Introduction to International MC-Story-book

Introduction

This book travels from country to country, gathering the stories of the many Mother Centers in different parts of the world. This is a true expression of our international Mother Center movement. Mother Centers have spread and have been initiated in this way. Local women with an enterprising spirit heard stories about Mother Centers and organised a visit to the one closest by; Or open-minded women hearing about Mother Centers at an international gathering, implemented the idea back home. Mother Center stories are inspirational and contagious.

The strength of the Mother Center movement, has always been in the sharing and in the direct exchange of the authentic experiences and stories of the countless Mother Center pioneers. Mother Centers are a grassroots movement. There is no organisation or institution that has disseminated them as a project or program after the initial spark and support of the Deutsches Jugendinstitut in Munich and the German Federal Department for Family Policy in the late seventies. Each Mother Center has been created and negotiated by local initiators and pioneers. A wealth of wisdom and expertise has been gathered in this process. This book can only give a glimpse of that; there are huge treasures and gold mines still to be excavated and claimed.

The original unexpected and overwhelming spreading of Mother Centers happened through a story-telling book. Participants of the first three model Mother Centers in Germany wrote it together. The book was highly instrumental in spreading Mother Centers throughout Germany and German-speaking neighbouring countries, as well as in countries where the book was translated into the local language. Now we are gathering Mother Center stories from all over the world! What an expression of the incredible growth and development of the Mother Center movement!

As a young sociologist in my twenties, I was working in the team that created the idea and concept of Mother Centers. It started out of a research project on the needs of young parents in the above mentioned German Youth Institute in Munich. I would have never dreamt that our work would have such an amazing effect. Creating a movement is a sociologist’s dream, especially if you are from the ’68 generation, where we believed in action research and in putting sociological studies and results into practice. Making a difference and creating innovation has been my life thread and mission. That is probably why I kept contact and remained a supportive and principled partner of the Mother Center movement long after it was part of my official job description at DJI and long after I left the institute. The Mother Centers and their further evolvement became part and passion of my life.

My own personal international background probably played a big part in my interest in spreading the idea internationally, in Europe and also to other continents. Especially after we discovered that indeed Mother Centers are an answer to historical needs all over the world: the need to claim safe public space for mothers and children, to create caring communities and community parenting, to live parenting as a collective responsibility, to recreate the village in contemporary societies. But also the need to advocate for visibility, support and validation for those engaging in the daunting task of child raising and care giving, to get public recognition of parents as practical experts and to integrate their expertise into local governance.

All this is happening in Mother Centers around the world. It will certainly be reflected in the stories gathered in this book. I encourage you to write about what Mother Centers mean to you and also about the incredible things you have achieved. Tell how your Mother Center has made a difference in the lives of the participants and their families, as well as for your neighbourhoods and communities and for local governance, regional and national policies.

The birth of this book, as well as the idea of an international Mother Center Day on October 10th, happened on the same occasion. It was in Vienna at the end conference of the EU Grundtvig Learning Partnership: The Grassroots Women’s International Academy – a Peer Learning Strategy applied to the Mother Centers Movement. A project “master minded” , fund-raised, and coordinated by my partner Marieke and myself. The cycle of this story book will be completed at the awesome date and number sequence of 10.10.2010, the first international Mother Centers day.
We were not able to personally attend the Vienna conference, because my cancer had spread and I needed to be in the hospital on just those days. Marieke chose to stay by my side, which was wonderful and made the whole hospital experience an adventure and even fun. (Our friend Tim Rease played a big role in this hospital experience too.)

This Grundtvig Learning partnership has been especially fulfilling for me, as it combines two of the innovations I have been central and instrumental in.
My life’s work has centered around bringing into the world and sustaining the Mother Centers and the Grassroots Women’s International Academy (GWIA). GWIA is an innovative format for validating, sharing and spreading grassroots knowledge. Marieke and I – as the visionaries we are – continue to find these two innovations particularly promising and full of potential.

A small group of Mother Centers pioneers initiated mine, the Mother Centers International Network in 2000, the year in which Marieke and I also became life partners. Since then we have been working together in many ways to support the international Mother Center movement and to get mine on its feet and through its first developmental stages, where intensive parenting is required.
This book reflects the growth and growing up of the Mother Center movement.
It gives me immense pleasure and fulfillment to fill the first pages in this book.
I feel honoured and also very much recognised and appreciated for my role and contributions to mine and the Mother Center movement, by having been asked to write the introduction to this book. And to have been given the privilege of unlimited space to do so. I am the only one for whom the book guidelines/rules have been suspended.
This story book portrays the spirit, culture and power of the Mother Centers.
It also displays the potential and wealth of their learning tools: peer exchanges and Grassroots Women’s International Academies. Both have received international recognition as UN accredited Best Practices and both have won the Dubai International Award for the Improvement of the Living Environment.
This is no accident. This recognition portrays how very special and precious the Mother Centers are, as public caring and informal learning places in the community.

May this book and the many stories told herein, be rewarding to all involved, give warmth, joy, reassurance , energy, connection and inspiration to the pioneers as well as the future generations of Mother Centers.

My wishes for the Mother Centers and for mine:

Mother Centers in all communities and neighbourhoods!
Lots of international exchanges, campaigns, GWIAs and other events that bring mothers together world wide!
Recognition of Mother Centers as informal learning spaces and as Academies of Practical Parenthood!
Core funding for the Mother Centers lnternational Network mine !
A world wide powerful Mothers Movement that links and connects many mother’s groups and networks and brings the priority of caring back into public life.

Monika Jaeckel-van Geldermalsen

A mother of the idea and concept of Mother Centers, founder of GWIA, member of the founding group of the Mother Centers International Network mine and its first chair