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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shot@Life Uganda - My Favorite Part

There are so many take-aways from the Shot@Life Uganda trip, it would take hours, if not days, to really delve into each thing observed and learned. Broken down simply, though, here's what I've got:

~ Motherhood is Universal
~ We Live in a Global Society
~ Vaccinations Level the Playing Field

I'm attempting to illustrate how I learned these things in two parts, yesterday's post and today's post. Thanks for reading.

And now I will tell you about my very favorite part of the trip to Uganda. 

 photo credit LaShaun Martin

photo credit LaShaun Martin

After Rosemary walked home we were privileged to have a sort of roundtable discussion with seven local women: Margaret, Margaret, Violet, Agnes, Fatima, Jen, and Valeria. As we sat together under the branches of a tree a storm was brewing in the distance. We enjoyed the breeze but not as much as each other's company. Some women sat alone, others had one or more children by their side, some of whom would nurse when needed. Through a translator, we asked each other questions and received answers. It was through this discussion that the three points I made at the beginning of this post were solidified. 

"What do you want most for your children?" LaShaun asked. Three of the women spoke up and had identical answers, "For them to be healthy, and for them to be educated." 

Nancy asked Valeria, "As a grandmother, how are you involved in your grandchildren's lives?" This valiant mother of 12 (9 of whom are living) replied, "My son's wife died, and I help him by looking after my grandchildren." 

When it was my turn to ask, I had already been crying (which I tried so, so hard not to do, but I couldn't help myself at that point), and I asked, "For those of you who have lost children, how has that affected your parenting, and also, how have the Family Health Days affected you?" My intention was to bond upon the unfortunate sisterhood of having lost a child; the result was that I was floored by their answers, by their faith. 

Violet answered, "One of my children died at 4 months of age. I felt sorrow for a long time, and was encouraged by my friends. I have more children now, who I bring to health days, and I've moved on." 

Valeria (the mother of 12 and grandmother who had answered Nancy's question) had twins with her first pregnancy. Both were stillborn and Valeria was told it was because, "they were too big." (That was the only time she delivered at a health facility; her remaining ten children she delivered on her own.) Her thoughts at the time were, "I will bear this, God will give me another child." Years later, her daughter Amelda, at ten years old, became victim to a dysentery outbreak and passed away. Valeria says of that experience, "I endured patiently." 

Margaret (the second of the two with that name) looked at me while her baby nursed. "My child before this one had an umbilical cord infection. We took her to the hospital, but she died at 2 months old. I said to myself, 'God has taken this baby but will give me another.'" 

Tears fell freely and I think I used up all the tissue in possession of my friends. 

Maggie then said, "As mothers, we're protectors. What do you worry about for your children?"

Valeria spoke up, "My children are grown, but even now I worry about them." Violet added, "I'm worried about what my children eat and drink at school, and what to do when they're sick." 

Our final question to our new friends was this: "What can we tell our friends and family at home in the United States? Is there a message we can deliver to them from you?"

Valeria emphatically expressed, "Thank them for giving us vaccines, and for bringing people together."

Margaret (the first of the two) closed with, "Thank you for educating and," at this point she made a leveling-motion with her hands, as if each hand was a side of a scale trying to balance, "giving vaccines to our kids."

With Violet and Valeria


Again and again I watched mothers with children; some were theirs, some weren't. The African Proverb It takes a village to raise a child is seen in action in Uganda. From what I could tell, the sense of family goes hand-in-hand with the sense of community. 

Motherhood is Universal. We all want the same things for our children: health, safety, education. 

We Live in a Global Society. Besides our ability to take advantage of, and the reality of, frequent international travel, we rely on each other as residents of earth. We provide things for each other, whether intentional or by surprise; whether tangible, or experiential. 

Vaccinations Level the Playing Field. Preventable diseases exist, and they don't have to. Polio is so close to being eradicated. We have the power to rid the planet, rid our children and generations to come of this and other diseases, and when we do that - when we prioritize and ensure health to our fellow global citizens - we can be confident that our efforts in assistance in other areas will be effective. 

I traveled to Uganda as part of a Shot@Life delegation in late October. I am grateful to Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation for this life-changing and humbling experience. 


Emily said...

I am in tears. These women are amazing and you, my friend, are no less so. It does take a village. Here's to hoping we can provide the world with as healthy a one as possible.

Vanessa said...

You look so beautiful in all this pictures, just glowing. I am loving catching up on all these posts.

La Yen said...

"I endured patiently." And I am sobbing that she had to endure because of DYSENTERY.

Naomi said...

It kills me just reading this, I don't know how you expected to keep the tears in! Love reading about your trip.

Ilina said...

You totally captured our experience with the mothers we met too. Spot on. I am still emotional about the trip and imagine (hope) I always will be.

Hailey said...

This is beautiful. I'm so happy to read about it through your eyes.