“The shared bond of motherhood - it’s the reason I started MiaDonna
15 years ago.”
How would you feel if every morning you woke up not knowing if your child would survive the day? That your child could very likely be stolen, enslaved, raped or murdered. That is a question most of us have the luxury of never thinking about but for families living in diamond mining communities, still in 2020, this is their everyday reality.
When I found out I had most likely purchased a conflict diamond I wanted to make things “right” in my mind so I started sponsoring Ponpon, a 7-year-old boy living in Liberia, Africa. We exchanged letters and he gave me a first-hand look at what it was like to live in a diamond mining community rampant with constant violence and conflict. Over the years, my children and I have become close to Ponpon, and his mother, Maria. They’ve become family.
I think we can all agree, that regardless of where we live, motherhood, is often overwhelming, disorganized, and flawed. It’s a journey and never a destination. The days are long and we wear a brave mask to smile through the tears and hide our worry. We get up every day, pull ourselves together, and do what needs to be done because our kids are the reason we lose our minds, but also the reason why we hold it all together.
When I think about Maria, my heart aches to know there are mothers raising children in the middle of a civil war. I can’t imagine how much strength it takes, but I also can't imagine the amount of suffering. This is a war funded by the sale of conflict diamonds and gold, that women like me, wives, mothers, and daughters purchase and wear proudly. How did we let this happen?!
Women are generally compassionate and nurturing by nature, but by buying earth-mined diamonds and gold we are unintentionally hurting a whole generation of children; children with mothers desperately trying to keep them alive and safe.
That is when I started MiaDonna, when the sobering hard reality hit, “I funded the war.”
An Unimaginable Bond
Ponpon’s mother had her first child, in 1983 when she was just 19 years old. This was the year Liberia had become completely cut off from foreign aid and the streets of Monrovia became a scene of vicious street fighting. By 1985, it was a full-blown civil war.
In 1990, Maria gave birth to twin boys, when she was 26 years old. A few months later, her little boys died in her arms from starvation -- the senseless and preventable act of starvation.
I was the same age as Maria, 26 years old when I had my first child, Mia-Donna and we nearly didn’t survive the birth. After 32 hours of labor, poor Mia suffered major trauma. I was going in and out of consciousness but I remember getting a quick glimpse of her as they were rushing her off. She was gray and not making a sound.
I was told that Mia and I would have died that day if we had not been in a state of the art medical facility. Of course, I was eternally grateful for the doctors and community that saved my daughter and myself that day, but I am also grateful for the experience for it made me brutally aware of what needed to be done. It’s not right that my baby got to survive and Maria’s did not.
Too many women and children in under-developed countries are not as fortunate as Mia and I. This awareness fueled my drive and responsibility to Maria and all the other mothers of the world. I knew I had to work to improve the conditions in which she and her children live. Motherhood is a shared bond.
I’m thankful to have Ponpon and his mother as part of my family. My children call him their “brother”. I’m happy to report that Ponpon is doing well. He recently graduated from University and oversees our Foundation’s projects in Liberia. Maria now has her own business selling corn in the local market. They say I have changed their lives, but truly it is my life that has been forever impacted by this incredible mother and son and I am forever grateful for our shared bond.