Where do I begin when introducing a force of nature like Jen Burden? Jen and I have had a longer e-relationship than a face to face one but for Jen, this is par for the course.
Jen has spent the last four years building a vibrant and engaged network of world mothers, sharing stories, working towards common causes at World Mom's Blog, named one of Forbes 100 Best Websites for Women. So I think she might agree that some of her best friendships are conducted almost entirely virtually with her now over 60 World Moms.
Her work has earned her many accolades but I think the ones that matter most to her are the affirmations she gets from contributing moms and her readers for all the good her blog has done for them by enabling them to support each other across oceans and borders. We sat down with Jen to learn more about the genesis of the idea and its impressive growth. But I think what shines through most from this interview, is the good karma that has propelled the warm hearted Jen into a world she never imagined.
1) Where do you live now and with whom? I live in New Jersey, USA with my husband and two little daughters.
2) When did the idea for World Moms Blog first come to you? I know the exact date. It was October 1st, 2010. I was searching for a blog that focused on stories of mothers from around the world, but I couldn't find it. All of a sudden I felt a rush of heat straight to my cheeks. "It doesn't exist! Should I start this? I think I'm gonna start this!"
I decided that I'd launch the blog on November 1st and spent a month reading "Blogging for Dummies" and "WordPress for Dummies", and fearlessly contacting every international mom I knew about writing. There was a lot of rejection! We launched with a handful of mothers from the US, an American mom living in the UK and my Norwegian friend in Norway!
3) Give us a snapshot of how WMB is doing now...go ahead....toot your horn! I end every year dwelling only on the things I haven't done until I write the WMB year in review. And then I think, "Wow, did that really all happen?" For the past two years in a row World Moms Blog has been listed by FORBES Woman in their "Best 100 Websites for Women." The New York Times Motherlode named us a "must read."
We write from over 20 countries, have over 60 contributors and almost 20 editors. Everyone is a volunteer. We've ran some amazing social media campaigns for social good with organizations like Save the Children, One.org, Plan International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to name a few.
4) Why do you think it is important for mothers to connect across borders? As a child, I was called a "stupid terrorist" by my classmates, a nasty stereotype based on my Lebanese heritage. I remember thinking, if everyone knew my Sito (Lebanese for grandmother), then they'd know not all Arabs are terrorists. I think that was my first experience with how wrong stereotypes could be. It took me a while after starting World Moms Blog to make the connection between that experience and what I'm doing today. We created a way for readers to be welcomed into a snippet of the lives of women around the world and to get to know them. Our contributors are unified in wanting a better world for our children, and the website really fosters a sisterhood of "us" not "them".
5) Can you tell us a story of a "how did I get here" moment you've had with WMB? In October of 2012 I found myself in western, rural Uganda with a scarf around my head touring the inside of a mosque with an Imam. When I launched World Moms Blog from my couch in New Jersey, I never imagined this. I was invited to Uganda by the UN Foundation and their Shot@Life campaign to view UNICEF's Family Health Days in Uganda, where life-saving vaccinations are distributed to children under 5 years of age. It is a cause close to my heart, and this trip opened up my eyes to so many other aspects of global health. It was definitely life-changing and helped define World Mom Blog's social good work for the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We started our #Moms4MDGs campaign in August 2013 and anyone can join us on Facebook or Twitter.
6) What plans do you have for WMB in 2014? In addition to our #Moms4MDGs campaign, World Moms Blog will run a campaign for CleanBirth.org, which helps train midwives and supplies sterilized birth kits in the country of Laos, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates. This is our second annual campaign with CleanBirth.org, and last year our contributors and readers helped them supply over 100 birth kits! In WMB behind the scenes we have a global team of contributors that have stepped in to editing and supervisory positions that help free me up to work on our strategic planning. We have an international World Moms Blog conference in the pipeline. You can subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date!
7) How do you balance a growing blog with mothering your two girls? No sleep. True story. At one point, I got so engulfed in the web site that it was taking up a disproportionate amount of time in my life. But now we have an editing team, and World Moms Blog is no longer just me behind a curtain.
8) What would you like your girls to take from the work you do as they grow? I'd like them to treat everyone with respect, and know that we are all the same and that there is a world outside of suburban New Jersey, USA. Raising them as global citizens is important to me. Both are being taught French and my eldest attended Chinese school. They have pen pals as far away as Japan and Uganda and I always to to expose them to culture through cooking and experiencing new cuisine. And of course, based on my experience, I want them to know that if they can dream something up, then they can make it happen!