Live Blogging from Africa

BlogHer Original Post

I’m live-blogging this week from Uganda, in Central Africa. That is the last sentence I ever expected to write when I started my silly little mom blog two and a half years ago. I’m here as part of a team of 15 U.S. bloggers on a trip with Compassion International, a widely regarded child advocacy organization. Six of our team members are women bloggers, including Sophie, Heather, Anne, Chris and Keely. Compassion brought us here to see firsthand the work they are doing in this country. To say that my perspective has changed would be a radical understatement.

I’m a mom. From Oklahoma. I drive carpools and fix lunches. Before, when I thought of Africa, I thought of a very faraway place, with terrible problems that were overwhelming to the point of being paralyzing. I whispered a silent prayer of thanksgiving that my children were healthy and well-fed, and I figured there wasn’t much I could do. After all, I’m a mom. From Oklahoma.

But things have turned a bit topsy-turvy this week. I’ve sat with a single mother of five in her one-room home in the streets of Kampala. I heard her tell me how she fries bananas and sells them, trying to make enough to send her children to school. Her eyes were very tired.

I’ve watched a mother sitting at the bedside of her toddler, wasting away with the AIDS virus. I put my hand on her shoulder, trying to imagine the things going on inside her heart. Her eyes said it all.

I was welcomed into the home of a mother in rural Uganda. The walls of her home were made of mud, but the house was spotless. She had draped torn lace over the furniture to make things lovely for her visitors. She sat in the floor and held her 15-month old son, gently rocking and patting him, while a Compassion social worker talked with her about nutrition and cognitive development in babies.

I’ve learned even though the bleak stories of poverty and heartache in Africa are true, we are not paralyzed. There is heroic work being done here. Compassion employs over 80 people—all native Ugandans—in their Compassion national office, empowering them to make dramatic change in the lives of their peers. They are out in the villages and the cities, funding HIV/AIDS treatment, educating mothers on healthy pregnancies, and teaching women to make crafts they can sell in the marketplace. Most of all, through one-on-one child sponsorship, they’re sending children to school and to the doctor, giving them hope and a future.

We sponsor a Ugandan boy through Compassion, and I met him this week. I gave him a soccer ball and a backpack full of goodies that my children helped me pick out. He must have said “thank you” to me 20 times. He wants to be a doctor someday, and I told him I totally expected he would do it.

I’ve seen things this week that will haunt me forever, but I’m not paralyzed anymore. I’ve learned that there’s hope in the heartache. Compassion is changing the world, one child at a time. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and help.

Shannon is a BlogHer contributing editor (Mommy/Family), and she blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and Bloggy Giveaways.

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