A.A.S., Pierce College, 2000
B.A., The Evergreen State College, 2002
Jessica (Mainard) Ward is a freelance writer and blogger. She writes on anything from living frugally to successfully parenting high-risk adopted children. She has a passion for Africa and is currently planning a trip to the planet's newest nation, The Republic of South Sudan, in early 2012 where she and her family will work on sanitation projects, micro-enterprise and the repatriation of Sudanese refugees from camps in Ethiopia. Her work has appeared in BusinessWeek.com, Parenting.com, Seattle's Child and numerous blogs. She was also a guest on MSNBC's "Job Club with Tory Johnston." Jessica and her husband Robert Ward (T.E.S.C. class of 2002) raise their two adopted daughters in Kent, Washington. They are passionate advocates for the adoption of older children and children with HIV and AIDS. They have two daughters, one from the USA, and one from Ethiopia.
I had a dream one recent night. I dreamed that my daughter’s babysitter drove her to a rural town and dropped her off on the side of the road. I dreamed that I found out about this when I got home and found no babysitter and no baby. I dreamed of driving around the town in my car, trying not to drive too fast for fear of crashing in the ice and snow, but fearing that if I were too slow, I would be too late. One lone, tiny set of footprints in the snow would be easy to spot, even in the dark. I cursed and thanked the snow at the same time. Hopefully it would lead me right to her. I brought her down jacket with me – they must not have planned to be gone long.
I woke up screaming and hoarse with tears in my eyes. I’d been screaming for a long time, and my cat was sitting on my pillow looking at me, alarmed. Both of my beautiful daughters were asleep, soundly, safe and warm in their room. I fought off the urge to go wake up and hold my 3-year-old, the subject of my dream. I wanted her to pat my hair and say, “Wazzamatter mommy?” the way she does. I wanted to hear her funky little Amharic-Spanish-English accent, and I wanted to smell her hair. I wanted to make sure she was warm enough.
I paced around my house all morning in a trance-like state trying to understand the dream. The few times in my life that I’ve had such vivid dreams have always meant something important. But what could this mean? My little girl doesn’t even have a babysitter, and I haven’t visited the town in my dream in 10 years.
What kind of person would leave an innocent toddler outside to fend for herself? I poured my coffee on my hand, missing my cup entirely through the dried tears in my eyes. Suddenly, I understood. My little girl is just my little girl to me, but in Africa, where she was born, she was practically untouchable. If her neighbors knew about her, they would have burned her house to the ground in self-defense.
That’s why her mother took her to the orphanage. My little girl was born with HIV. Her mother (who had AIDS) was probably secretive about her own health status. If she had accepted the medication that she and her daughter needed to live, her neighbors might have come after them both. She never could have held a job again, and her parents might have thrown her out. Her daughter – now mine – wouldn’t have been allowed to go to school or play with the other children in her neighborhood.
It’s foolish, really; she’s just a little girl, not a walking, talking, tricycle-riding super-virus.
See more at Seattleschild.com
How did Evergreen help you in your career?
Evergreen helped me to find my passion for writing, and build the critical thinking skills necessary to determine when to make the transition to full-time freelance.