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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

28 Days of Impact: Valeria

When I think of my trip to Uganda last October with Shot@Life my mind is flooded with an abundance of memories, from the stunning landscape and red dirt to the bright eyes of the school children and the women dressed in vibrant colors. My heart races a little bit and I get emotional thinking of the things that particular experience offered, and the different ways I continue to be affected by all I saw and did.

Without fail, however, my mind always goes back to Valeria.

Valeria is a woman I met in Fort Portal. She has a spark in her eye and you can tell she has seen a lot in her years. Following attending Mass, a Family Health Day was held at a local church and families lined up to receive vaccinations and birth records for their children. During the Family Health Day, Valeria and I and sat in a group (there were 14 of us in total) and discussed matters of motherhood and, by extension, children. Valeria is a grandmother, and even though her children are grown, she still worries about them. Her son’s wife died and Valeria helps him by taking care of her grandchildren.

Through interpreters we were able to ask each other questions and learn about each others’ experiences. My interaction with Valeria was brief, but it was this interaction which helped me process and understand much of not only the trip but how mothers all over the planet, all our differences aside, are more alike than not.

Valeria is the mother of 12. Her first two children are twins, and both were stillborn. Her remaining ten children she delivered on her own (on her own). Years after she lost her twins, her daughter Amelda, at age ten, passed away due to falling prey to a dysentery outbreak. Valeria said of that experience, “I endured patiently.”

As a mom who has lost a child, I relate to her. As a mom who, at times, has trouble enduring patiently, I was humbled beyond description.

Toward the end of our group discussion, the question was asked, “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 quickly and emphatically answered, “Thank them for giving us vaccines, and for bringing people together.”

Of all the things she could have said, she immediately thanked us for vaccines. I can only imagine how she wishes,  how she aches with desire for her sweet Amelda to have had access to vaccines. 

L-R, Violet, me, Valeria

The impact of vaccines on the lives of children around the world is incredible. Now, you can help sustain the impact by sending an email to your member of congress. Welcome your members to the 113th Congress and ask them to make sure that global health and vaccines are a priority in the new Congress. Take action and make an impact!

This story comes from UNICEF Uganda and is part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss my girl LaShaun Martin’s post! Go to to learn more.   #vaximpact


Julie Marsh said...

It seems so simple, having been there, doesn't it? A means of preventing disease. A means of preventing heartbreak. So much good in something seemingly small.

Honored to have shared that experience with you, J.

jyl @momitforward said...

I already feel like I know Valeria from hearing you talk about her in D.C. I still can't get over that she lost her daughter at age 10 due to dysentery.

I love that she has been able to get vaccines since and the rest of her children are healthy.

Another great story from your trip to Uganda!

Emily McKhann said...

Jenny, Thank you for introducing us to Valeria and her strength and wisdom - and reminding us all how important vaccines really are.

Chrysula Winegar said...

"Of all the things she could have said"... Here's to Valeria's courage and dignity.

ShootieGirl said...

I'm so honored to have shared this journey with you. Our group talk with the women of Uganda was life-changing. I couldn't have had a better person to share the experience with.

Devi said...

Thanks Jenny. What an emotional conversation that must have been. The strength of moms like Valeria never cease to amaze me.

Unknown said...

Love this from Uganda. It was so lovely to meet you there, and to share these experiences with you. Valeria's story is so powerful.

Access to vaccines is important!

Jen :)

Unknown said...

Love this from Uganda. It was so lovely to meet you there, and to share these experiences with you. Valeria's story is so powerful.

Access to vaccines is important!

Jen :)

Jess Perry said...

What a great story! We tend to take things for granted here...the simple things that are just there. Thank you for sharing!!

Jess Perry