Powerful Women Blog Series for National Volunteer Week
I believe that each of us is born with unlimited and untapped potential to give of ourselves.
I also believe that one’s sense of service can be innate and instilled. Of course, this potential must be ignited before it can be realized. When I look inward asking what ignited mine, the answer that always surfaces is my Mother.
My mom was born in El Salvador and came to the US when she was eight years old. Not only did she quickly learn the English language, she also climbed to the top of her class, became a spelling bee champion and a cheerleader – all within just a few years. For as long as I can recall, my mom volunteered her time to a variety of causes. She brought gifts to the Children’s Hospital during the holidays, fed the homeless and for a period of time in the 1980s, volunteered for an HIV/AIDS hotline in the Bay Area (where we grew up).
I followed in her footsteps when I decided to continue with my education – from the completion of high school following a period of teenage rebelliousness after my modeling career took off and again when I decided to continue my education at NYU at the age of 25. While under different circumstances, my mom also went back to school later in life after having children. In 2005, when I started to advocate on behalf of the humanitarian aid organization CARE, my mom joined me on that first trip to El Salvador. It was there,
while I was 6 months pregnant with my second child, that I decided maternal health would be the focus of my advocacy work. (Not surprisingly, my mom was and is a long time supporter of CARE).
By that time, I had been involved in several different causes: several efforts to rebuild post war El Salvador, I volunteered as a counselor at a summer camp for children fighting cancer and their siblings, and I advocated smoking prevention and cessation (after quitting myself and then losing my dad to lung cancer). Each experience brought me closer to fulfillment but led me to create my own authentic path of service.
After delivering my first child in 2003, I began to hemorrhage. I was lucky I had access to emergency obstetric care, while hundreds of thousands of women do not and die each year in pregnancy and childbirth. When I returned to El Salvador with CARE in 2005 I visited with other pregnant women in a rural community and imagined what might have happened to me had I suffered a complication as I had with my first. No electricity, no running water, no paved roads. It would have been a miracle if I survived.
Since then I have committed myself to action and am doing all that I can to increase awareness of and support for improved maternal and child health.
Service is as much a practice as anything. The more you do, the more you want to do and the more purposeful in your intentions you will become.
So, thank you, Mom.
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