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To Suraya With Love 2.0

Friday, May 6, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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(As a special birthday treat for me this morning, it seems, the internet gremlins ate my post about Suraya. When I woke up it had simply disappeared, together with your comments on it and links to it. I’ve had to recreate it. Doh!)

I’ve been working on this post for weeks trying to work out the ‘right’ approach.

And then this week news feeds have been running hot with responses to the death of Osama Bin Laden as debates raged about what it meant to celebrate the death of another human being.

If all this talk of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or of killing our ‘enemies’, makes your heart or your stomach ache, then I want you to know you are not alone.

My stomach has been aching all week.

But today’s post is my antidote to an Osama Bin Laden-related stomach ache. Drawing on the immortal wisdom of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, I know only one way to drive out hate, and that is through love. So this week I want to send BIG love into Afghanistan.

Specifically, I want to send BIG love to Suraya Pakzad, champion and tireless campaigner for Afghan women.

Suraya Pakzad, founder and director of Voice of Women. Photo by Aldo Magazzeni.

I met and worked with Suraya when I was living in Herat, Afghanistan. She is founder and director of the women’s organisation that runs women’s shelters to protect and support women fleeing violent homes or forced marriages. It is courageous and deeply compassionate work. Suraya is a courageous and deeply compassionate woman.

The great chain of mothering

Last year I wrote a post about why I don’t hate Mothers Day (in response to Anne Lamott’s article on why she did hate Mothers Day).

Anne’s ‘main gripe’ about Mother’s Day was that “it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat.”

I actually agree that images and celebrations of Mothers Day often focus on one form of mothering to the exclusion of all others. But that doesn’t make me hate Mothers Day. It makes me want to celebrate the mothers around me in all their different forms. It makes me want to celebrate the mother in me and all the ways in which I am part of that great chain of mothering “that keeps the whole shebang afloat”.

So this week I’m inviting you to celebrate your love for anyone who has been part of the great chain of mothering that has kept you afloat, by sending some love and support to Suraya. You can do that by creating a dedication to the mama you love here at To Mama With Love and making a donation. If you follow the link I’ve given you here, then your donation will go to Suraya (and if you want to send other people to the To Mama With Love page using Suraya’s special link, e.g. through a tweet or on your Facebook page, you can use this link:

I sat down at the beginning of this week to write my usual style of ‘lawyerly’ post about the logical, rational reasons to support Suraya’s work. And then I realised that this campaign is all about the power of love, so instead today I’m posting a love note to Suraya Pakzad (although you can read all that other information here).

Dear Suraya,

Thank you for showing me:

1. That transformative change can be both audacious and gracious, at the same time.
2. The subtle power of elegant influence.
3. That courage can be gentle and loving.
4. How intelligence, restraint and discernment can make all the difference
5. That a mother’s love is not limited to her own children.

And thank you for welcoming me, advising me, listening to me, and most recently, for trusting me to help tell your story and raise awareness and (hopefully) lots of money for your amazing work!



For more information about Suraya and her work – please visit the special page I have created for Suraya here. For the short version, you can watch this simple video:


I Need Your Help

Once again, I have leapt before I looked. Those of you who know me know that my heart tends to lead the way. I trust my heart when it tells me “Marianne, you are going to raise $20,000 for Suraya”. I generally have NO idea how I’m going to do it when I sign on, and this is no exception. But I’ve learned to trust that if I do my part, and if I call in the support of passionate friends and generous strangers, amazing things can happen.

So whether you are a passionate friend or a generous stranger, I need your help. Here are some ideas of ways you can help:

  • Make a donation to Suraya by creating a heartspace in honour of a mama who you love at the To Mama With Love site;
  • Add your donation to the heartspace we have already created for Suraya;
  • If you want to keep things really simple you can just make a donation via this ChipIn and I’ll add them all to Suraya’s heartspace (this is also a good option if you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, which you’ll need to use the To Mama With Love site)
  • Update your Facebook status and/or send a tweet telling the world why you love the mamas in your life or why you are honouring them by supporting Suraya, linking to this page ( or to the To Mama With Love site using this special link which will direct all donations to Suraya (;
  • Write a blog post about the mama’s you love, or about why courageous women like Suraya inspire you, again linking either to this page or through Suraya’s special link to To Mama With Love page;
  • Tell five friends about this event, inviting them to make a donation and create a heartspace to honour a mama in their life (remember, if they use this link, Suraya gets the donation:
  • You can also copy the code from either our To Mama With Love widget or our ChipIn widget (below) and add them to your website or any place where you can put html code.

Video credits

Artists make the world a place worth living in. So it’s really, really important to give them props. These are the artists (musicians and photographers) whose creations made my first ever animated video a fabulous success.


‘Hope’ by Fat Freddy’s Drop (extremely cool Wellington dudes)


Jessica Tana Bankoff, Kristen Yarmey, Mackenzie Lawrence, Patricia Melton Smith, Valentina Meli and Aldo Magazzeni

NB: some of the photos in this video were given to me by Suraya and I am not sure who the photographer was. If it was you, thank you! The remaining photos are mine.

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5 Responses to "To Suraya With Love 2.0"

  1. Emily Lu says:

    Wait a sec, it’s your birthday?! Happy birthday!

  2. Marianne,

    What a lovely, practical, hopeful celebration of the big picture of motherhood and mothering. I can’t wait to share this.

    And, happy, happy birthday to one of the bright spirits I have found in my Web 2.0 journey. Many blessings on your coming year!


  3. Anne-Marie says:

    Happy birthday, dear Marianne. I hope you are having a magical day xx

  4. Lubna says:

    Belated birthday greetings. I am linking this post to my blog, hoping for some magic.

  5. […] something great about turning a Hallmark Holiday into a day that truly celebrates women. Some women who I truly admire, have decided to take this Mother’s Day to celebrate one woman who […]

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