By Rachel Peck, Volunteer
Mother’s Day…a day when we buy flowers, candy, or maybe treat mom to a special breakfast in bed. Seemingly one of the simpler holidays we celebrate, however, the origins of this special day were far less consumer-based.
Mother’s Day began, not just to show appreciation for our mothers and for the tremendous sacrifices they make to raise us as children, but to unify women and to teach them basic childcare skills. According to History.com, Mother’s Day, as we know it now, was championed by a woman named Anna Jarvis, in memory of her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis. In the years leading up to the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis started “Mother’s Day Work Clubs,” which were used to teach local women how to better care for their children during a time of high infant mortality rates.
After the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis began “Mother’s Friendship Day,” a day where “mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.”
In 1914, Mother’s Day officially became an American holiday.
Celebrated across the globe, with varying celebration dates and origins, Mother’s Day is a holiday that ultimately honors motherhood.
Today, too many mothers aren’t properly recognized for their monumental sacrifices. Women in underdeveloped countries spend hours a day, walking long miles simply to retrieve water for their families, to be used for drinking,washing, cooking and cleaning. In too many cases, this laboriously collected water is heavily contaminated and can cause a multitude of illnesses and even death, particularly in the youngest children. However, without water, their children face an even more certain death. These mothers are faced with seemingly impossible choices each day, just to care for their families.
According to UN-Water, “on average, globally, women and children spend 200 million hours every day collecting water.”
The mother’s struggle to protect her child begins even before birth. Waterborne illnesses and dehydration can be dangerous to a pregnant mother and can have harmful, lasting effects on the baby growing inside of her. After the birth, without access to safe water, women are forced to bathe their newborn babies in contaminated water. According to UN-Water, one in five newborns dies, due to exposure to unsafe water.
Once their children are old enough, they will join their mothers in walking the long miles each day to gather water; that’s if they’re not too sick from drinking this water. Water collection, and the ensuing illnesses caused by waterborne pathogens, often mean education and income among mothers and their children are sacrificed, negatively impacting their overall health and livelihood.
Pure Water for the World (PWW) works in underserved communities in Haiti and Honduras to support moms, their families and their communities, providing comprehensive safe water and sanitation solutions and healthy hygiene education, empowering them with the tools and foundation for lasting good health and prosperity.
PWW staff recently hosted a community meeting in Villa Rapatrie, a section of Cite Soleil, Haiti, the largest slum in the Western Hemisphere. This event was to inform community members that PWW will soon be returning to work in their area. Attendees included community agents, trained in the first phase of PWW’s work in Villa Rapatrie, as well as additional family members, a majority of whom were concerned mothers, who came to voice their interest in having a filter installed in their homes; hopeful to be a beneficiary in this second phase.
One mother who attended (pictured right) stood and shared her desire for a filter. She revealed that sometimes they do not have money to buy water. This leaves her no choice but to give her newborn dirty water to drink. As she shared, the mom’s face showed deep concern because she knows the risks that come with this water. But there is also hope in her voice; hope that one day very soon, she will have a filter in her home and never again have to worry about her family facing dehydration or illnesses caused by the dirty water.
Freeing mothers from the constraints of water gathering and the illnesses that come with unsafe water not only means healthier mothers and families, but it means these women have time to receive an education or join the workforce and help to provide monetary funds for their families.
Clean water means freedom from sacrifices no mother should ever have to make. No mother should have to choose between water contaminated with human waste or no water at all.
This Mother’s Day, join PWW in providing safe water, hygiene education and improved sanitation to mothers in Haiti and Honduras. Together, we can proactively embrace and take action to support what Mother’s Day initially started as…a day for mothers to join together, to learn from one another, to support one another, and to heal.