MAMA OF THE MONTH - NANCY HOLLINGSWORTH

When we launched Somebody’s Mama, our goal was to bring awareness to issues affecting women across the globe, to create a community of people who care deeply about finding real solutions, and to turn ideas into action.  We are a project of 4HIM, an organization that has been working with people around the world to create stronger families and communities through partnership.  4HIM has a history of working both locally and globally, and one of the questions we hear often is “Why go to other countries?” or put another way, “Why don’t you just work locally?”  It’s a valid question—anyone with her eyes open will see that there are opportunities to partner with the underserved right outside our front door.

The answer to that question is complex but put simply: it’s a small world.  We do not see caring for our literal neighbors or our neighbors in Africa as being different, and it certainly isn’t an either/or dilemma.  We might even argue that serving in your own backyard can inspire you to do the same somewhere far away.  We believe that the good we do "here" is practice for the good we can do "there."

We chose our newest MOM because she embodies the spirit of compassion that motivates us to address the problems directly in our faces AND the perspective that cross-cultural relationships bring.  Nancy has worked in the education field for almost 25 years, first as a teacher and then as a guidance counselor. She happens to be the wife of 4HIM’s founder, Steve, and the actual mother of, Leia, one of Somebody’s Mama’s founding members.  Over the last twenty years, she’s spent many vacation days traveling to areas of the world where education is an opportunity for the privileged and merely a slight possibility for many poor and rural families.

Motivated by the belief that once the immediate needs of food, water, and shelter are met, every single person deserves a chance to educate themselves, Nancy has inspired hundreds, maybe thousands, of young children to believe in their potential—from a classroom in Oklahoma City, OK to the beaches of West Africa.

We asked Nancy to answer a few simple questions. Her answers need no crafting to create a narrative.  She’s a woman who gets what Somebody’s Mama is all about.  

What drew you to education? What role do you see education playing in improving conditions for women around the world?  

"I love Derek Bok’s quote “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”  Education empowers people to think, create, dream, hope, and thrive.  Without education, people are at the mercy of others.  

I was a teacher long before I got a degree.  I looked for opportunities to teach others even as a small child.  I admired my own teachers who nurtured my love of learning and the desire to teach others. 

Lack of education hinders people from being able earn a living wage, judge whether business deals are fair, read laws, and influence the community.  This is true especially for women who have been stripped of dignity, property rights, opportunity, and control.  Families and communities benefit when women are given a voice, training, and a chance to improve themselves."

What are some lessons you learned from your own mother? What are the biggest challenges and joys you’ve experienced as a mother?

My mother repeatedly said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  I pursued goals which were unthinkable and often discouraged in my rural community.  Expectations were low for many girls.  In contrast, my teachers continually told me that I could and should go to college.  Along with their encouragement, I could hear my mom’s mantra.  I pursued a B.S. in Elementary Education then continued until I received my M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling.

The biggest challenge of mothering was to build confidence and independence in my child without losing the ability to guide her until she was an adult.  The biggest joy of mothering was seeing my daughter use her confidence and independence to empower her own children.
Children have reminded me of my influence by their responses to me.  One boy asked me if I really believed he could go to college.  I responded by saying, “I believe you will with all of my heart.”  I’ve rocked little ones full of despair to have them say, “You love me.”  Yes, I do.  I correct children with the reassurance that I love them too much to let them fail.  Education is an invaluable tool for people regardless of where they live.

Statistics tell us that there are 65 million girls without access to education in the world today, many of them in countries stripped bare by war, famine, and poverty.  These girls are no less bright than the babies we are raising in the United States, and their lives are just as important as the lives of our daughters.  We are passionate about education at Somebody’s Mama because we’ve seen how it elevates people out of poverty—books, school uniforms, pencils and paper are, in a sense, tangible hope.

One of our first roles as Mamas is that of teacher.  It’s something that comes naturally to many of us—we teach them how to talk and to walk, how to use a spoon and how to ride a bike.  We teach them how to be confident and how to be a friend.  We teach them how to love themselves and how to love others.  

Undoubtedly, many of us can look back on our own education journeys and pinpoint a teacher who inspired us in some way to be better, do better, think better—teachers like Nancy, who believe that every single child deserves a chance to learn and that every single child who is given that opportunity has a chance to change the world.