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Motherhood: A Universal Word

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She wore a little green dress with bright eyes, and tiny little hands and  feet. Five month old Baby Harriett didn’t realize that today was a special day. One that would save her life!

A small group of three Shot@Life Champion were given the privilege of following a family’s journey. Young grandmother Rosemary and her son Brian allowed us into their home in the Kabarole Village of Uganda to observe what a typical Sunday looks like for them. We entered their home on a short dirt road where a sheet functioned as the front door. We were graciously welcomed into a neat and tiny living room with dirt floors. We were greeted by the entire family: Grandmother Rosemary, age 35, primary caretaker of Baby Harriett along with her son Brian, age 21, who is Harriett’s father. Daughters Prishna, age 19, Rena, age 19 months (Prishna’s daughter), and Rosemary’s youngest child Juliette, age 16. We were told that Grandmother Rosemary’s husband could not join us as he was in the fields of another village digging and working the family crops.

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Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson/UN Foundation

To make a better life for herself and her family Baby Harriett’s mother, Sheila, age 20, left her daughter with her boyfriend and his mother to finish school for nursing. As commendable as this decision is, Sheila’s absence has left Baby Harriett without the proper nutrition she needs through breastfeeding. In the country of Uganda, babies only have two choices, breast milk or regular cow’s milk as baby formula is not readily available and expensive.

We followed Grandmother Rosemary, which is difficult to say because she’s so young, to her Catholic mass service where we were able to see the Kabarole Village worship experience. The beauty of this day is that it was coupled with Healthy Family Health Day, which is a clever way to capture citizens to receive life-saving immunizations.

In Uganda, churches are literally everywhere. But health clinics and hospitals are scarce. So UNICEF decided to bring their immunization, birth registry, nutrition screenings and HIV/AIDS testing to houses of worship all across the country. They bring in health care workers and supplies reaching more than 19,000 families in 2011. That number continues to increase as the word spreads abut these FREE services.

Immediately following the worship service, parishioners made their way to a room just across the parking lot to take advantage of the services. This is where we watched Baby Harriett receive her immunizations. But the toughest moment to watch was the nurse checking little Harriett to determine if she was malnourished. Sadly, the band on her frail arms could nearly wrap around twice. Baby Harriett was confirmed to be in the red, danger zone. I watched and cried, feeling so emotional that her young life was now hanging in the balance, but grateful that her grandmother was concerned enough about her health to bring her in for treatment. In Uganda, 21% of children under age 5 are underweight in the poorest communities, versus 8% in the riches communities.

The awareness campaigns and fundraising from champions and organizations like Mocha Moms, Inc. , a national non-profit for stay at home mothers of color, make it possible for precious children like Baby Harriett to receive this type of care when families can not otherwise afford it.

After seeing Grandmother Rosemary and Bay Harriett off, our day continued with a group of Kabarole Village mothers and their beautiful children. We sat down to dialogue about what life is like for them as mothers. Of the 7 moms who joined us, 4 of them had lost at least one child.

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The story of Valeria, widowed mother of 12 and now a grandmother, lost twins boys at birth. But she also lost her daughter to dysentery (blood stools and diarrhea) at the young age of 10. An epidemic broke out in the community and Emelda was not immunized. 1.5 million children die each year in developing countries from conditions like diarrhea, which can be easily prevented with vaccinations.

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Although it feels like we live a world away, the group of mothers (Margaret #1, Margaret #2, Violet, Agnes, Fatima, Jenny and Valeria) are more similar to American moms than we are different. They have the same concerns and dreams for their children. They want to see them safe, healthy, educated and productive citizens.

I was also happy to hear that all but one of the women was married with a supportive family intact, which dispels the myth that African or African-American men leave their families after children are born.

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I can not tell you how eye-opening this day was. What an amazing gift to share time with women who prove that the word MOTHER is universal in every way.

What are your dreams for your children?

Happily married mother of 2 fabulous daughters. CEO & Designer of Shootie Girl™ Custom Rhinestone Apparel. Former government and global software giant manager turned work-from-home mom and National Director of Social Media and Blogging for a national non-profit moms organization.
Shootie Girl
 

17 Responses

  1. What an amazing and truly eye opening day indeed! It just makes me count my blessings, but I’m sure they look around and find their blessings in family too:)

  2. KG

    These stories are hard to hear and harder so to count your blessings while theirs keeps diminishing. I always wished I was rich so I give back to countries like Uganda but I know I can’t save everyone I’d like to save.

    I’m from the Dominican Republic and you see children in this same conditions – maybe not as bad but bad enough. Children whose family emigrated from Haiti to find a better life in DR but don’t make it past the border because they are so malnourished. It’s heartbreaking. They come to my mom’s house everyday to get odd jobs just so they can go to the store and buy bread for their family.

    Writing this makes me cry!
    Thanks for the story!

    I dream that my children will one day give back! Everything I do is for their lives to be better and I hope that they know that and always PAY IT FORWARD!

  3. Rosey

    Really, something as simple as diarrhea has such drastic effects… that’s really awful.

    You’re right though, family is family, and we’re all the same…just living under different circumstances. Thank you for the share!

  4. Thanks for sharing your incredible journey with us all. Every child matters, and I am so happy to see Baby Harriet rec’d her life-saving vaccinations. I pray that she will live a long and healthy life.

  5. You are amazing. This post really touched me. I can’t imagine being such a young mother and having to choose…the sacrifices a mother makes for her family..

  6. What an amazing, heartwarming experience. There are lots of similar cases here in the Philippines, and how I wish kids from less fortunate families can be given the attention they rightfully deserve.

  7. This post is so heartbreaking and such a big eye opener at the same time. Every night I pray for all the children of the world to be safe, healthy, and blessed with a life that will make them happy persons. If only I could travel and help out those children in any way, I’d do it. Since being a Mom, my heart has become such a soft thing for children.

  8. What a touching story. The intact family is so important to the raising of a child. I think that the strong church community helps support the intact family as well.

  9. I love this. Thank you for sharing your journey and reminding us that MOTHER is the same around the world!

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