05/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

In the Spirit of Mother's Day

Forget the trip to Walmart for the new crockpot. The corsage. The all you can eat brunch. Let's do something this Mother's Day in the spirit of the woman for whom Mother's Day was created: Ann Reeves Jarvis.

Ann was a community activist who fought to improve sanitary conditions in Appalachia and foster comradery between Union and Confederate neighbors. Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, created Mother's Day not just to commemorate her mother's life work, but to promote the elder Jarvis' mantra that "motherly love" could heal both personal and community wounds.

For many mothers around the world, love isn't enough to provide their children with simple necessities.

More than 10 million mothers and children die every year during pregnancy, childbirth and infancy, which is more than the combined number of deaths from tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria -- according to Infante Sano, a non-profit organization that partners with local hospitals and rural clinics to provide medical training, essential equipment and resources to improve the quality of care women and children receive in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Infante Sano is one of several groups focusing on trying to turn this around. Family Care International works with government and non-government agencies to improve maternal health care and sex and reproductive education to women in Central America and Africa. The Touch Foundation focuses on Sub-Saharan African countries like Tanzania that witness some 950 maternal deaths per 100,000 births (compared to 11 per 100,000 in the United States). And there's always UNICEF.

These groups rely on donations from private individuals, small foundations and corporations to fund their programs. So this Mother's Day, why not take the money you were going to spend on gifts and instead make a donation to support one of the programs that help struggling mothers and their children around the globe? Infante Sano has a Mother's Day campaign where for only $25 you can sponsor a clean, safe birth for a mother, and give her child the healthy start to life he or she deserves. You'll help improve the quality of neonatal healthcare and insure that more mothers can raise healthier, happier children.

And there's another dividend: It will make your mother proud!