American Mom Bloggers' Stories From Kenya: ONE Trip That Changed 10 Lives

PHOTO: Karen Walrond in Kenya, July 2011
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At any other time, San Francisco mom Amy Graff would be thinking about sending her kids to summer camp, keeping them out of the sun, and saving them from the perils of the deep end. But this summer, she's in Kenya, Africa, and her worries are completely different.

"All I could think was, 'Please don't be positive. Please don't be positive,'" blogged Amy Graff on Baby Center last week. "As we waited for the results of an HIV test given to two children, ages 3 and 5, I was terrified. I found myself praying ... 'Please, God. Please, God. I know you haven't heard from me in a while, but please, don't let it happen' ... Then second lines ran across the [test] strips. My heart sank."

Graff is one of 10 American mom bloggers who recently traveled to Kenya on a weeklong trip with the ONE campaign to write about the joys and sorrows of mothers who live half a world away in Kenya.

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They met HIV-positive mothers testing their children for the virus, saw the dramatic difference a malaria vaccine could make in the lives of Kenyan women and children, and met health care workers who bike, or walk, miles to reach their patients. Then, they shared their experiences with their hundreds of thousands of readers back in the U.S.

For all the differences, the similarities were what really hit home for many of the American women.

As blogger Jyl Pattel wrote, "When I asked a cute African mom what her greatest challenge was, I predicted her answer would be 'Keeping my children alive.' What I heard instead was the same thing I'm concerned with: 'Raising good children.' Women around the world all have challenges. But ultimately, at our core, we have very similar concerns and needs."

Tune in tonight to "World News" as David Muir joins 10 of the most influential American mom bloggers on a journey to Kenya, where they explore the sisterhood of motherhood. Extracts from each of the moms' tales is below. Be on the lookout this fall, when ABC News will be bringing you more stories on the challenges and joys that mothers face around the world.

Amy Graff (BabyCenter) Amy Graff is a blogger for BabyCenter and the San Francisco Chronicle.

"The hut was the size of a walk-in closet. ... The floors were dirt; the walls were crumbling. An old sheet divided the home into two rooms. ... No TV. No refrigerator. No art on the walls. This was living at its simplest."

Karen Walrond ( Chookooloonks.com) Karen Walrond is a writer and photographer. She is also the author of Chookooloonks, an award-winning photo blog.

"Once we arrived at Beti's home, she invited us in to her tidy space where she lives with her father, and her three young daughters. We shared stories. ... We talked about how raising children can be difficult -- she's a single mother of three -- how tired we can get trying to keep up with them, and helpless we feel if our children are ill."

"Someone said during our trip that there is something that stirs on quite an elemental level in experiencing Kenya's natural beauty, and it's true: I wish every person were fortunate enough to experience it first-hand."

Rachel Fox (RachelFoxComingAlive.blogspot.com) Rachel Fox put aside her nursing career in 1999 to be a full-time mom of three. Her blog, Coming Alive, chronicles her work with ONE and how motherhood has changed her world view.

"Only twenty-four hours in Kenya and I have 'come alive.' ... I have had only a few hours of sleep over the last few days and as we wrap up this first day I am here fully awake holding the women I met today in my mind."

"The beauty and strength that I saw in these women today will be with me forever. This trip has ignited a passion."

Jennifer James (JJamesonline.com) Jennifer James created the Mom Bloggers Club, one of the largest social networks for moms with over 14,000 unique users. She also writes for her personal blog, JJames Online.

"We were able to speak to a traditional birth attendant. The wisdom on her aged face and in her voice was palpable. In an area where women cannot easily get to the hospital for prenatal care women like this are vital to helping expectant women deliver healthy babies and not die in the process."

"Today we rode into the slums. If you have been born and bred in the United States or any other developing country it's likely you have never seen poverty like we witnessed today."

"Women are the backbones of Kenya. They are the ones who will feed the continent. Their participation is the agricultural economy is vitally important to Africa's future."

Lindsay Maines (RockandRollMama.com) Lindsay Maines is a mother of three as well as a wife to a touring rock bassist. Among other things, she writes for her personal blog, Rock and Roll Mama.

"When our bus arrived at the site early this morning, we were greeted by a throng of gorgeous women in various iterations of elegant, colorful garb, who began singing and ululating a pretty exuberant Kenyan whoop -- it's a version of the crowd cheering at halftime as a football game."

"I heard a Kenyan joke today, 'We don't have oil here in Kenya -- our people are our main exports.' We all laughed, but the truth is, though Kenya has many great natural resources, the people are an amazing asset. ... You really can't fake this level of extraordinary-ness."

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