The thing about being in Uganda, or any developing country for that matter, is to not view the experience through the lens of our own paradigm. As an American who lives a rather charmed life, it would be easy to be horrified at how villagers in Uganda live. It is a shock for sure if you look only at the surface. It is not an easy task to leave our lens behind and don a new viewfinder. Yet it is critical to how we tell our stories, and each other’s stories. If I were to compare my life with the lives of mothers in Uganda, it would be painfully obvious that our standards are farther apart than our time zones. Yet one is not better than the other when we use different measuring sticks.
One universal common denominator is the experience of children.
While in Uganda we have spent considerable time visiting different villages. We have driven by countless villages and seen scores of children. Uganda has the third highest birth rate in the world so it’s no surprise we see gaggles of kids at every turn. The smiles and grins of children cross borders. They wave enthusiastically as we drive by and sometimes run alongside our van. Their kneesocks droop, and their gangly arms flap as they run. Each and every child I see melts my heart and makes me miss my boys. I want them here with me to experience this adventure. I want them to see that as human beings, we are more alike than different. Nothing underscores this statement as much as children.
I’ve been struck by the joy of play in every village I’ve seen. At every turn we see little boys tousling, girls jumping in puddles, teenage boys kicking a soccer ball, little girls jumping rope (with an actual rope, not a plastic handled purple sparkly rope), boys rolling a hoop down the street (just like the ones they sell to tourists in Williamsburg), and the universal all purpose kid toy – the stick. Kids were waving sticks in the air while marching and using sticks to draw in the dirt, all the while laughing and running amok in the same way Bird and Deal do. Children definitely share a universal noise level.
And so we are here in Uganda working to vaccinate children, to raise funds to provide the necessary resources to do so, and to advocate for more support. We are here as mothers, writers, advocates, and champions. We are here because children matter. Cliche as it sounds, children are our future. They are the future of every nation, and we will not see progress without a healthy, educated population at the helm.
Every one of the children we see is mothered and loved. They laugh in the same language of our children. When I look into their faces I see my own Bird and Deal. I promise you would experience the same thing. These are the world’s children, our future. This is why I am here in Uganda. Our job is to amplify the message that children all over the globe have rights. A right to health, education, safety, and love.
All children deserve a shot at life, wherever it may be.