a child will always choose kindness and compassion.”


At the end of our gathering, we encouraged kids to use their newly blue pinkies as a conversation-starter around the family dinner table. My own daughters proudly displayed their pinkies to people for days, and I saw first-hand the pride that came from sharing their story with others. They are just 5, and know first-hand the impact they can have to help save a child’s life. That’s huge.


We’re looking forward to seeing how this idea will grow as we complete our Pinky Power Portrait Collage. We’re making plans for our finished piece to “travel” with Shot@Life partners later this year, and will be sharing more details soon. We’re inspired to think of the hope that these images — and this idea of creating a global community of kids who advocate for others to have a shot at healthy, creative, and community-minded childhoods!


POSTED IN: Champions


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Submitted by KJ Dell'Antonia on: June 26, 2012 Hey, Portland moms--did you know that more and more children in your own community aren't getting the vaccinations they need to protect themselves and others? The number of parents refusing or delaying vaccines for their kids—which protect not just their children, but children and adults who can't be vaccinated—has tripled in the last two years. Global vaccination is fantastic, but local vaccination matters too.

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