Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mobilization Efforts!

I've spent the past week considering my main platform issue and have chosen that raising awareness and funds for Operation Smile would be the most fulfilling for me given how cleft lip and palate touches my life personally (see 8/21 posts).

So far, I've initiated some planning for a charity golf tournament in April 2010, linked Operation Smile to my Facebook profile (subsequently inviting 300 friends to join the cause and establishing an additional $500 pledge in addition to my original OneSmile page's honorary fund), and have spoken with my school's FBLA advisor about pitching Operation Smile to her members as the beneficiary for our staff's annual Casual for a Cause fund. I've also very thankfully been put in touch with Dena Liston, an executive at Operation Smile headquarters, and she is having the donor relations team send me a grassroots organizing kit. I have many other ideas, as well, and am looking to partner with local attractions like The Promenade Shops in order to organize events like benefit shopping.

Finally, I've also purchased the feature film Smile, a story based on a student volunteer's experience on a medical mission, as well as the children's book The Smile That Went Around the World, which shares the message of a simple smile's impact in making someone's day. I hope to use these two items to help raise awareness during the events I'm planning, as well as to provide more information for potential partners in organizing these events. More details on where to purchase these items can be found here.

If anyone has any additional ideas for mobilizing my efforts or wishes to partner with me in organizing an event, please feel free to contact me...I would love to hear from you!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Planned Parenthood & Women's Reproductive Health Care Reform

Today I was sent an appeal via Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates to write a letter to the editor on Women's Reproductive Health Care Reform. In case it does not get published (I sent it to The Morning Call and The Express Times, so keep your eyes peeled), I am reprinting it here.

Subject: Playing the Gender Card in Health Care Reform

To the Editor:

In the debate about health care reform, I am disappointed that while (albeit legitimate) discussion has centered around costs and government-run systems, little has focused on women's reproductive health care, an ambiguous term that arouses thoughts of mandated abortion coverage in right-wing minds.

Therefore, let me make myself clear. Reproductive health care does not just include abortion, and doesn't necessarily mandate abortion. Reproductive health care means preventive care including breast and cervical exams; STD testing and prevention; and access to contraception. While beliefs about contraception vary, ACCESS does not mandate its use--it just means that if one DOES choose to use it or any of the other aforementioned PREVENTIVE health care options, she will not have to pay out-of-pocket.

It is sad that our country allows coverage of Viagra over routine, life-saving women's health care, a statement proven in part by the fact that women pay 68% more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men. It is also sad that in a nation that denounces teen pregnancy, health care reform discussions threaten to eliminate preventive coverages provided by Planned Parenthood, the only option for some teens to prevent pregnancy. I know that when I reached childbearing age and knew I needed preventive care, Planned Parenthood was my only option for obtaining it. I am confident, based on my own experience, that if women's reproductive health care is not addressed further in health care reform, consequences would be devastating for millions of women across the nation.


Mrs. Kate A. Mack
Allentown, PA

To get involved in this or any other issues surrounding women's reproductive health, please consider joining the Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Action Network.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

EmPoWeReD Birth

Today's post centers around the newly formed organization EmPoWeReD Birth. Please visit their Facebook fan page for more information.

I know I haven't had children yet and so am considered ignorant to the ins and outs of the process, but I do think it's important to make sure women are educated about their options and thereby don't get coerced into unnecessary interventions during a hospital labor and delivery.

My story with this organization goes back to when I had a reflexology appointment with a lovely classmate of mine from high school named Kaitlynn. We spent time catching up on our lives and she told me about her children and how she had two all-natural homebirths. I was astonished, floored, and immediately she became my new hero. Prior to speaking with her, I knew of nothing other than the lithotomy (on the back) position type of birth in a hospital, as well as a bit about waterbirth just because another acquaintance of mine sent photos of her (very new) newborn being held inside the birthing tub. Regardless, I asked Kaitlynn a few questions and she mentioned how she had a midwife, a doula, and a birthing tub and stool. Still wide-eyed at everything but the prospect of a doula (which I've known for a while I wanted to consider using when the time came), I, as usual, felt compelled to learn more.

I spent three solid days learning about, essentially, the lack of access to an in-hospital, midwife-attended birth in the Lehigh Valley. I also learned that there are no birth centers in the area, and that in most cases, you can seek the services of a midwife through a regular OB office and he or she can provide your prenatal care and help you develop your birth plan, BUT, he or she also takes on-calls just like the docs within the practice and so might not be there to deliver your baby. Water birth, as well, is not a readily available option in a hospital unless you see a prenatal provider outside of the Lehigh Valley, of which the one I found inconveniently doesn't take my insurance. Finally, the only midwife in the area who attends homebirths is in such high demand that she isn't accepting first-time moms as new clients.

So why, you may ask, do I even care so much as long as mom-to-be ends up with a healthy baby? After questioning Kaitlynn even further in the days that followed my reflexology appointment, she recommended the documentary The Business of Being Born. I downloaded it on iTunes and watched it, had my husband sit through the most poignant parts, and discussed its contents in depth. I told him about my research and the lack of access to all of these options, and while we have an idea of the type of birth we want when the time comes, we're still not sure how we're going to make that happen.

As a result, I think the advocacy work of EmPoWeReD Birth is vital toward enabling birthing options in the Lehigh Valley. I hope you, too, will consider becoming a fan of their page on Facebook and inquiring about how you may help.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Please visit the FAQ's located at the Operation Smile page in order to learn more about the condition of cleft lip and palate.

A New Journey

Two days back I sent an e-mail to 100 friends and acquaint- ances regarding my new-found interest in Operation Smile, a cause which organizes volunteers who travel around the world on mission trips to repair the smiles of infants and children born with cleft lips and palates. The cause touches me personally, as my dear friend Susie's baby was born with cleft lip and palate, and it is a journey I've chosen to travel along with her as one of her closest friends, ever since she discovered at her 20-week sonogram that little Liam would be born with this condition. Long story/short, I've been on the receiving end of phone calls from Susie while her weeks-old baby was being admitted to the hospital and treated like a pin cushion, witnessed him turn bright red/bordering on blue due to accidental choking while feeding, and learned the ins and outs of caring for an infant with cleft lip and palate...something I never imagined encountering in my life.The e-mail itself announced the honorary fund I'd established in Liam's name to support the efforts of Operation Smile and explained how contributions funded the mission trips that allow volunteers to perform $240, hour-long surgeries that change children's lives forever. In case you still aren't convinced why I've been so moved by this cause, think to yourself if you looked in the mirror and your smile were deformed. For cleft lip and palate children, portions of their lips are missing. If you've had orthodontic work in the past or are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment, think of how painful it is and how you might have been made fun of by classmates in school. For cleft lip and palate children, classmates make fun of them to the point that grade-school aged children refuse to leave their homes. At the very least, take your tongue and touch the roof of your mouth right now. Cleft lip and palate children don't even have a roof of their mouth (as we know it) to touch with their tongues, and no protective barrier between their nasal passages and throat. If any of these concepts affect you in the least, then you have a small understanding of why I feel Operation Smile's work is so important.

Unfortunately, the very first e-mail I received in response to the appeal was an extremely negative criticism toward me from a family member I will not name, regarding family matters I will not detail here. After a bout of tears at the callousness of the message, I regrouped and decided that this would not deter me from my efforts. In fact, merely minutes later, another angelic friend of mine messaged me right away to let me know she was the first to contribute...

I thank her sincerely, from the bottom of my heart--and very truly hope you will join her.

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