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In late October I took a trip to the highlands of Peru, and I never would have imagined how profound and lasting the impact of the journey would be. As a mother of two, I'm drawn to issues relating to women and their children, and that's why I wanted to visit this country, which struggles -- like so many impoverished nations -- with maternal and infant mortality. In fact, more than half a million women around the world die during pregnancy and childbirth every year, and 99 percent of them are in developing countries. As an ambassador for the humanitarian group CARE, I wanted to help.
I had already traveled to El Salvador -- where my mom was born -- two years ago to visit some of the communities where CARE works to connect mothers with the services and health care they need. I'd spent some time in El Salvador as a child, but it was on that trip, my first as a mother, that I sat among pregnant women and saw how they had to walk miles just to access a clean water source -- and I recognized how fundamental and yet how easy it could be to help them. With that in mind, I planned my journey to Peru with CARE. My mom came along with me. Here's how it went.
DAY ONE, A SCENE I'LL NEVER FORGET: We met this mom, Asunta Mucha, this afternoon; she's alive due to doctors at the clinic, who guided her through a high-risk birth. It's today that I begin to see how vulnerable women here are. Driving back to our hotel, as the sun was fading into darkness, we passed a lone woman on the edge of the road with a herd of sheep, miles from any civilization. This vision has stayed with me, as a reminder of the women so easily forgotten here.