November 20, 2015
ON HER CHILDHOOD: "I grew up in Arkansas. I was raised by a single, radical feminist mom who was getting her PhD in Higher Education and breaking the glass ceiling. We couldn't afford a babysitter so I swam every day at the Y as part of an after-school program. My first swim meet was in Arkansas. My parents told me to visualize myself in the water winning and I continue that to this day — the process of visualizing success.
ON HELPING WOMEN: "During my adolescence I read a book by Alice Walker called 'Possessing The Secret of Joy' about female genital mutilation. When I finished it I closed it, set it on my chest, and went downstairs. I walked into the kitchen and announced to my mom, 'I know what I want to do with my life'. She didn't even turn around. She was making lasagna. It was snowing. I remember watching snow fall out the window when she said, 'Oh really Sera, what do you want to do'. I told her I wanted to help women heal their bodies. She laughed a little and said, 'Good luck with that.'
"Today I run an international humanitarian aid organization called Circle Of Health International that helps women and babies and their health care providers get what they need to be safe. We train health care providers with low resources. We work to get them supplies, medicine, solar panels, everything they need and we provide a lot of training. The Trainings range from trauma to clinical to social justice things like community organizing. I decided quickly that I want to be a trainer and an advocate. It means showing up. It means when you hear of something that needs doing you do it, you don’t wait for someone else.
"One of our first disaster responses was in Sri Lanka in 2004 after the Tsunami. We were in a part of the country where there were no other NGOs. We were in a tiny town, it was dangerous. The maternity hospital had been destroyed in the tsunami. All of the moms and babies had washed out to sea. The tsunami killed a quarter of a million people in an hour. I was checking in with our midwives. It isn't often that when you show up in one of the places that babies are happening but I walked into the clinic just as a woman was pushing. A Sri Lankan woman was pushing. It was her first baby and one of the COHI volunteer midwives were with her. I helped deliver that baby. It was such a sad place. The clinic was pretty basic, it was a room with a delivery table. A third world room in one building that hadn't been destroyed. She's on a table, there was no power. and there was a bucket beneath her and she pushed that sweet baby out and it was really tender to be there. After such bad sad terrifying things happen, birth offers a sense of healing. It’s new. You're starting over. Life goes on. You don’t often get to to feel that. It happens in natural disasters. It’s politically benign. It was a good day."
ON FALLING IN LOVE: "Adam was my tutor in graduate school in epidemiology. I fell in love with him when he left for Guatemala with his family. Two months after I met him and I missed him, and then he came to visit me in Austin in my trailer. He was six years younger than me and he wasn't ready. I had to wait a little while, it was hard because I love to win."
ON HER WEDDING: "We had a low key wedding in Vermont. My sister-in-law made my wedding dress, it cost $75. She was studying fashion in school and it was her final project. We bought Adam’s clothes at a headshop in Montreal. We had fireworks that my redneck family brought from Arkansas, a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream truck came, and there was all local food. Everyone camped. Our rabbi was great. He was gay and Interfaith. We stood in a circle and planted a tree and wrote our own vows."
FAVE LOVE SONG: "'Let’s Get it On' by Marvin Gaye".
FAVE LOVE MOVIE: "Gandhi".
FAVE LOVE BOOK: "'All About Love' by Bell Hooks".