05/08/2014 12:43 EDT | Updated 07/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Mia Farrow's Ode to the World's Strongest Mothers

by: Craig and Marc Kielburger

Mia Farrow has been to some of the worst places on Earth, and met women who've suffered crushing adversity. Her awe was palpable as she described their strength and resilience.

"I've never met a weak mother," Farrow said. "Everywhere I see mothers, to whom awful things have been done, who have lost everything. Yet they are willing to fight for the lives and the futures of their children."

To make her point, Farrow told the story of Sarah. Sarah was out tending her crops near her village in South Sudan when a noise made her look up from her hoe. A band of armed men had emerged from the surrounding bush--soldiers of the vicious militia known as the Lord's Resistance Army. Before she could run they were on her. They pinned her down and chopped her hand off with a machete before dragging her back to their camp as a prisoner. Later that day, she took advantage of a moment of distraction and slipped away from her captors.

Today Sarah lives a life on the run. The men of her village are dead, slaughtered by the LRA. All that remain are a handful of mothers who refuse to give up. They devote every ounce of energy to keeping their children alive. They have just one dream: to give their children a future.

Farrow has heard countless stories like Sarah's. Farrow is one of the most incredible mothers we know (apart from our own, of course). She gave up a life of Hollywood fame to be a mother to 14 children, and a global voice for the women and children survivors of conflict. When we recently asked Farrow about who she idolizes, without hesitation she pointed to mothers like Sarah, who persevere in war zones like Darfur and the Central African Republic.

"I hope to God that I will never be challenged the way they have been. And if I am, I hope I can exhibit even a fraction of the courage and love and humour and generosity that I've seen in our sisters there," she said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions more driven from their homes in the conflicts that have riven central Africa for decades. The brutal rebellion that has consumed the Central African Republic over the past year has received so little international media attention that humanitarian groups are calling it "the forgotten crisis." Farrow objects to the term. "That implies it was once remembered. I think the people in the Central African Republic are the most abandoned people on Earth."

And in all these conflicts, it is women and children who get the worst of it. Rape has become a standard weapon of war for terrorizing civilian populations. And for those who escape the fighting, all the future holds is a daily scrabble to survive in one of the many squalid refugee camps scattered across central Africa.

Yet in the face of all that, Farrow said, mothers persevere. From their camps they walk kilometres every single day to gather water, food, and firewood. Farrow talked about watching mothers roll marble-sized balls of mud in their hands, then put the mudballs in the mouths of their infants to quell the hunger pangs that claw at their children's bellies.

When Farrow speaks with these women, they all want just two things: to survive the night, and to get their children an education so they might have a better life than the mothers will ever know.

With Mother's Day approaching, Farrow has a challenge for all of us living in comfort here, far from the struggles in central Africa. This Mother's Day, take a moment to think outside our own families. Make this Mother's Day not just about our own mothers, but about all the mothers of the world -- especially those faced with overwhelming adversity.

After you've brought your mom her breakfast in bed, go donate to an organization that supports women in conflict zones. If you don't have money, give some of your time. Farrow pointed out that seniors' homes across North America are filled with elderly mothers who have no family left, or have been forgotten by their families. Take a few hours to visit a home and bring some Mother's Day joy into their lives.

Mothers are some of the strongest people in our lives. Possibly the strongest people in our world. Let Mother's Day be a time to celebrate the women who persevere for the future of their children. And let no mother anywhere be forgotten.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are co-founders of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children. Its youth empowerment event, We Day, is in 11 cities across North America this year, inspiring more than 160,000 attendees from over 4,000 schools. For more information, visit


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