IDG 2017 – Girls & Books for Books 4 Girls

Happy International Day of the Girl Child!

Today we celebrate girls, near and far. We celebrate their strengths, achievements, potential and success. We also get to shine a light on some formidable obstacles girls around the world face day to day. Education is at the top of this list.

Did you know over 130,000,000 girls do not have access to education today?

No, that is not a typo. There are indeed 7 zeros in that number. This is shocking. Horrifying, really. I am thankful for organizations like and their #girlscount campaign for bringing these statistics to light.


It is said that if you educate a girl, you educate the world. There is much truth to this:

Educated girls… are healthier citizens and raise healthier families, recover faster from conflict and help stabilize communities, contribute to an increased GDP. 

Educated girls… are more likely to find work, are less likely to get married early (thus fighting child marriage), are less likely to have children too early, are more likely to have healthier children, are less likely to die in childbirth 

But what about when you have to flee your home because of war, genocide and natural disasters? What about education in emergency situations? According to UNICEF: 

  •  1 in 4 of world’s out-of-school children live in crises-affected countries
  • In 35 crisis-affected countries, humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises disrupted the education of 75 million children between the ages of 3 and 18.
  • Over 17 million school-aged children in those countries are refugees, displaced within or outside their countries, and of these, only half attend primary school, while less than a quarter are in secondary school.
  • For children who attend school during emergencies, the quality of education can be low, with an average of 70 pupils per teacher, who are often unqualified.
  • Girls in conflict-affected settings are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.

Education is a lifeline for children in crisis situations. 

For children in emergencies, education is lifesaving. Schools give children stability and structure to help cope with the trauma they have experienced.  Schools can protect children from the physical dangers around them, including abuse, exploitation and recruitment into armed groups. In many cases, schools also provide children with other lifesaving interventions, such as food, water, sanitation and health.

Parents and children affected by crisis consistently name education as one of their top priorities. Because when children get an education, despite circumstances, whole societies benefit: education can boost economic growth, reduce poverty and inequality. Education also contributes to restoring peace and stability.


This is precisely why I am so thrilled to be partnering with One Refugee Child through Somebody’s Mama today. On this special day, why not draw attention to and fund programs that will enable refugee girls (and boys) to get back into school and be given a chance to work towards a brighter future?!

One Refugee Child raises funds to improve the day-to day lives of refugee children through projects that focus on health, development and education. We believe in pragmatism.  We believe in simplicity. We believe in initiating specific projects that reflect changing needs and conditions on the ground. Most importantly, we believe in bringing comfort to children in crisis. 

Through identifying a dynamic set of very targeted and specific initiatives, we are able to fund projects that are most needed now; those that can have the biggest impact on refugee childrens’ day-to-day lives today. Once a project is established or completed, we adapt to the changing conditions and needs of refugee children and begin another micro-initiative. At any given time, we may have 1 to 5 projects underway, with a commitment never to dilute the meaningfulness of each project.


Through Somebody’s Mama’s funding campaign, we are hoping to raise over $10,000 to fill 15 refugee schools in Turkey with libraries consisting of 150 books each. These schools have been identified as being uniquely qualified to aid Syrian refugee children in their educational needs. Every book is a key towards unlocking a healthier, more productive life for these children.

Will you join us in making a difference in over 4500 children’s lives? 

I have reached out to women and girls in my own community, photographing them with their favorite books in their favorite places in exchange for their partnership in funding a library in a refugee school in Turkey. I am fortunate to be raising my 3 girls in one of the highest performing counties in America, education wise. We are literally drowning in books, resources, libraries around here. Our education administration takes to heart the growing number of statistics identifying reading/being read to as a child as one of the most consistent markers of educational success. Reading is a BIG DEAL. And rightly so.

Girls and their books advocating for books for refugee girls. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to give back on this special day.

Here are the faces and smiles, silliness and seriousness of the girls and women in my community who do not take their education or books for granted. Books have enhanced our lives, even changed our lives at times. Books have transported us, comforted us.

We recognize how fortunate we are, and we want girls the world over to have access to books, libraries and education… just like us. 




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International Day of the Girl Child


October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child. Haven’t heard of it? Check out this site and this one. It is a day to both celebrate girls the world over, and face the facts of the struggles girls face worldwide. Lack of equal access education for girls is one of the most pressing issues of our day. There are numerous studies and statistics that we have seen over and over showing how getting girls into schools addresses a myriad of global issues from poverty, to underage pregnancy and even to the rise of a country’s GDP. From ONE.ORG:

Research shows that investment in education, with a focus on girls, may be one of the most effective in the developing world. By equipping a child with knowledge and skills, education delivers society-wide development returns.

Countries that increase the number of women with a secondary education by 1% could boost their annual per capita income by 0.3% according to last World Bank figures in 2011.

It has been estimated that if all women completed primary education, the under-five mortality rate would fall by 15% in low- and lower- middle-income countries, saving almost a million children’s lives every year.


My girls go to a top rated school in one of the country’s (yes, country not county) highest rated counties education wise. They are also voracious readers, as am I. At this year’s “back to school” nights, every teacher and administrator, from the elementary level to the middle school level sounded like a broken record: READ READ READ. The number one indicator of academic success, they all said, is reading and being read to, consistently.


Now, imagine your children going to a school with no books in it. With no library. Imagine living in a home with no books or access to public libraries. I can’t even imagine it because I have always had a comfortable blanket of books around me as far back as I can remember. My girls have as well.


Seeing that picture? Now, try to imagine having to run for your life from your home country to a foreign country because of the violence of war. Imagine having to pull your kids out of school because it got bombed. Imagine having to start over in a new country with a new language. Imagine wanting nothing but for your children to be able to go to school again, to live a “normal” life again, free of terror and trauma, and have the opportunity to better their lives through education.

This is the story for the Syrian families living in Turkey as refugees. My friends at Somebody’s Mama (SM) are partnering with a local, female-led non-profit in Istanbul who want to help get these children back into school. I can’t imagine the horror of what these precious families have had to endure. But I CAN imagine their hopes and dreams for their girls and boys. They are the same hopes and dreams I have for my own.


This fall, SM will be partnering with One Refugee Child to support refugee schools in Turkey through Project Bright Future. ORC has identified and vetted privately-run schools for Syrian children living in Turkey. At this time, these schools are the best option for educating kids who are dealing with the challenges of language barriers, war trauma, cultural differences, and overall acceptance in a new land.

SM has committed to providing the books needed to start libraries in 15 schools across Istanbul. The book bundles are purchased from Turkish booksellers, which stimulates the economy of a developing nation, and include books in Arabic, Turkish, and English. Each set of books is geared toward children aged 6-14.


In the spirit of Humans of New York, I will be photographing 35 girls and women with their favorite books over the next few days. In exchange for the full resolution edited images, I am asking each family to donate $20 to SM via our Pure Charity site. Together, I hope we can raise $700 to fully fund one entire school library with 150 books (50 English, 50 Arabic and 50 Turkish).

(my oldest with her current favorite book)

On October 11, 2017, the International Day of the Girl Child, I will be releasing the images and stories of girls and women in our community and the power of books in our education and quality of life. And together we will be giving back by funding one refugee school’s library. I can’t think of a better way to connect the dots across the world with refugee parents, school administrators and children who long to get lost in a story and learn about the world around them.


Although I will only be photographing local families, will you consider donating to the cause?

Do you have a favorite book? Is there a story about how this book has impacted your life? Please share it with me (email: chelsea at chelseahudson dot com or share on facebook) and I will post it on my facebook page!

Some books are our escape. Some are our salvation. Some transport us. Some ground us. And some literally change our lives. Tell me about yours and please consider leaving a tax deductible donation on the site below!



Thank you for advocating for refugee children to have access to a quality education!

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  • Kim

    Enjoyed reading your blog… love that you’re donating time and talents for this cause… these girls deserve a chance!ReplyCancel

One Year Later – Remembering the Congo

I am feeling quite nostalgic and a bit emotional these days. When I open up my Timehop app and Facebook I am reminded that a year ago today, I was driving through the DR Congo with my One Million Thumbprints team. (I have posted about this experience in depth here  if you are interested or haven’t read.) None of us knew what to expect, and many of us were blindsided by some of the experiences. But we were all there for a reason. To bear witness. To listen. To look. To see.

It has taken me approximately 365 days to process this experience, and I am not sure I am finished. It was heavy, deep, painful, stressful, exciting, wonderful, epic, unforgettable. 1MT has been posting some of our thoughts and blog posts on Wednesdays leading up to the 1 year anniversary of our Kilimanjaro climb on March 8. Last week, my fellow teammate and now wonderful friend, Ruth, shared her vulnerable and honest thoughts about one particular experience we had in the Congo, at a fistula hospital. She expressed, so beautifully and painfully, what many of us were thinking, feeling and experiencing during that time as well.


(originally posted at

It is commonly purported that smell is the most sensitive of our senses and has the strongest connection to memory. When I put myself back into that room of the hospital, it is the smell that hits me first. Perhaps the disorientation began with the smell, but maybe it was the surprise factor. Was this visit on our itinerary? Did I miss it? Was there an announcement or a description of the place that I overlooked? Was the group prepared somehow in my absence?

When our team of American peacemakers and mountain climbers entered the fistula hospital, it felt wrong.

The hospital blindsided me. I have been to some terrible places and I have sat in clinics in Africa with bodies stricken with advanced HIV disease, but that hospital was beyond anything I have experienced.

Of course we were there to advocate for women like the ones lying motionless on cots, but our very bodies felt way to loud—to big, too bright, too much. We lumbered through the gate and across a courtyard in plain view of an assortment of men, women and children who sat on plastic chairs staring at us. We were the anomaly, the strangers visiting their misery.

The smell began at the entrance and increased as we made our way into one of the buildings on the hospital’s property. This smell of incontinence, blood and dust was overpowering. Like a haze, it made it hard for me to focus. I was toward the back of the group and tried to smile and wave to the bystanders. I did not want them to think that we were simply a foreign mob of voyeurs, but maybe we were?

Our guides shepherded us into a relatively small recovery room where several women occupied beds tucked against every wall and corner. A doctor was describing each of the patients and how the hospital addressed the profound surgical needs they presented. Our group was so large that there was no room to spare, so he would pivot his body and point to each of the women while describing their particular horror. One woman had endured multiple surgeries to her “front side” and they still had not been able to address the “other side.” He lamented that the surgeries thus far did not appear to be particularly successful.

She lay listening to him describe her body’s injuries in a language she did not understand while fifteen odd, white faces stood over her taking in this information.

Why was he doing this? Why were these women being subjected to this kind of objectification? Wasn’t it enough that they had been brutally attacked by multiple men while simply tending their garden, walking to the neighbor’s, or hiding in the kitchen cupboard while militia solders hunted them like animals?

Wasn’t our presence just adding to their humiliation and degradation?

And, to think that these women were the lucky ones—the ones who had connections to medical care and the privilege of being in this place…



Ruth, playing with little *Grace, smiling so as to not weep.


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My favorite mini session/fundraiser event is back! LOVE GIVES is a fun way to kill several birds with one rather inexpensive stone:

A mere $60 will secure the following:

  • 15 minute session block
  • set of custom created valentines cards
  • $30 donation to either LOVE146 or Preemptive Love Coalition
  • 1 digital file

This year I am partnering with two amazing organizations who exemplify LOVE to the most vulnerable in our world… child survivors of sex trafficking, and Syrian/Iraqi refugees.

Preemptive Love Coalition has been on the ground in Aleppo and Mosul all while hell literally broke loose. Instead of retreating to safety, they ducked and moved TOWARDS the thousands who were either trapped behind enemy lines or fleeing for their lives. Preemptive Love feeds and cares for thousands of families, including children, who have faced the worst the world has to offer.

LOVE146 has been on the front lines fighting against child sexual exploitation and rescuing children out of the “trade.” I have long supported the wonderful work of this organization and am so happy to know these precious survivors of unimaginable evil have places of refuge and healing with LOVE146.



Dates: January 24,25, 30 and February 1,2,3 during the day or after-school slots available. Spaces are limited.

Props: I will provide some very simple props such as flower bouquet and/or balloons, and I am open to discuss you bringing your own props to the session.

Products: A set of custom designed mini cards will be available as well as your choice of 1 digital file. Other products, prints or files will be available to purchase.

Location: Sessions will take place in my neighborhood in Ellicott City, MD by appointment only. Email or message me through this site if you are interested and I will get you the details for donations and time slots available.

Here is a sampling of previous years’ images and cards:


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Berlin | The Daily Story-O-Graph

This blog series is a #My500Words writing challenge. I will be sharing one photograph and the story belonging to it each day for 31 days around the theme of “Oh the places I’ve been…” These are meant to be letters to my three girls about the places I have been, the adventures I have had and the lessons I have learned along the way.

My Dearest Girls,

How am I possibly going to be able to explain my deep, abiding love for Berlin and our sojourn there with one image and story? It is just not possible. So this is a  6 Things I Loved About Living in Berlin post, or better yet, “6 reasons I left my heart in Berlin”

  1. Living in Berlin meant that we could travel quickly, easily and inexpensively around the rest of Europe. We made the most of this fun fact and traveled to the following places from Berlin (by plane, train and car): Prague, Denmark, Sweden, France, Bavaria, Austria, Spain, Italy (3 times!), Greece, and Turkey. We also traveled throughout Germany a few times: Heidelberg, Wittenberg, Berchtesgaden, Munich, Nuremberg and more.

















    WITTENBERG, GERMANY (in front of Martin Luther’s thesis!)








    ROME (with S in my belly!)


    A looooooved Rome



  2. Biking, walking and riding the S-Bahn (above ground trains), U-Bahn (below ground trains), trams and busses for about 95% of our transportation was good for the heart, lungs and soul. I miss this aspect of Berlin life every day. We were healthier in Berlin than at any other point in our lives. Exercise was functional not an accessory. Food was less polluted by chemicals and additives (thanks to stringent German laws), and was served in smaller quantities. Beer was plentiful.

    Ready to go for a walk, right outside our apartment.


    Riding the S-Bahn


  3. Living with and around tangible history has to be one of the things I enjoyed most. I read many books about East Germany and “the wall” and WWII. But more importantly, I rubbed shoulders with people who were still living with their stories from these era’s. One day, I walked outside my apartment and saw and old woman shuffling up the sidewalk with grocery bags in each hand. I knew I should offer to help her carry them but I hesitated thinking “Because she is older, she is not going to speak any English to me and might even get mad that I can’t speak German to her.” I shook it off and did the right thing and offered her with halting English and hand gestures to carry her bags. She responded with the biggest smile, handed me the bags and started talking in fluent English with me. In about 5 blocks I found out she grew up during the war and that when she was a child her village was bombed and she and her siblings lived in a field for some time. I wished I had been bold enough to have asked for her contact info and taken the time to meet with, sit with and listen to her stories. Another time, we invited a couple over for dinner right before moving away from Berlin. We lived on the east side. The girl walked into our apartment with eyes wide open saying, “This is where I grew up! This is my apartment building from when I was a child.” She and her boyfriend spent their childhoods in East Berlin, behind the wall! I couldn’t help myself and I begged her to tell us what life was like behind the wall as an East Berliner. All I had ever read about was a western perspective on East Germany and the wall. Their stories will stay with me for a lifetime. img_6339 bw-chels-wall
  4. While in Berlin, we had more people visit us than anywhere else we have ever lived in America. It was such a delight to have so many friends… friends my my past, college friends, and family members. Here are just a few images of some friend/family visits (not shown: Loretta, Gabe, some other JBU alumni, friends of friends): 100_1620100_0781img_2094img_4571amys-pictures-082dpp_0044img_3453bwimg_4545bw
  5. Golden October in Berlin is spectacular… especially for park life. We spent so much time walking through parks, playing in parks, picnicking in the park, riding bikes in the parks. Our first apartment was right around the corner from a real palace and its parkland. Dad’s job was right at the end of the famous Tiergarten park (think Central Park in NYC… but better). img_7456img_2087img_6556_1

    Your Dad’s project, the US Embassy is the white building directly behind the yellow tree. This is also the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

    6. Last but not least… the most important reason I will forever love Berlin is because Berlin gave me my first daughter, A. I will forever love this city for making us a family of 3 and for giving us such a spectacular environment to experience parenting for the first time. And although daughter number 2, S, wasn’t born in Berlin, she was most definitely made in Berlin. 🙂 Did you know Germany paid us to have kids? No joke! We would receive money each month from the government, even as expats. Our bank account really misses this part of Berlin living. 100_1139img_3671bwimg_1499img_6356img_0036dsc_0181_1dsc_0155

Day 13 – 812 words

#My500Words #TheDailyStoryOGraph

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