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Moorhead grad pens book encouraging mothers to become advocates

Cynthia Changyit Levin became global poverty advocate while raising two young children

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Cynthia Changyit Levin is a Moorhead High School graduate and author "From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started".
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Changyit Levin / Special to On the Minds of Moms
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When Cynthia Changyit Levin became a mother 18 years ago, she had a serious identity crisis after leaving her job as an engineer to stay home and raise her child.

“I had a journey of 2-3 years where I was floundering about, thinking that I didn’t know what I was doing now that I’d given up my career,” she explained.

As a new mother, Levin felt such sadness knowing mothers in underprivileged countries couldn’t feed or care for their children, and she wanted to do something.

But what?

She wrote a letter to the editor about global poverty initiatives with her child on her lap. She started attending meetings to learn more about advocating for work that could reduce global poverty. She met her U.S. Representative to talk about sponsoring a bill with her child in tow.

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Today, Levin is a known global poverty advocate whose work has taken her to Uganda, Washington, D.C., and more .

She writes about her experiences and how other mothers can become advocates in her book, “ From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started .”

She offers practical advice and tips for busy moms who see a need and want to fill that need, even when they seem to be short on time and energy.

“I want to take moms from seeing motherhood as a limitation to seeing it as a wonderful and unique asset,” she said. “I want moms to start thinking, ‘I can change the world because I’m a mom.’”

Levin graduated from Moorhead High School in 1989, and her mom worked in the Clay County Health Department during the peak of the AIDS crisis. She recalls thinking that civic engagement extended simply to voting.

“I remember being a Campfire Girl who handed out programs at the League of Women Voters debates,” she said.

Now, having seen another global health crisis and watching as her oldest child pursues a degree at Johns Hopkins in global health, Levin realizes so many of these seemingly unrelated experiences all stem from advocacy work.

“I never thought back then that I’d travel to Uganda or advocate in Washington, D.C.; I didn’t think advocacy was something I could do, even though I was aware that public policy could affect people’s lives,” she said. “Now I can draw a line between what my mom was doing to my early advocacy work to my child studying global health and see that it’s all very connected.”

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Levin started toying with the idea of writing a book more than 10 years ago and originally thought she’d produce a short book about being an advocate with just young children. As she got more involved in advocacy work, she realized the book needed to expand.

“I mean, it doesn’t take 10 years to write a book but it took me that long because I was living it,” she explained.

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Cynthia Changyit Levin shares in her book that one of the first steps in her journey to becoming an advocate was writing letters to the editor about important issues, often done with a child on her lap.
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Changyit Levin / Special to On the Minds of Moms

For anyone wanting to get more involved in advocacy work, Levin encourages starting with some introspection. “Advocacy is very personal; you will be the best advocate for something you care about,” she said. “So it’s okay to take time for ourselves to meditate or ruminate on things going on, and listen to your body, listen to what you are reacting to.”

She writes in the book that “advocacy is simply expressing yourself to inspire action from another person with the power to help.” Levin breaks down her information in three parts: why moms make great advocates, how to start and practical advice, with ideas for how mothers can still create meaningful change even if they only have 5 minutes or 20 minutes in the middle of the night while holding a baby.

Once a mom knows what issues she’s passionate about and would want to become an advocate for, Levin listed three organizations that teach people the necessary skills for advocacy work: RESULTS , MomsRising , and Citizens’ Climate Lobby .

“It’s my joy to talk to people and help them understand this (work) is something they can do and get involved with,” she explained.

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Cynthia Changyit Levin and her daughter pose with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who is holding a drawing Levin's daughter drew.
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Changyit Levin

Her book offers many ideas for how moms (and all parents, really) can start taking small steps in their advocacy work and even involve children. She writes: “What happens if you don’t make time to become the best person you want to be?...Kids are little pitchers with big ears; what are you pouring in there?”

Levin shared stories in the book about her children becoming advocates in their own right after watching her over the years. One child organized a peaceful protest after a classmate had soccer playing at recess revoked and presented to the principal a list of changes, written in crayon no less.

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Today, Levin’s children are almost 17 and 19 years old, and “they are becoming emerging advocates,” she shared. Yara Changyit-Levin is studying global health in Baltimore while her younger daughter Summer Levin is still assessing what she’d like to pursue after high school. Levin and Yara are actually writing a book tentatively titled “Use Your Outside Voice” to help parents and teens understand how to advocate successfully in a way that makes sense for a youth audience .

Levin’s book is available on her website – www.changyit.com – as well as other book retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores.

Related Topics: ON THE MINDS OF MOMS
Danielle Teigen has a bachelor's degree in journalism and management communication as well as a master's degree in mass communication from North Dakota State University. She has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015, first as a digital content manager before becoming the Life section editor and then deputy editor. She recently moved back to her hometown in South Dakota, where she works remotely for Forum Communications as managing editor of On the Minds of Moms.
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