Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Global Dinner Party

This Monday saw the 100th year of International Women's Day. All over the world, women got together to form an alliance of support for those facing challenges. Many organisations led events focusing on their own issues, issues including freedom, justice and health. Us women really can make a huge difference when we get together to make a point - just look at the huge political interest in Mumsnet in the run up to the election. My previous blog about the amazing women campaigning for bone marrow donors is another example.

I spent Monday being a busy journalist and so missed the opportunity to join other women on bridges over The Thames, to show my support for those whose lives are affected by war. As this was going on, I was busy interviewing the inspirational Jonnie from the Haiti Hospital Appeal . This was the only time he was free but it was perfect timing, given that their amazing work was inspired by the 75% of Haitian women who give birth alone in a country where seeking health care is "impossible."

In support of Jonnie, all at the Appeal and those women whose lives they are dedicated to change, I decided to play my part for International Women's Day in joining the White Ribbon Alliance at their 'Global Dinner Party.' All across their 140 member countries, women joined together for fun, food and fellowship and to think of those the Alliance reaches out to help. Every minute, somewhere in the world a woman dies in childbirth, 99% of these women are in third world countries. These are the women we were thinking about throughout our evening. Every single woman who came to the party has their own incredible story. I didn't set out for that to be the case, it simply reflects the circles I move in since I had William. For many of our peers, we are women who have been through unimaginable challenges but we all came together to share an evening thinking about those who needed the health care and support we had, or our children had, in order to be alive today but just happened to have been born in a country where that level of care just doesn't exist. We may have been through our own difficulties but we are the lucky ones!

With William living in and out (mostly in) hospital up until coming home from his transplant a year ago, I haven't organised anything like this for about four years! He's been home for the last year but it has take a while for us all to resettle and allow ourselves to take it step by step back into life again. I just hadn't really thought of inviting a group of friends round. I guess I was so far out of that mind set so I'm really grateful that this inspired me to just do it. I will be doing it again very soon! Because it was been such a while, it wasn't until 3 hours before the party, just as our local shops were about to shut, that I realised I didn't have enough bowls and glasses. I am now fully stocked for eight dinner guests so there has to be a next time.

We enjoyed our food and a good natter. Only two guests had met each other before. In fact, not only met each other, but one gave her friend an incredible gift - one of her kidneys! We chatted about that for a while and went onto debate the ongoing question as to whether we should have an opt in or opt out system of organ donation. Another of my guests donated her Mum's organs when she died so, between us, we had a lot of thoughts, feelings and experiences to share on this.

While organ donation was a big issue that every woman in the room has experienced, we were keen that the evening didn't become dominated by it. We are all grateful for the second chance we, our family members or friends were given, or gave, through organ donation but the night was for thinking about those who don't even get a first chance at life.

After a yummy dinner of Chilli, Sue's lovely milk jelly (that was a staple dinner party treat in my childhood reminded me of my Mum and Grandma - very appropriate), coffee and some of the really gorgeous mini cup cakes from my favourite Love Bakery, we sat down to watch a video. I wanted to focus our party on the work being done by the Haiti Hospital Appeal. There are lots of videos on their website and You Tube showing what they are doing now with the children in their respite centre, their clinics and their work with the earthquake injured. I wanted to go right back to the beginning, in 2006, to when two amazing 21 year olds arrived at Haiti and saw first hand what healthcare is like there. The video we watched is here We watched in silence, amazed at what we were seeing - not only the level of deprivation, the grief for Julia and her family, but also the inspirational response shown by two young men. I will come back to the Haiti Hospital Appeal again soon to talk more about these amazing guys.
We could have sat and watched all the videos the Appeal have on You Tube and I'm sure will be doing over the coming days. I hope you will too. If you do, please go here afterwards and do your bit to help them.

The Haiti Hospital Appeal are a partner of the White Ribbon Alliance, and having watched such a moving piece of film, we decided we wanted to do something to support them. We decided to do a 'fashion swap" - exchanging bits and pieces we no longer wear and paying £1 for each item we took. It took us a while after the film to want to do anything other than just sit, think and talk about what we'd seen but, when we did, we had a lot of fun looking at each other's bits and bobs and picking out what took our fancy.

International Women's Day is over but we don't have to stop thinking about women all over the world who live, work and bring their families up in the face of challenges we could never really imagine. Three women who wanted to be with us, but couldn't are women who are bringing up children with very complex and life threatening conditions and another for whom, every day she wakes and breathes, she's defying all medical expectation. We all face huge challenges to get through the day but we know we have a home, food, heating, clothes and health care to enable us to get there. There is always space in our lives to remember and do something, no matter small, to help those who face the same challenges as we do but without all the things we have in the UK, the things we hardly even notice sometimes because we take them so much for granted.


Anonymous said...

I smiled when I saw your "bowel" many times have you typed that word over the years???

I found your blog via Emily T's,and have followed your story with interest. I am fortunate to be healthy and have healthy children but I try and spread the word about organ donation wherever I can
Alison, Surrey

Sarah Milne said...

lol thanks for pointing that out Alison. I always do that, as you say, I write and say bowel far more than bowl!
Thanks for spreading the word xx