Happy Birthday Shot@Life!

shot_at_life_badge_300x250One of the incredible parts of being involved in the Shot@Life effort is meeting others who are also rallying for this important cause and to learn about their stories and ways they are engaged in this movement. I recently had the chance to ask new Champion Sili Recio about her involvement with Shot@Life. My questions and Sili’s answers are below!

Why did you get involved with Shot@Life?

I was born in a third world country. Though I moved to the states a month before my 5th birthday and had never missed an immunization up until then, I know others are not as fortunate. Going back to the Dominican Republic every summer allowed me to grow up understanding that there were some privileges here that others could not and might never have.  My mother was a big proponent and helper of children and I think I followed in her steps. I have the opportunity to continue her legacy by bringing awareness to the needs of so many children around the globe and how easily we can help. My mother lost her first child at 8 months old and in his honor I stand to prevent any number of the 1.5 million deaths that occur every year due to lack of vaccines. Can you imagine being able to save a child’s life with $20? That blows my mind every time I think about it.

Tell me in your own words about the Shot@Life Champions:

We are a community of people who understand that we may not be able to solve all of the problems of the world but that should not stop us from attempting to solve some. At least, that’s how I see it.  Shot@Life made sense for me. Being the mother of a 3-year old, I cannot imagine the possibility of losing her due to something that we sometimes fight on this side of the pond.

Why Shot@Life?

I was introduced to Shot@Life by a group of women that I love and admire.  Seeing their hard work in the last year really made me want to join in to their efforts. It takes a village, right?


Check out Sili’s blog at: http://mymamihood.com …and join the Shot@Life Birthday Bash here: http://shotatlife.org/blog/its-our-birthday-lets-celebrate-together.html

Giving Children a Healthy Shot@Life


As a former resident of Washington DC, I am used to the many tour buses that circle the city showing off the various monuments, historic sites and points of interest within the city.  It’s also quite common to walk into a hotel or office complex and see a list of various and diverse groups – local, regional, national and international – that are hosting conferences and conventions around town.  It makes sense that many groups would convene here – DC draws many people to learn, to exchange ideas, and to make those ideas known to those officials who are debating and shaping the laws that govern the Nation.

While I have studied, lived and worked in DC over many years of my life – today is a first for me. Today I arrive as one of those people who voyaged here to gather with others at a national conference to share, learn, and make some noise! This afternoon I will join dozens of other individuals from across the country for the shot@life Champions Summit.

We are a diverse group from many states and backgrounds – but we share a commitment to children and to ending the heart-breaking truth that one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine.

Over the next three days we will learn more about the power of vaccines and ways we can all take action to decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths.  I am excited and grateful for the opportunity…and hope you will follow updates from the Summit and the Champions! To learn more, go to ShotAtLife.org.

Giving others a Shot@Life on this #GivingTuesday

Last week my son Oliver had ear tubes implanted into his ears.  His first year was full of recurring ear infections, fevers and sleepless nights…after which his pediatrician recommended the procedure. Even though ear tubes are a fairly common and “routine” procedure in modern medicine and one that will result in less pain and an improved hearing capacity for Oliver, my husband and were still nervous. We researched, we consulted an Ear Nose & Throat specialist and several others in the medical field before we decided to proceed…and even then the road was full of worry.  The process intimidated me as a mother – anesthesia was required as was recovery time, pre-surgery and post-surgery check-ins. I could not help but be concerned about the “what ifs…”

The night before his procedure, my mother (“Nana” to Oliver) sent me the following note: “I just want you to know that Nana is thinking of you all right now.  One of the hardest things bringing up children is doing what is best for them when they do not understand it and when you are the one making the decisions. I know you are doing what is best for him and soon it will be all over. “

My mom was right…Oliver is already back to his energetic and slightly mischievous self, and I am now breathing a sigh of relief knowing that his hearing will be improved and he won’t suffer from unnecessary pain or irritation in the future. I can’t help but feel very fortunate: Oliver’s surgery was an elective one that will enable him to stay healthy…one that was observed and tracked by various professionals. My son was treated in a modern, clean, and well-equipped medical clinic.  He will receive check-ups in the coming weeks to ensure he’s healing well and he will resume his ongoing check-ups, immunizations, and preventive care that he has been blessed to receive all of his life.

But what about those mothers and fathers who are not able to give their children what they know is best for them and their development?  What if there is no access to medical facilities and preventive care? There’s nothing more challenging as a parent than watching your child suffer any pain, or witnessing them fight an illness – especially a preventable one. I have visited and worked in many regions of the world in which Oliver would certainly not have access to an ENT specialist, and in fact where diseases that could have been prevented by a vaccine could fatally injure him – as they do one child every 20 seconds. Imagine being in a situation where your child is faced with such dire and dramatic health challenges, and as a parent you are not able to provide relief.

What so many of us consider standard, preventive care is a faraway dream for so many children and families in the world.  On this Giving Tuesday, I am thinking about the millions of sons and daughters around the world that deserve a “shot at life” and how we can support them. Expanding access to vaccines can prevent an additional 1.5 million deaths a year. We can all help make that happen.

Shot@Life is movement to protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are most needed. Learn more here: http://shotatlife.org/

Learn more about #Giving Tuesday here: http://givingtuesday.org/

A Birthday with a Message

Yesterday was my birthday.
The day got me thinking about my birthdays over the years and the emotions that have accompanied them.
As a young cub, birthdays are highly anticipated, big, blissful, and full of goodness- One of my favorite childhood photos is one of me with a bright yellow crown, eyes wide open as I am about to dive into a massive chocolate cake, complete with “COCO is 3” emblazoned in green icing.  I now see the excitement so clearly from the vantage point of a mother to two young boys. “Mama, when is my birthday? Mama, I want a police helicopter for my birthday. Mama, I will be five on my birthday and Oliver will be three on his birthday…but Mama, my birthday comes first. Mama, I think on my next birthday I will be big….” Birthdays of youth are bursting with all things good: cake(s), friends, songs, parties, a nap-free day, a breaking-the-rules day…joy! Birthdays can’t come quick enough…and they can’t last long enough for most lucky kiddos.
As the years continued and adolescence dawned, some fears crept into my birthday process. I remember the school year starting and feeling a slight pressure to ensure that I could rally a crowd by mid September. (“What if no one comes to my party? What if no one acknowledges my birthday? What if everyone does, and it’s embarrassing?”) Somehow, more questions became a part of the birthday: Am I too old to have a party?  Why am I developing so slowly? So quickly?  No doubt these birthdays remained a source of excitement, but some intimidation and self-judgement joined the annual event.
Early adulthood and the years that follow brought a range of feelings and emotions. There were the milestone birthdays… (I can drive! I can vote! I can drink! Should I be more settled? What about relationships and family? Baby? Work?) There was plenty of fun and celebration, but birthdays also became a check-point and sometimes a source of anxiety if some part of life was deemed lacking or troublesome.  Some years I avoided the actual number, fearing I was “too old” in certain environments but might be penalized for being “too young” in others. No need to always state the year of birth, right?
This year I turned 37. No big milestone…and a day in a year that has been challenging on many levels. Yet somehow this birthday probably taught me more than any other has to date. This year my birthday delivered a message: don’t take this day for granted.
The seemingly simple ability to track and contemplate birthdays over decades of life is a sign of incredible good fortune. I can only imagine what my father would have done to celebrate just one more birthday here on Earth with his loved ones — or what we would do to have him here for just one more day.  And on a global level – a single birthday is a goal that is out of reach for far too many people, infants, children, parents. I have witnessed this first-hand in my work with communities struggling with health epidemics, drought, and poverty…yet at times I still drift and can be consumed by much less important concerns and fears.
This year reminded me that birthdays are a true privilege – and I hope my 37th year will be guided by the joy and the call to service that they inspire…as well as the gratitude to everyone who has supported my birthdays along the way!
A very cool way to celebrate birthdays by giving children around the world a shot at life:  http://shotatlife.org/act/

Trapper Keepers, First Days, and Walking through the Doorway

Today is the first day “back to school” for my two boys, Felix and Oliver.  Though they are only 4 and 2, their “First Day of School” conjured up powerful emotions in me – and also taught me a lesson by experiencing the day through the lens of a parent.

During grade school years, I remember vividly the annual trip with my mom to K-Mart or one of the big stores to purchase pencils, notebooks, folders…and if I was lucky: a Trapper Keeper! There was something so magical about choosing bright-colored papers, perfectly sharpened pencils, and unblemished erasers…. almost anything seemed possible for the year ahead with fresh school supplies.

Every year there was also the anticipation of sharing the adventures and the “news” of the summer with friends. Today Oliver’s big news was “no more pacifier!” and Felix’s was “I got my first real haircut!” (Certainly over the years these news items will change dramatically.) But along with excitement there is also some anxiety around what changes might occur in the coming year – from new faces to new activities and subjects.

Felix and Oliver both woke up eager to get to school – quickly packing bags with their snacks, racing to get dressed, and running to the tram to reunite with their friends, teachers, and beloved classroom toys.  As we approached the school however– the excitement turned quickly (and visibly) to fear.  Sure, the classroom was appealing with fun toys and crafts and friendly faces; but it was also scary to enter a new stage…even at the age of 2. Or 4. New lesson plans and announcements welcoming new students were hung outside the various doors – all signs of the changes ahead for the boys. Summer had been fun, free, and comfortable – and while today was exciting – change is not easy.

Now we were heading to a new beginning – time to take the next step into an unknown.

Both boys cried, both boys needed extra hugs and kisses, and both boys reluctantly – and fearfully entered their respective classrooms.  They walked through the doorways and after a few minutes, forgot the fears that had grounded them on the other side of the door.  I could hear them both engaged in play and music before I had left the building – fully present and in the moment. Hours later at pick-up time, both boys ran into my arms bursting with “news” and reports on the day and questions about what was for dinner tonight.

I learned something in the short span of hours today…the lessons of the “first day of school” still have resonance.  It’s time for me to walk through a doorway. I admire Felix and Oliver’s steps and their ability to dive into these new environments, even after short-lived moments of crying.   Watching Felix, Oliver and their classmates this morning, and even more so this afternoon – I realized that I have allowed my own self-doubt and anxiety to keep me from leaping into a new stage of life in this new city of Berlin.

I believe parenting involves steadily letting go of one’s children so they can dive in and become the people they are meant to be in the world. Today as a parent I again loosened my grip ever so slightly on these two little boys.  They need to grow, they need to make mistakes, they need to fall down and keep on going – and so do I.  It’s time to let go of my own fears – and walk through a new doorway.