Laura Jo and JoJo
When I was a little girl maaany, maaany moons ago, I had an idol. It was my cousin, Laura. She was not that much older than me by adult standards but, at the time, I looked up to her and worshipped her as if she was some sort of goddess. My favorite bedtime stories were those in which my mom would make up tales of the two of us, Laura and I. I can still remember closing my eyes and seeing the images as the story unfolded. "Laura and Leslie did this" and "Laura and Leslie did that". I was enthralled to say the least. It was just like heaven on earth.
Laura was everything I wanted to be. A few years older, she was so very, very cool. Beautiful. Talented. With lots and lots of cute boyfriends. Oh, how I wanted to grow up and be exactly like her!
She had a pink princess telephone with RHINESTONES on it! Can you imagine? And she was a ballet dancer and did I mention that she seemed to have scads of boyfriends? And, sometimes, she would even let me go out with them on a "coke date"! Man, life couldn't have gotten any better than that. But it did. After graduating from college, Laura moved to New York City to be an AIRLINE STEWARDESS!! Now I KNEW she was a goddess. This was when they were still called "stewardesses" and they were all so gorgeous and glamourous and worldly! (Although I'm not so sure she fulfilled the height requirement.) Laura was my Jackie O, my Princess Diana, my Julia Roberts.
Now, almost fifty years later, not much has changed. I still idolize Laura. She is everything I believed she was and even more. Except now her passions have turned from ballet and boys to children. Children that suffer and children that don't have parents and children that live in poverty. Laura has devoted her life to those forgotten children and she has done a darned good job of seeing that many of those children are loved and cared for and given opportunities that they wouldn't otherwise have.
I know that this was Laura's calling because she sort of stumbled on it quite by accident. And we all know that THERE AIN'T NO ACCIDENTS IN LIFE!! You see, she first became involved with children because she was at a point in her life that she was looking for a new career. Any career. It so happened that her very supportive brother offered to sell her his interest in a chain of local "daycare" centers. Well, that small chain of daycare centers soon became an extremely well -oiled and highly accredited organization with waiting lists and very specialized infant care ….not your typical "baby-sitting" operation.
And that, my friends, was just the beginning! Laura had her first taste of infant and child care. She realized that she had a talent and a passion for the wants and needs of small children.
Then came a vacation to Eastern Europe where Laura became aware of the horrifying conditions in the Romanian government-run orphanages. These institutions housed children that had been abandoned during the Ceausescu regime. The living conditions were horrendous. No toys, no playgrounds, no physical loving touch. These children were being raised to be socially detached and Laura could not accept that. Once she returned home, she dove into action. With the help of family members, associates and much of her own money, she began a series of Atlantic crossings back and forth to deliver toys, books, teaching supplies, anything she could muster up to help these desperate babies. Follow that with meetings with UNICEF, foreign diplomats, internationally known child psychologists, etc. etc. and the next thing you know, she has set up an ENTIRE PLAYGROUND at a Romanian orphanage!
Laura has since become impassioned (to say the least!) with the child development philosophy developed in Hungary by the renowned Dr. Emmi Pikler of the Pikler Institute. These teaching methods involve communication, nurturing, hands-on personal interaction with infants and toddlers. (My very brief synopsis of a highly researched and very much respected philosophy.) She has united and taught caregivers all over the world by setting up World Forums and international teaching symposiums. She has met with internationally known child experts, celebrities and diplomats to help further her cause. Now she hopes to meet with the United Nations to discuss children's rights around the world. PHEW! Can you believe that one person can put all that into action?
Well, that is just a very condensed version of what MY COUSIN (I told you that I have an exceptional family) has done with her life and I could go on and on but I simply must stop here. I'm pretty sure blogs are supposed to be kept short and sweet but there is so much to say! Suffice it to say that Laura has a resume about a mile long with honors and achievements just short of Mother Theresa herself. She is living proof of what one single person can do to improve the lives of sooooooo many. She was recently quoted in a magazine (on which she and her associates grace the cover, I might add) as saying "What does it cost you? If you don't dream and try, you will never know what could have been."
Now I hate to be one to say "I told you so" (yeah, right) but this time I am so proud to say that I was right all along…..Laura really is a goddess….at least to me she is.
If you, too, are passionate about children and would like to know more about Laura's journey and progress, check out these websites: