Blog Archives

Still Building Hope

May 18, 2015

Kampala Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness still Building Hope | MothersCircle.netOne year ago, there was no medical center there. Today, brick by brick, the walls rise with hope.

Tonight is the big event celebrating that progress with some of the children it will benefit! There is no way to meet these kids and not fall completely in love like our family has. We’ve been enjoying two weeks with four kids and the choir director living with us. We’re all concocting ways for them to stay here longer, none of us are ready to say good-bye.

If you’re in Rhode Island, please join us tonight to celebrate this project with a special performance by The Destiny Africa Children’s Choir. See the progress on the center, meet these amazing children and be

[caption id="attachment_4931" align="alignright" width="225"]Hannah being teacher for the day with Mrs. Ratigan. Hannah being teacher for the day with Mrs. Ratigan.[/caption]

inspired by their performance. I cannot wait to hear those drums echoing off the water in the Newport harbor. If you life afar – you can still help by making a donation.

Click here to join us tonight because we’re still building hope. It’s worth the trip over two bridges and staying out on a school night!
6:30 pm | Newport Yachting Center | 4 Commercial Wharf, Newport, RI

Last year, we rallied and raised $82,000 to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness, a medical clinic with lab, dentistry, preventive care, education, immunizations, and pharmacy. The center will serve the children and staff at The Kampala Children’s Centre in Uganda and the surrounding community. The Hope Centre website has more details.

Donations are still needed to add water and solar power. Help us get to the $17,000 goal by donating – your gifts are life-giving and more meaningful than we can even imagine! Thank you!

#GivingTuesday 2014

December 1, 2014

#GivingTuesday Roundup |MothersCircle.netTo me, #GivingTuesday is one of the best commercialized ways to spot light giving and service over self. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving and the Christmas and holiday season are all about?

In our family, kindness is most important. It makes me far prouder to hear that my child invited a left out child to sit with him at lunch than to have him get a perfect spelling test grade. Seriously, what’s really important?

After a big turkey dinner and time with family, after dabbling in Black Friday weekend sales, I love the idea of kicking off the season with #GivingTuesday.

How do you make giving and service a tradition in your family? What ways do you help your kids prioritize serving? What will you give during this season of giving – time, money, blood, food?

How to Live in the Gratitude Circle

November 26, 2014

How to Live in the Gratitude Circle | Do you live in the Gratitude Circle?

It can be tough sometimes but it’s so worth it when I get there. I find that the more I give thanks, the more I have to be thankful for. The Gratitude Circle builds gratefulness from gratefulness. The more you count your blessings, the more blessings you have to count.

Looking actively for things to be thankful for multiplies those very things. By seeing them, we automatically increase them. I have a 5-year gratitude journal that I love, it’s a quick way to remind myself every day of all I have in my life and it helps to make gratitude a habit. Create a structure for yourself that builds thankfulness into your day.

10 Tips to Teach Kids About Volunteerism

August 19, 2014

10 tips to teach kids, volunteerism, teaching kids to serve, serving and giving, teaching kids to appreciate what they haveThank you to Prayerful Mom for allowing me to guest post. I love this post and have been wanting to write about service and volunteerism for awhile now. It’s so important to teach our kids perspective, giving, and gratitude in our world of plenty.

Check out my 10 Tips to Teach Kids About Volunteerism.

Do you struggle to teach your children about the value of “stuff” and the importance of helping others? Do you search for ways to teach your kids to appreciate what they have and to offer some perspective?

Set the example and volunteer together, locally and globally. Explain to your kids why you give money to whom you do. Use a variety of ways to teach the lessons of serving and gratitude. Multiple experiences and regular volunteerism, or involvement in a cause, will have a greater impact on children than the once-in-a-blue-moon approach.

Here are 10 tips to teach kids about volunteerism

Thank you, Mother’s Circle readers, for your support, your sharing, your votes on Top Mommy Blogs, and your kind emails and comments!

Enjoy volunteering with your kids!


© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

Building The Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness

April 8, 2014

The Hope Center, Kampala Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, Uganda healthcare, building medical center in Africa, Destiny Africa choir, Kampala Children's CentreI want to share something with you that is very dear to our hearts. This fall, our whole family fell in love.

It was late on a Sunday night this past October when the van pulled into our driveway. We greeted three tired girls and their chaperone who would be our house guests for a week. They are part of a choir called Destiny Africa and were orphans, taken in by the Kampala Children’s Centre in Uganda.

Arms squeezed us in hugs in the dark before we even lifted a bag to help them inside. Within moments, Claire, Shivan and Mary Phiona were laughing and playing a game with Ali, Michael and Anna, while Dorothy settled into her room. In those very first hours before climbing into bed, we already knew that we would be forever touched by these children.

They moved into our home for a week and into our hearts for a lifetime.

[caption id="attachment_3617" align="alignright" width="300"]Destiny Africa choir, Kampala Uganda, Wasiko, Mary Phiona, Dorothy, me and Claire[/caption]

While the girls lived with us, we learned about their home at the Kampala Children’s Centre and the love, education and family it has given them in fulfilling the Centre’s mission of giving the best to the least. They cooked for us, taught us some Lugandan words and traditions and I loved that they called me “Auntie.” I kissed them good-bye each morning and we welcomed them home each night, even when they returned after midnight, just as we would for our own children. We laughed and ate together, joked and prayed together.

As we ate breakfast just the two of us one morning, Dorothy, the first house mother at KCC, shared her story with me and a glimpse into the horrors of the war, poverty and HIV issues that have terrorized Uganda. It is unimaginable to our developed-nation-minds. Only a couple of years younger than me (more years younger than Nick), it was a startling to contrast our lives.

7 Ways to Make your Own Luck

March 11, 2014

4 leaf clover, make luck, lucky 7, lucky clover, I'm unlucky, happy st. paddy's day, st. patty's day luck, be generous, attitude, what's luck got to do with it, law of attractionI wish people, “Good Luck!” as a vote of confidence, a hope for success, but I only have a limited belief in luck. Instead, I believe we make our own luck.

Two people could be handed the same situation, the same resources (or lack thereof) and can create completely different outcomes. Some might dismiss it as “lucky” or use it as and excuse, “I’m just unlucky,” or “She’s luckier than me.” I don’t believe that’s luck, it’s attitude, how you choose to look at the world and interact within it.

These are lessons Nick and I work to instill in our kids at every opportunity. We believe in these principles in our own lives, as parents and contributors to society. Let’s call it “The Luck O’ the Italians,” since we don’t have a lick of Irish between us! It’s a recipe to make your own luck!

Here are LUCKY NUMBER 7 Ways to Make your Own Luck!

7 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

1. It all begins with attitude.

Attitude is everything in life. How you view the world and your corner of it, is up to you. No one says it better than Charles Swindoll in his Attitude poem. Every moment of every day provides you with a choice. How will you approach it? Will you embrace it, run from it, complain about it, greet it with joy? You can bemoan your lot in life or you can do something about it. That takes me to tip number 2.

2. Do the work.

Even when it seems like things come easy to some people, they’re working for it. Sure we all have our talents and skills that make certain things more pleasurable or easier for us. Even when using our gifts and strengths, making our own luck takes forethought, planning, effort, and a go-for-it spirit. Dreaming alone doesn’t do it, it’s the action that gets you to your goal.

It takes work – hard work – to be the parent we want to be. Thinking about it, reading about it, hoping for it won’t do it – they’re tools and can help – but we need the action. It can take a lot of work to reevaluate what we’re doing that’s not working or to reflect on why we keep getting the same unwanted behaviors from our kids.

Hearts that Help Cambodia

February 11, 2014

hearts that help cambodia, sewn hearts, felt hearts, heart of buttons, angkor hospital, helping kids in Cambodia, southeast asia charity, RI CambodiaTwo years ago, on February 12, 2012, my mom and I arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia after just spending over two weeks in Vietnam, so when, this month, I learned about an organization right here in Rhode Island, Hearts that Help, which benefits education and health care agencies in Cambodia, I was eager to learn more.

Founded in 2003, Hearts that Help began when a family in Rhode Island, who had adopted their daughters from Cambodia just before the country closed itself to international adoptions, asked the girls if they had any ideas for helping children and families in their native country. The girls suggested sewing hearts for Valentine’s Day launching Hearts that Help.

Today, the organization hosts, and encourages others to host, sewing events which build community while creating for a cause. The hand-sewn hearts are then sold at local fairs and farmers markets and the donations are given to Angkor Hospital for Children, providing free healthcare to children in Siem Reap and the surrounding area, The Lake Clinic, which delivers medical aid to floating villages in Cambodia, Hearts that Help RI, Hearts that Help logo, red hands, gestures of true love,and The Cambodian Arts & Scholarship Foundation, a leader in educating young girls, the population most at risk for being pulled from school and sold into the horrifically rampant sex industry in Cambodia.

During our tour of Cambodia two years ago, we explored its history from the centuries old temples in Angkor to museum that was a prison under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. Our guide, Khet, generously shared his culture and country with us and the fact that 60% of Cambodia’s population is under 16 years old; Pol Pot’s regime killed a quarter of Cambodia’s population. Unfathomable horrors.

cambodia CollageTraveling from Vietnam, which was definitely third world but had an enterprising spirit, Cambodia had an ever greater sense of poverty and underdevelopment. Being there and reading books like First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (one of my recommended great book club books) draws me to Hearts that Help and the desire to help the Cambodian people grow and be able to provide quality medical care and education to their children and families. To learn more, visit Heart that Help.

Music For Newtown Auction Live Today

January 22, 2014

music for newtown logo, music auction, lorde autograph, signed guitars, autographed music memorabilia, sandy hook, green music note, The second Music for Newtown Auction goes live this afternoon, January 22, 2014 at 3:00 pm EST. You can keep bidding on your favorite items through January 29, 2014.

Visit the auction here:

We grew up in Newtown, it’s my hometown and last year’s atrocity moved my sister, Beth Bogdan to start the Music for Newtown organization. Major musicians have donated autographed items, meet and greets and tickets. All of the proceeds will benefit the Resiliency Center of Newtown which offers long-term healing to anyone impacted by the tragic events of December 14, 2012.

Auction items include an autographed guitars from Florida Georgia Line and Anberlin, signed FLAGA Line Guitar, autographed guitar, Music for newtown auction, signed guitar, bidding on music memorabiliaposters from Black Sabbath, Neon Trees, Black Veil Brides and Colbie Caillat. There are also signed photos from Nickelback, Ellie Goulding, The Avett Brothers, and Psy, signed CDs from Bon Jovi, Cassadee Pope, and Ben Howard, and signed vinyl from Jack Johnson. Lorde donated a few items including autographed “Royals” sheet music. Also up for auction are a signed drumhead from The 1975, signed lithograph from AFI, and a signed set list from The Naked and Famous. Austin Mahone and 3 Doors Down have donated tickets and Meet & Greets to upcoming shows.

All proceeds from this auction will benefit The Resiliency Center of Newtown. “The Resiliency Center of Newtown offers long-term healing to those impacted by the tragic events of December 14, 2012 to help these individuals reach their full potential, and is a Program of Tuesday’s Children, a 501c3 non-profit organization or Resiliency Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath autograph, bid on Black Sabbath items, MFN auction, sandy hook,Center of Newtown is a program of Tuesday’s Children.” All services are offered free of charge and confidentially.

Beth Bogdan founded Music For Newtown to unite the music community to provide support to those affected in her hometown of Newtown, CT. The first auction was held in March 2013, three months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to raise money for the “Sandy Hook School Support Fund.” Items were donated to the auction by Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Gotye, Elton John, The Eagles, Blink 182 and many more. There were a total of 96 items and during the 3 day auction over $35,000 was raised.

The auction will go live from January 22- 29, 2014 at Royals, signed sheet music, signed Royals music, Lorde autograph, Lorde signature, Royals by Lorde, MFN auction, raising money to help newtown,

Donations are also accepted directly through the site during the auction or by sending Music For Newtown a check made out to “Resiliency Center of Newtown.”

For more information contact Beth Bogdan at:

Services Donated by:
Logo Design: Christopher Kornmann for spit and image
Website Design: Orange Hat Group
Printer: Remsen Graphics



December 3, 2013

#GivingTuesday is all about putting giving first.
When we give with a full heart we can change the world.
How will you participate in #GivingTuesday?

#givingtuesday, charities to give to, best charities, places to give, giving tuesday, what is giving tuesdayWhile avoiding all crazy lines, (we turned right around if there was anything ridiculous), I did my share of weekend gift shopping. My favorite moment was when Ali and I were leaving a store, both of us with bags in our hands. With a big grin, she turned to me and said, “I love this feeling. These are gifts I bought with my own money.” Giving in itself gives the giver a boost of happiness. Of course, that’s not why we give, but it’s a wonderful side effect.

On this #GivingTuesday, here are a few of my favorite organizations:

The Children’s Center for Hope and Wellness

In October, three beautiful girls and a pastor from Uganda moved into our home for a week and into our hearts for a lifetime.

Just like every other host family and all the people who see these kids perform across New England as a part of Destiny Africa Children’s Choir, these kids touch people to their core. Their needs in Uganda are great. While the choir was here touring, back home, a young girl died from a preventable illness. Martine would still be alive today with proper medical care and her story brings a greater urgency to the need to build The Hope Centre.

Destiny Africa, The Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, KCC, Uganda home for orphans, giving tuesday, medical center in ugandaLast night, I hosted a group of women who are joining together in a huge fundraising effort to build a much needed medical center for the orphans who live at the Kampala Children’s Centre, for the over 300 local children who attend school there and for people in the community at large.

Help us build The Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness and make an incredible impact. They can start building with just $20,000 and for only $70,000, it will be built and functioning – what Destiny Africa, Kampala Children's Center, hosting a family from Ugandawould that take in the U.S.? This project is dear to my heart and we are determined to make this happen!

Please consider giving to save precious lives. The website for the Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness will be up in a week or so, in the meantime, you can contribute by PayPal at the Kampala Children’s Center, mark your donation for the medical center. Every single dollar matters. THANK YOU!

Clean Birth.Org is an organization that speaks to me, both in my work as a doula and birth educator and because of clean birth logo,, cleanbirth kits, birth in laos, my affection for Southeast Asia.

Happify Is …

October 22, 2013

Have you heard the buzz around Happify? Have you wondered, What is Happify? Here’s my answer:

Happify Is …

happify, what is happify, happiness is, introducing happify, is happify a gameAs a beta tester – a Happify Pioneer – I shared my experience with Mother’s Circle readers in February in my Introducing Happify post. (Read that post for more details on what Happify is all about!) Since then, Happify has added many new features and today is the official public launch. Now, without needing an invitation, anyone can jump in and start their Happify experience and answer the question “What is Happify?” for themselves.

From their blog: “At Happify, we’re passionate about helping people find happiness, contentment and fulfillment through fun activities, games and exercises based on proven scientific research from the top minds in the country.”

Happify is … Fun

Sign up and try out the games and exercises, the Happify app, and the many new tracks, several created and “hosted” by celebrities or professionals. Within our busy, stressed days, one way people find relaxation is in social media, Happify is an escape from the daily hub-bub with a purpose! It’s a mix of video game, self exploration, Pinterest boards, social interaction (on posts and through threads) and online gratitude journal. It’s fun with a benefit – the activities are all based in the science of happiness (the science of happiness is also explained on the Happify website.)

Happify is … Spending time together

There is a new game called “Uplift” since I last posted in which you spot and click on positive words. Whenever I

[caption id="attachment_3490" align="alignright" width="300"]Happify tracks, Happify activities, what is happify, should I get on happify, how do I get happier Some Happify Tracks[/caption]

get to the games in a track, I save them to do with my kids. They love the search and find scenes that encourage us to slow down and savor the visuals and I love that we slow down and savor the time together.

This summer, I did a track called “Raise Happy and Resilient Teens” and there were activities that Ali and I did together and some that I turned over to her to do on her own (she’s been dying to join Happify.) It was a small thing but it spurred some nice conversations between us.

Art is Smart, Recycle A Bike and Education Foundation

September 6, 2013

art is smart, recycle a bike, providence charities, volunteer opportunities in RI, volunteering in RI, EGEF, EGEF RI, educational foundations, starting an education foundation, money for schools, money for art programsLast weekend, Festival Fete in Rhode Island highlighted several worthy non-profits including Art is Smart, Recycle-A-Bike, the East Greenwich Education Foundation and All Things Grow with Love. I believe in the goodness of human nature and that where there is a need or a passion, people build something wonderful to fulfill it. Check these organizations out to see if any spark your interest or desire to serve/give.

Art is Smart

Art is Smart is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that “serves children by raising funds to support public education art programs.” The organizationart is smart merchandise, supporting art is smart, money for public art education, grants for art in school, art teachers supplies, festival fete art, raises money through merchandise sales, fundraising efforts and through direct corporate and individual donations. They simplify the process of requesting and receiving funds, art teachers in the public education arena need only submit a succinct but specific letter outlining the requested needs.

As the mother of three artistically inclined children, I value their public school art programs and have volunteered my time to coordinate school Art Nights because I believe in the importance of art education. You can donate or purchase Art is Smart items at


recycle a bike, bike repairs, learning bike skills, biking in RI, biking workshops, Another unique and impressive organization at Festival Fete was Recycle-A-Bike. Their mission is stated as “a volunteer-based community organization that connects people with refurbished bikes, provides practical bike knowledge, and advocates bicycle use by safer, more confident cyclists.”

Festival Fete – Local Art Anywhere

August 20, 2013

Festival fete logo, festival fete RI, local artists, local artisans, local art anywhereFestival Fete creates amazing local community art festivals but even if you’re not a Rhode Islander, you can still enjoy the contemporary American craft artists that Festival Fete features.

At the June festival with over 140 artists, live music, strolling entertainment, free kids’ crafts and local foods, I met some fantastic artisans and want to share some with you.

Get your PeaceLove On

May 13, 2013

PeaceLove, mental health, Peacelove studios, pawtucket paintings, jeff sparr, get your peacelove on,

Get Your PeaceLove On!

Based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, PeaceLove Studios provides free art classes to communities effected by mental illness. Their mission is to help people create peace of mind and find comfort through artistic expression. They aim to chip away and remove the stigma attached to mental illness beginning with sharing personal stories.

[caption id="attachment_2445" align="alignright" width="180"]jeff sparr, matt kaplan, peacelove founders, peacelove foundation, peacelove pawtucket, ocd stories, PeaceLove Co-Founders, Matt Kaplan and Jeff Sparr[/caption]

Co-founder of PeaceLove, Jeff Sparr, openly shares his story and struggle with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). For years he searched for ways to ease his symptoms and, along with other tools, he found that painting brings him peace of mind.

He says, “My ‘something more’ would be to create a positive symbol of hope and acceptance for mental health. Every cause has their ‘ribbon,’ but tens of millions of people like me and their friends and families had nothing to rally and celebrate behind.”

Music for Newtown Auction

March 22, 2013
[caption id="attachment_1994" align="alignleft" width="300"]3 doors down, 3 doors down and music for newtown, 3 doors down donations, image of 3 doors down Beth with 3 Doors Down who donated an autographed guitar to the Music for Newtown Auction.[/caption]


The list of heavy hitting stars donating to the Music for Newtown Auction keeps growing even as the auction date is three days away.

Jack Johnson, Taylor Swift, Elton John, Tim McGraw, 3 Doors Down, The Eagles, Eddie Vedder, John Mayer, One Direction, and Rush to give you a teaser.

I have an “in,” so keep reading for a new item announced here first!

7 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

March 15, 2013

4 leaf clover, make luck, lucky 7, lucky clover, I'm unlucky, happy st. paddy's day, st. patty's day luck, be generous, attitude, what's luck got to do with it, law of attractionI wish people, “Good Luck!” as a vote of confidence, a hope for success, but I only have a limited belief in luck. Instead, I believe we make our own luck. Two people could be handed the same situation, the same resources (or lack thereof) and can create completely different outcomes. Some might dismiss it as “lucky” or use it as and excuse, “I’m just unlucky,” or “She’s luckier than me.” I don’t believe that’s luck, it’s attitude, how you choose to look at the world and interact within it.

These are lessons Nick and I work to instill in our kids at every opportunity. We believe in these principles in our own lives, as parents and contributors to society. Let’s call it “The Luck O’ the Italians,” it’s a recipe to make your own luck! Here are LUCKY NUMBER 7 Ways to Make your Own Luck!

Music for Newtown

February 25, 2013

music for newtown logo, Music for Newtown, sandy hook elementary, tim mcgraw, republic records, beth bogdan, heart musical noteMoved by the horrors in Newtown, Connecticut, our hometown, my sister launched Music for Newtown. She works for Republic Records who is sponsoring the online auction which will take place March 25 – 27, 2013.

After December 14, Beth, like so many who called Newtown home, felt drawn, and returned to Newtown. She talked to the First Selectman’s specially organized committee, the administrators of the United Way of Western Connecticut, as well as the superintendent’s office and Newtown Social Services to determine where needs exist.

There was an incredible, immediate outpouring from people wanting to help, but the needs continue. Many of the affected families are out of work and struggling financially. Resources are needed for ongoing counseling services and eventually for building or rebuilding, depending upon what is decided for the future of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The United Way of Western Connecticut has waived their administration fee so that all of the proceeds from the auction will benefit Newtown needs through the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Beth has been pulling together resources and the music industry is rallying for the cause.posters for Newtown, signatures for Newtown, 3 Doors Down, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, guitar donations, signed guitars,

KOTO – Know One Teach One

February 18, 2013

koto hanoi, hanoi restaurant, paper lanterns, white paper lanterns, globe lightsA year ago this month, my Mom and I took a trip of a lifetime together to Vietnam and Cambodia.

Before the trip, my daughter selected the book Noodle Pie by Ruth Starke for our mother-daughter book club, it takes place in Hanoi. I read it before leaving to be sure I could bring back relevant details and photos for the girls. KOTO is highlighted in the book and it was on my list of places I had to go to.

In one of those law-of-attraction moments, on our first night in Hanoi, only hours after landing, our guide gave us a run down of the next day. Quang told us the itinerary has “lunch on our own” scheduled but he hoped we didn’t mind that he had made a reservation for us all to eat together at a place called KOTO. My jaw dropped, I gasped and I flung my head to look at my Mom who understood my excitement.

Perfect! I would be taken directly to the one place not on the official tour that I wanted to see.mother daughter traveling together, traveling with your mom, vietnam tours, odyssey tours, southeast asia travel, visiting vietnam,

Hands that Rock – The Gift of Music for Children

December 28, 2012

Please consider Hands that Rock as you make your year end donations.

hands that rock, HTR, I love you in sign language, music charity, music education, saving music education, chair massage at concerts, Hands that Rock is an organization with a mission to bring the magic of music to under served communities throughout the United States. Founded by Darcy Lynch, a Rhode Island resident, and founder of Stage Hands Massage Therapy, the organization will provide chair massages for audiences at major concerts and events with net proceeds supporting music programs in cooperation with local music outreach organizations.

Since its inception in June 2012, the six month young charity has had 390 massage therapists who have worked at 31 music festivals and events nationwide for 118 consecutive days, and raised $12,000.

Hands that Rock’s primary focus is on developing and partnering with programs concerned with music education, performance, related resources and outreach for individuals and groups in need. It will also support community initiatives associated with environmental, social and health-related concerns to help create suitable environments for the creation and performance of music.