Imagine spending years traveling to over 50 countries around the world using an anthropological approach to document your experiences via filmmaking. Then, imagine leaving your global adventures behind to nurture the ideas and development of your four children (currently spanning ages 14 to 8). Finally, imagine returning to your passion of “connect[ing] people cross-culturally,” but in a different way, by being a blogger, writing for various organizations that are dedicated to social good, and serving as a Champion for Shot@Life. That sounds like an amazing and fulfilling life. That is the story behind Documama’s creator, Elizabeth Atalay. I recently had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth about her blog, her children, and her commitment to Shot@Life.
Before sharing highlights from my interview with Elizabeth, I’d like to tell you a little about Shot@Life. Today, Shot@Life celebrates its 1st birthday and kicks off a 3-day #BirthdayBash during World Immunization Week (April 24-30, 2013). You may be asking, “What is Shot@Life?” No, it doesn’t have anything to do with photography (although, I am trying to think of a creative way to incorporate my photography into this cause). Shot@Life actually is a movement to ensure that children across the world receive the vaccines they need to live, grow, and thrive. Is this really important? Yes! Every 20 seconds, one child dies from a disease that easily could be prevented from a simple vaccine. We’re talking about diseases like diarrhea, polio, pneumonia, and measles. While these diseases typically are not life-threatening to children in the U.S., they are life-threatening in other countries. Shot@Life believes that all children deserve to have a fair shot at living, growing, and reaching their dreams…and so do I…and so does Elizabeth.
Me: You run the blog Documama. What is Documama all about?
Elizabeth: I started off thinking about doing a mommy blog and trying to hone it in on what I was passionate about. I found myself going back to writing about social good issues, and travel issues, and international issues, and I found that I was being drawn back to what I initially wanted to do, which was to educate and share stories with other moms… to raise awareness… and connect mothers globally about what goes on in other places.
Me: How do you decide what you are going to blog about?
Elizabeth: A lot of times I will hear about something or read about something that I think is really interesting and then decide that I want to do a post on that. Or I find a great product that I want to share with my friends or readers that I am excited about. I’m also part of Social Good Moms, [and they] have a Global Team of 200. So, twice a month…we have a team project that we are working on. This month it was a global newborn health conference in South Africa, for example.
Me: You mentioned that you also like to promote products you are excited about. I saw your blog post on the scarf, and I was like, “OMG! I have to have that scarf!”
Elizabeth: Those scarves are just amazing. Aren’t they gorgeous?! I’m actually wearing one right now. I’m also a ONE.org community partner. ONE is Bono’s organization, and that scarf…they have been working with a company called Fashionable. I own like 5 of them because they are just so beautiful, and they make me feel good about what they are doing to get women employed and off the streets and into better lives in Ethiopia, which is just so inspiring. It’s really exciting because we get feedback from ONE.org, and they heard from Fashionable that they were able to hire 3 new women after Christmas because of the blog posts that were written by the ONE moms community partners and all the people who went out and bought them. That’s 3 new women who have a new career and path in life.
Me: That’s so awesome because so often you don’t really get to hear how people have reacted to what you are blogging about and what impact it is making on the world. You’ve done a bit of traveling. During your travels, what did you notice about how healthcare and health conditions are similar to or different from the US?
Elizabeth: Just the fact that when you get what you think is a harmless scrape in some of these countries (that we wouldn’t even think about here), within a couple of days it becomes horribly infected, and if you don’t end up taking oral antibiotics for it, it can turn into a bone infection that could get into your blood, and you could die from it. Little things that aren’t a big deal here become a huge deal in places where there’s not a sanitary environment or Western medical solutions. [Related to] Shot@Life, like with my kids, when they would get diarrhea, I would just drive 5 minutes to the pediatrician and get something to help them, or if they are dehydrated, you just run them into the hospital, and they are fine. It’s not the biggest deal. But, in developing nations, so many babies die from diarrhea. Here, we don’t worry that much because it is so curable…and preventable in the first place.
Me: Speaking of Shot@Life, what made you want to become a Shot@Life Champion and how did you hear about them in the first place?
Elizabeth: I write and edit for World Moms Blog as well, and the founder of World Moms Blog, Jen Burden, is a Shot@Life Champion. She was actually going back to the conference this year as an advisor. Nicole Melancon is another World Moms Blog editor who was also a Shot@life Champion last year. So, they had been talking about it, and I saw them working on various Shot@Life issues throughout the year and thought it was so amazing that they were involved. So, when Jen told me that they were taking applications for this year’s Shot@Life summit, I was really eager to apply and really excited that I was accepted to become a Shot@Life Champion.
Me: So this is your first year as a Champion? (Elizabeth: Yep.) Cool. So, have you had a chance to participate in any of the Shot@Life events or hold one of your own events?
Elizabeth: I have not held my own event yet. I’ve done some press for [Shot@Life]. I’ve done a couple of articles that have turned up in the local online newspapers or in local news outlets. I have a couple of events coming up in the spring that will be fundraisers for Shot@Life. I’m really excited about a Rhode Island company; it’s a women-run company called Alex and Ani, and they have these great bracelets. So, they have these events called “Party With A Purpose,” and they give you a 2-hour block of time and give you 15% of the bracelet sales to go towards whatever organization you are raising funds for. It’s a fun and easy way to raise funds, and everyone wants to buy these bracelets anyway! There is also a clothing company called CAbi (Carol Anderson by Invitation), and I am going to be having [another shopping party], and all of the proceeds will be donated to Shot@Life. I’m hoping to go to a major pharmaceutical company’s location near where I live to speak to them about Shot@Life. Also, I have some friends who have become interested about becoming Shot@Life Champions, which is really exciting.
Me: What is one Shot@Life message that you would like people to know about and remember?
Elizabeth: The best message that I like to get out is that for the cost of your Starbucks coffee for the week, you can vaccinate a child against vaccine-preventable diseases for their entire lives. So, for $20, it’s an easy way to contribute. Also, just to let people be aware that things we take for granted, such as polio not being in America, we are just so close to eradicating. [By] maintaining these vaccination programs, within the next decade, we could eradicate polio entirely!
Me: What is the one lesson that you hope your children learn?
Elizabeth: I hope that they learn to respect other cultures and to give back when they have extra or more than someone else…to share…and to give back to society in a positive way…and to do things that are conscientiously driven in their lives.
Me: Finally, I know that Shot@Life wants all children to have a shot at something. So, what do you wish all children have a shot at?
Elizabeth: I wish all children would have a shot at becoming healthy adults. That’s my great hope for my own children, and I think that’s what all parents want…just to see their children grow up to be healthy adults.
I loved chatting with Elizabeth and getting a glimpse into her giving heart. If you’d like an easy way to get involved in the Shot@Life movement, you can “share it forward” by sharing one of Shot@Life’s Global Mom Relay posts online via Facebook, Twitter, or email. Every time that you do between now and May 3rd, Johnson & Johnson and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $5 to the Shot@Life Campaign. Also, check out the helpful links below.
Learn more about Documama
Learn more about Shot@Life