LIKE many other Blue Mountains mums Eden Riley began keeping a journal five years ago as a way to cope with the ups and downs of pregnancy and other pressing challenges, but it took a life of its own when she adapted it into a blog — this year reaching a monthly average of 70,000 hits worldwide.
Building on her growing number of followers and way with words Mrs Riley, a World Vision child sponsor, made the bold decision to join two other ‘mum bloggers’ from Germany and South Korea for a five-day visit to Niger in early April to bring attention to an escalating food crisis in West Africa.
Before catching four flights on April 2 to reach the nation where 400,000 children are suffering from the most severe form of malnutrition as a severe drought takes hold, she blogged “I’m going over there to make them not just numbers.”.
During and after her journey she filled her blog with startling observations of what children and mothers face in daily life in some of the most remote villages in Niger and the difference World Vision-funded clinics, food aid and facilities like water wells are making in some locations.
But a line in an April 17 post probably summed up her experience best: “I have too many choices in my life and some people have none . . . it’s a huge imbalance.”
World Vision Australia organised the trip as part of its West Africa Food Crisis Appeal.
Mrs Riley said what she saw in Niger changed her outlook on life.
“I decided to pick just a few kids I met in Niger to blog about so people could really connect, through them, with the massive problems the region is facing now,” she said.
“Every day during the trip we were driven about four hours each way to some of the remotest African villages you could ever know in one of the hottest and driest countries on earth.
“I did one whole post about a little girl called Zenouba who was taken to a clinic supported by World Vision by her mother where she was diagnosed as being malnourished.
“She had the dustiest feet and her eyes lit up when she ate a meal, maybe her first proper one in several days.
“She put on 3.4 kg during my stay in Niger and is recovering.
“When I got home my children (boys aged 10 and 3) were whining about something and I just thought c’mon — you don’t know how good you’ve got it.”
Eden said the response from her Niger-based posts was inspiring, with many followers letting her know they had decided to sponsor a child through World Vision, make a donation or even just spread the word about the ongoing drought crisis in West Africa.
“The traditional media isn’t really picking up on this crisis — maybe they view stories about hunger in Africa as boring or nothing new — so I feel I’ve got a responsibility to blog about something meaningful.
“I’m passionate about this and intend to continue writing about this topic. I’ve been blogging now for five years and it happened by accident but it’s taken a life of its own!”
To support the West Africa Food Crisis Appeal, visit www.worldvision.com.au or call 133-240.
Eden Riley’s blog won the Best Australian Blog competition run by the Sydney Writers’ Centre on May 10. Visit www.edenriley.com.