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Champion VoicesApril 14, 2014

The Universal Truths of Motherhood


This post is part of the Global Moms Relay. Every time you share this post,Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per action), up to $250,000, to the Global Moms Relay, to help improve the health and well-being of moms and kids worldwide in support of MAMA, Shot@Life, and Girl Up. Scroll to the bottom to find out more.

Mothers are the heart of the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, which believes every child should have access to life-saving vaccines. Moms understand the fundamentally basic need to provide all children a shot at a healthy childhood. Our commitment to supporting the work of the UN and protecting babies and children from diseases like measles, polio, pneumonia and diarrhea is strengthened by the commitment of our 655 Champions across the United States. This post, authored by three Shot@Life Champions and mothers, officially kicks off the Shot@Life portion of the Global Moms Relay. We are honored to take part and humbled by the commitment of so many mothers to secure healthy futures for our world’s children.

shot at life champions
Elena Sonnino
You hear stories about adolescent girls and their moms. These stories are not foreign to me, because growing up, my mom endured all the typical mother-daughter strife from me — and then some.

Regardless of what happened during my teenage years, my mom always showed me the true meaning of love. When I made the decision to end my first marriage, I was afraid to tell anyone. My mother listened without judgment, offering consolation without words.

She cared, supported my dreams and encouraged me. There was no sugar coating, but there was always love. Time and again my mother fought back tears while holding my hand. She made me believe that I would not just survive — but thrive. Her optimism became my determination.

Moms around the globe want the same things for their children: health and happiness. All too often, moms bear witness when their children face challenges in life, big and small. But with each challenge, our moms remind us that regardless of how old we are, they will always be there to catch us — in person or in spirit.

Cynthia Changyit Levin
I was just discovering my own citizen-power and preparing to lobby Congress for the first time. I met a lot of activists who — while inspiring — didn’t have much in common with me. They talked about evening schedules and daytime lobby meetings, but my chaotic life revolved around diapers and nap times. Then I met Teresa Rugg.

In the early 1990’s, Teresa was a Peace Corps volunteer who worked to improve health practices in Cameroon. When she returned home, she made good on her promise to share her stories and spread the word about how we in the U.S. can help families in developing countries.

Teresa was an experienced advocate who knew how to juggle life and parenting lovingly and simultaneously. She didn’t quite do everything the way everyone else said that she should, but rather in a way that involved her children and worked for her family.

While still being an active mother with her kids, she joined RESULTS — a nonprofit working to end global hunger and poverty. She founded her own RESULTS chapter in Snohomish County, Washington to bring these issues before members of Congress.

Through Teresa, I learned how to use my passion to have tremendous impact on an international level, yet still be a great spouse and mother.

Teresa changed me forever by being a supportive friend and role model. She gives voice to the voiceless and makes the world a better place for all our children. THAT is something I can shoot for.

Ilina Ewen
Confession: I never wanted to be a mother.

I felt motherhood would be more burden than joy. Perhaps this stemmed from something buried in my brain from my own feelings of childhood. I can’t point to anything my parents did contrary to caring for us and loving us unconditionally, yet this lingering sense shrouded my own view of motherhood. I struggled to see the joy in having children when I hadn’t felt such joy myself.

Through my 20s, I saw motherhood through the lens of my friends, who were becoming mothers themselves, coupled with Madison Avenue’s sales pitch. The glorified images of motherhood in advertising campaigns cemented my gut feeling to leave mothering to others. I wasn’t cut out for it. I hadn’t the time, the patience, the constitution, the underlying desire. Now that I am a mother, I realize I eschewed motherhood because I worried about making a picture perfect life. I was focused on all the wrong things.

Describing motherhood properly is like trying to describe Persephone’s emergence from Hades and feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays for the first time. Motherhood has warmed my heart and tickled my soul in ways I hadn’t even imagined, in ways I am still too tongue-tied to describe. I haven’t words adequate enough to color motherhood in the right hues.

Motherhood just might be the only universal truth.

shot at life champions
About the Champions:

Elena Sonnino spent twelve years teaching children to chase their dreams and finally took her own advice as the founder and Chief Dream Chaser at her website,Live.Do.Grow, where she writes about finding everyday wellness in life. Elena’s work to empower youth to use their voices for good has been featured on CNN Living,, The Huffington Post and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – The Impatient Optimists. Drawing inspiration from her travels, her good and bad runs on the trail, her tween daughter, and from life as a cancer survivor, Elena is passionate about finding the silver lining even on the rainiest of days.

Cynthia Changyit Levin is a volunteer advocate with Shot@Life and RESULTS with a personal mission to engage kids and parents to stand up for global child survival. She shares her insight about advocating with children in her Anti-Poverty Mom blog, and her thoughts about poverty have appeared in The Huffington Post, suburban Chicago newspapers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Financial Times.

Ilina Ewen is mom to two boys and a self-described “Accidental Activist” who champions causes that lift up children and families (Shot@Life, Backpack Buddies, SAFEchild, CENC Food Bank). Her childhood report cards were peppered with comments about talking too much and having great promise as a writer. Let’s just say all those teachers were prescient. You can see her using her voice

You share, they give: Each time you ‘like’ or share this post via the social media icons on this post or comment below, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per action) up to $250,000, to improve the health and wellbeing of moms and kids worldwide through MAMA, Shot@Life, and Girl Up. Every 20 seconds a child dies from a vaccine preventable disease. $1 provides a measles or polio vaccine for a child through Shot@Life — a campaign to raise awareness, advocacy and funds to get vaccines to the children who need them most. You can also use the Donate A Photo* app and Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 when you upload a photo for Girl Up or Shot@Life, up to $100,000. You can help make a difference in seconds with the click of your mouse or snap of your smart phone. Share this post with the hashtag #GlobalMoms, and visit to learn more.

The United Nations Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, BabyCenter and The Huffington Post created the Global Moms Relay with a goal of improving the lives of women and children around the globe.

* via the Donate A Photo app for iOS and Android. Johnson & Johnson has curated a list of trusted causes, and you can donate a photo to one cause, once a day. Each cause will appear in the app until it reaches its goal, or the donation period ends. If the goal isn’t reached, the cause will still get a minimum donation.

Devi R. Thomas