A Week in the Villages of Uganda
It's been two weeks since I sat in the villages in Uganda. It's taken me this long to be able to process enough to write about. Business Chicks community for women in business took 18 women to Uganda with The Hunger Project to witness first hand the work that they do in ending chronic hunger across the world.
It was a mixture of both good and bad emotions throughout the week. The good left me so elated and excited while the bad left me so devastated. To see the difference in the villages where the Hunger Project had been in contrast to those too far away from the epicenter was astounding.
When we visited the Mbarara village we got to speak with a gathering of women and hear the impact that the epicenter had had on their lives through the health clinic, the microfinance bank, the food bank and the access to education. I had the distinct impression while we were sitting listening to this gathering of women that we were witnessing history. You could see the movement taking place, people's postures and facial expressions changing and the attitudes developing that the villagers had the power and determination to end their own hunger.
The biggest thing for me is opportunity (or lack of). I am a believer in that we have one short life to lead, 4000 weeks is the average. It is our responsibility to take each of those weeks, play as big as we can and leave a positive impact on the world. Whatever we want to achieve as an Australian, we can do. Some things take hard work, time and dedication but whatever we really want to achieve, we can tap into resources, seize opportunities and get there.
For one woman I met in Uganda, she had no opportunity. All I could see in her eyes was sadness, defeat and frustration. I had heard Business Chicks CEO, Emma Isaacs ask a few women what their hopes and dreams for the future were throughout our trip. This woman had hopes and dreams. But she woman cast her eyes down with the saddest and most defeated look I have ever seen. She glanced at her malnourished child and said that she wished for enough food and for her daughter to go to school. They survived on one meal a day. Millet and banana. Even this was dream was unachievable. The opportunity to change her current situation in her own was simply absent. As an independent and ambitious woman, this broke my heart and made me need to do something to bring about a level of change.
We heard fabulous stories too. When we were walking along a road I found Oscar hiding behind a banana tree. He was watching his Mum and Grandmother plough the field for potatoes. I asked his Mum why he wasn't at school and she said, 'He's recovering from malaria'. What confused me was the beaming smile on her face as she said it. It turns out that because she is close to a Hunger Project epicenter, she was able to get medication for Oscar so he would now recover, instead of die. Imagine if a simple disease, episode of diarrhea or drinking water from a stream put our children at risk of death.
I met Beshy at an adult literacy class. There were around 20 people from the village ranging from teenagers to the old and grey. We asked anyone to stand up and tell us how attending the adult literacy classes has changed and improved their lives. Beshy stood up with the proudest look on her face. She had bought some land the previous month with her husband using funds that were borrowed from the micro finance bank. She could find her way to the epicenter because she could now read street signs and she owned the land jointly with her husband because she could now write her name. Something so simple and taken for granted by me, but had given Beshy so much empowerment and hope for changing her and her family's future.
When I arrived home to my massive pile of mail, contained in it was one from Medicare and the Australian government telling me that my son is of school going age and if we were eligible for family tax benefit a we could have access to over $400 as a helping hand to cover the cost of school books. A little ridiculous seeing as though our schools are already free to attend 5 days a week. We have access to so many resources as an Australian and it's up to us to effect change on other parts of the world and eliminate the suffering. Life's busyness is all consuming. It's downright amazing that we live in the same world as people who are suffering from chronic hunger and yet we are worlds apart. Even now I've returned I feel somewhat detached from what I was so consumed by only two weeks ago. When in the reality of our first world comfort it's easy to brush aside the daily struggles of survival that so many people endure day after day. But I won't. I can't put them aside. Going to Uganda with The Hunger Project has messed with my mind and I will never think the same again, something I'm so grateful for.
At the end of our trip, we had to reflect on what we were thankful for in our lives. After such an experience, I felt such an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Water, healthy children, soap, hot showers, absence of daily fear, education, opportunity, cleanliness, fresh variety of food... I could go on. Please add your comment below, what are you most thankful for in your life? Tina Tower x
To read more about the hunger project and to donate, visit this website.
Business Chicks is a fabulous community for business women and they will be offering another group of women to travel in 2013 with the hunger project. To read more about business chicks visit this website.
If you would like to find out how you can become more involved with the hunger project, my goal is to spread the word and find other investors to end world hunger, give me a call on 0414 810 749.