Celebrating Mothers. Clearly one day is not nearly enough to do the job justice. I believe the simple act of mothering a child is Herculean enough for ten holidays. Originally, Mother's Day was created for women to come together and offer their voices for peace. Today I'd like to showcase two mothers who are dedicating their lives to making a difference in the world. One is offering a new breed of computer games that address social justice, and the other is answering a dream to mother many children in Africa. Prepare to be inspired!
Called a "New Radical" by Huff Po's own Julia Moulden as well as a "New Revolutionary" by the Sundance Channel, Suzanne Seggerman is President and Co-founder of Games for Change (G4C) a non-profit and new movement promoting a new genre of videogames that engage players in the most pressing issues of our day: climate change, poverty, global conflicts. Called "the Sundance of video games" for "socially-responsible game makers", G4C is working with Microsoft, mTV, the United Nations and and a variety of NGOs. Suzanne recently won a MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Competition award. Check out her Huff Po article, "Does Obama Play Video Games?"
Suzanne worked as a documentary filmmaker at PBS for Frontline, when she had her first exposure to the power of video games. She was handed a video game about Central America that can gave her, 'an immediate and up close exposure to issues' to a depth far beyond what she had in other venues. She was hooked.
She had a daughter, and went to graduate school for interactive media, put up personal savings, and started Games for Change with her business partner, who was on unemployment. Together, they started creating a dream.
"After I had a child, my priorities changed, and any time I spent away from her had to be important," Suzanne reflected. "The idea of working for someone else was no longer appealing. I wanted to be doing something incredibly meaningful that made a contribution to the world in some way."
Some of the games are for kids and start at age 3 years old and up. My 10 year-old daughter and I played a game called "Ayiti: the Cost of Life" created by inner city youth in New York, and featuring a family in Haiti who needed to have money, get educated and be happy. It was engaging, tricky and taught us a lot.
"My advice on Mother's Day for those with younger kids is to sit down and play a video game with them. Enter their world and you may be surprised at how engaging they can be, while teaching about social issues," Suzanne suggested. "The computer is their world and a tool they will be using all their lives, why not show them how to use it well?"
The 6th annual Games for Change festival is on May 27-29th in NYC, and is the biggest game event and doubles every year. Called "the Sundance of video games" for "socially-responsible game-makers" the festival purpose is to, 'promote a new genre of video game - games to change the world - for the better."
From video game dreams, to literal dreams come to life - the other special mother I would like to introduce to you is Martha Hoffman. Martha is a mother of three and lives in a Northeastern shoreline suburb. Martha was a happy stay-at-home mom, and had no idea her call to mothering would go beyond her natural offspring and take her across the world.
"It all literally started with a dream one night," Martha began.
She had a dream about a woman who was far, far away caring for children who were very much in need. Eventually, she realized the woman in the dream was herself, but she couldn't figure out where the dream was. Over the course of seven years, the dreams came and went.
Gradually, the dreams became more frequent, until they were coming almost every night, and Martha could not figure out where the dream was. She decided to pray to help her understand what the dream meant. Finally, the dream came again, but this time at the end of it, her grandmother appeared in the dream and handed her a small bark cloth purse she had given Martha as a child. The purse was bought by a friend of her grandmother's who was a missionary in Uganda, Africa.
Martha woke up, and knew in every fiber of her being, the place was Uganda, and she had to go there and help the children. She had a mission, yet was so scared. She had no interest in Africa, and didn't even like to camp! Suddenly, images and stories of Uganda seemed to creep into her life almost constantly, until she gave in. Within four months, she was on a plane. She had no idea what she was supposed to do, but a sense when she got there, she would know.
"I saw poverty more intense than I could wrap my mind around sometimes," she said. "Everywhere I went, the stories and the people were so inspiring to me. There was tremendous beauty and happiness, in spite of such tragedy."
Most of the villages did not have access to fresh water, no toilet facilities and had malaria as common as an everyday cold. Only 50 feet below the ground had fresh water, but the villages had no money to dig a well.
Martha knew what to do.
She came home and began to raise money for a variety of projects including funding livestock, supporting orphans to go to school, and the largest project of all - raising funds to dig a well in a village that supported nearly 1,000 people.
Martha raised that $7900, and went back to help see the well put in. The villagers named the well "Martha," and they call her "Toto," which means Mother. In the past two years, Martha has started a non-profit called, "Call to Care Uganda", has managed to help plant 150 orange trees, deliver hundreds of pairs of Crocs and harmonicas to orphans, and dug four more wells to serve thousands.
Martha is living a dream; a destiny she never knew was planted in her the day her grandmother gave her a tiny purse from Africa, and again when she received it in her sleep.
By the way, guess what Martha's middle name is?
Martha Wells Hoffman.