I am throwing down the gauntlet. I want to see which group of readers is more caring and more committed to the welfare of women and babies — my readership here at Boulder Weekly or my readership as a novelist. Allow me to put this in context.
Last December, I asked romance readers who follow my blog to put together a donation to International Midwife Assistance (IMA), a local nonprofit that provides free comprehensive care to women and their children in Soroti, Uganda. I told them how local women, motivated by writer/activist Jennifer Heath, had responded to the crisis facing women in Afghanistan and how that had led to the creation of IMA. I told them how IMA helped establish a midwifery school in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, and was then forced by the resurgence of the Taliban to leave Afghanistan. And I told them how IMA saves lives every day, helping women to give birth safely and providing vaccines and treatment for malaria, tuberculosis and other illnesses.
About a dozen of my readers and a couple of fellow authors took up the issue, putting small contributions of $10 to $25 together and mailing me a donation, which I matched and mailed to IMA. It certainly wasn’t the biggest donation IMA has ever received, but it was something. And all of it went to IMA’s Teso Safe Motherhood Project in Soroti, Uganda.
That was December. Fast forward to Monday evening, when I got home to discover a card in my mailbox and inside another check — this one more than double the amount of the first. Made out to IMA, it was my readers’ gift to me in honor of the release of my 10th book. They wanted to help me celebrate this milestone, and they know how important IMA and its work in Uganda is to me. More than that, they care.
Most of them are mothers, and the idea of a woman dying in childbirth — no epidurals, just agony until you’re dead — horrifies them as much as it does me. They also can’t imagine the grief of repeated stillbirths. But that is reality in Uganda.
There, tens of thousands of women and children continue to live in IDP camps — camps for internally displaced persons — having fled violence at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (which is currently devastating the Congo) and the Karamojong Cattle Warriors. They arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs, some of the women pregnant by rape, many bereaved over the loss of children to the LRA, which, in addition to raping women and killing people, enslaves young boys as child soldiers and little girls as sex slaves.
IMA is hosting a fundraiser on May 5 to help fund its Teso Safe Motherhood Project, which now includes a family planning clinic that enables these desperately poor women to choose whether or not they want to space their pregnancies and limit the number of children they bear. (IMA has nothing whatsoever to do with abortion.)
So here’s my challenge to readers of this column — meet or beat my fans’ contribution of $475 to IMA by May 6 and show this locally based nonprofit that Boulder cares.
The amount is hardly overwhelming for an affluent community like Boulder. That’s 50 donations of $10 each or 25 checks of $20 — chump change to the average SUV driver.
Here’s how to do it: Go to www.midwifeassist.org, read about their work and follow the links to donate online. In the comment box, write “Boulder Weekly challenge.” Or mail a check with the words “Boulder Weekly challenge” written on it to International Midwife Assistance, PO Box 916, Boulder, CO 80306- 0916.
Online donations must be made by 11:59 p.m. on May 5, and checks must be postmarked May 5.
I’ll let you know how it goes — whether thousands of people in liberal Boulder can live up to the kindness of just a dozen romance readers.