Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Fort Portal Mothers Group:A Study in Personal Similarities Under Different Cultural Circunstances

The Fort Portal Mothers Group:
A Study in Personal Similarities Under Different Cultural Circumstances

Photo credit: Stephanie Geddes
I loved our visit to Fort Portal, Uganda on Sunday, October the 28th, 2012.  Every moment of that day was filled with excitement and wonder!  As I went around on that beautiful morning I observed mothers’ faces and saw their love, tenderness and determination to make sure their children were protected against childhood diseases.   Every time I complemented a child’s beauty the mother’s face glowed with pride.  It was not difficult to tell which child belonged to which mother.
One of my favorite memories was the opportunity I had to meet and sit with 8 mothers from the local church’s women’s group.  Their names were Grace Night, Rose Mary Kobusinge, Rose Mary Kezabu, Elizabeth Kemiyondo, Gertrude Kyomuhendo,  Moregn  Kabasambu, Debra Kobugabe and Prossy Kobusinge.  Every Tuesday and Thursday these women, and many others, gather together at the church for serious conversation and each other’s company.  Some of them walk 5 to 10 kilometers (or more) to get there.  They come from different backgrounds, levels of education and socioeconomic status.  Some of them have 4 children, others have 5 or 6 - and still others have 10 children.  Many of them grew up together there in Fort Portal while some of them moved there not long ago.  Their ages vary from 16 to 68 years old - but the thing that unites them is their faith, their love for their children and families… and their country.  Yes, even the poorest citizens in this world, no matter where, have a love, hope and pride that burns in their patriotism for their native countries and cultures. 

I couldn’t help but to look at the group I was traveling with; we were so similar to these mothers who lived so far removed from our own day-to-day existences.  Our group was also diverse: one was born in Australia, another in India, and I was born in Mexico; we had 1 (one) single lady while 8 (eight) of us were married and had children; one of us had grandchildren, others were bloggers while still others in the group dedicated their personal or professional time as advocates.  Regardless of our own different professions and socioeconomic status we all have these things in common: we love our families and children; we all advocate and champion the Shot@Life Campaign - and we all want to make sure the no more children die from easily preventable diseases because of the lack of vaccines.

Photo credit: Stuart Ramson /UN Foundation
Back to the local mother’s group meeting... we all sat together on two benches with one group facing the other.  This was our opportunity to learn from each other, introduce ourselves,  ask questions and to share some of our experiences as mothers.   To break the ice, we (the Shot@life Champions) started by telling them our names, where we were from and what our youngest children love to do.
After that we had a round of questions from the Shot@Life Champions and answers from local Ugandan mothers as follows:
1.     How long had the women’s group of mothers been together?   The women’s group has been meeting together since when the church was established in 1924.  In each generation they have had leaders appointed from among them to keep the group going.

2.      What are the things that you do in this group?  We make crafts that we sell; do gardening and farming; discuss financial situations and health issues like HIV and malaria; and before the Family Health Day we went from house to house and spoke to families about the benefits of vaccines and free services that would be provided for them by UNICEF with the help of the United Nations Shot@Life campaign.

3.     What are the things that you like to do with your family?  We like to work together around the house and fields, and make bread for sale.
4.     What do you tell your children over and over?  We tell them: Stay in school!  (The answer was the same from all of the mothers.)

5.     What professions would you like your children to do when they grow up?   Doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers.  (Sound familiar?)

6.     What is your one wish for all mothers of the world?  Peace and long life.  In addition we want the children to be educated because it is the only way to be autosuficient.

7.     What makes you happy?  (As an example, Cynthia Levin from the Shot@Life Champions said that what makes her happy is “when her girls laugh silly.”)  The local mothers’ answers included “when my children are in school;” “when my children are healthy;”  “when my children are not hungry;” “when my children come back from school happy because they learned something new;” and “when my children work together.”
Some of the mothers were not shy about sharing their challenges and hopes.  Prossy (a single mother of 8 children, grandmother of one, a teacher and a former reporter for Uganda) told us the biggest problem they have is with computers, because one computer can take away the jobs of 20 people.  Prossy also said that they need more tetanus vaccinations for children until the age of 14 years – and HIV testing for older men.  HIV testing, health concerns and education were permanent worries for all of these mothers.   
Photo credit: Stephanie Geddes
We were so alike in so many ways!  Just look at our similarities!  …and all of us with the same worries that mothers around the world have for their children.  As a mother, now, that was born in Mexico - I still remember very well the same hopes and dreams of many mothers when I was growing up, during my missionary service, and later in my nursing career.  To be honest I still see the same hopes and dreams expressed by the minority parents - and other parents, in general - that I serve now in Oklahoma.  In the end we all want the same things for our children.  We want them to grow up healthy; have great educations; to be productive and to have a better future; and most importantly, we want them to be responsible members of the human race.  We want these things so badly that it is common to see parents working 2 or 3 jobs, willing to sacrifice everything just to make sure their children succeed and have a better future.
Indeed, we are not so different from one another, just in our circumstances and the luck of how or where we were born.  To be honest our worries here in the United States are very small when compared to these stoic women in Uganda who, nevertheless, consider themselves blessed.  We don’t have to worry about losing our children to easily preventable diseases because of the lack of vaccines, to HIV or to malaria.  We are lucky enough to live in a country where every child can be vaccinated, where we can provide food for them more easily - and where we have public shcools that also can provide 2 free meals a day for families with low incomes.  Our students can, and are expected, to go to school from kindergarten through 12th grade without worrying if the parents can afford it.  We also have many fine charitable organizations that provide assistance and food throughout the year and during the holidays.  I am not saying that we do NOT have poverty here in the United States; but our poverty is nothing compared to the average daily norm for the people in Uganda and so many other parts of the world.  We live in a country that is so rich in blessings where sometimes we take it for granted and forget where they come from.  Yes, we are all one and the same people, but the needs in Fort Portal and throughout Uganda are different.  Don’t forget that Uganda is but a small part, or microcosm, of what is found all over the African continent.
Photo credit: Stuart Ramson /UN Foundation
I was touched so many times during the day.  I felt honored, humbled and so lucky to be among these great people.  Their teachings put so much into a perspective that I could relate to and understand so well.  Their love for God, their families and their fellow man was remarkable.  Their unity, respect and loyalty to each other reminded me of my own culture - and of what I have heard referred to so often in the United States as the “good old days”.  Ah… in times like these I wish I was a writer or a poet in order to express better all of the beauty I saw in this day.  Even though I can recognize easily that I lack these talents of expression, one thing for sure is that the United Nations Foundations Shot@Life campaign is saving lives.  UNICEF is working miracles also with the resources that are being provided to them, and we (the champions that were there that day) were blessed to be among great leaders and the pure souls of the mothers of Fort Portal, Uganda.


  1. Lovely, thorough recap, Felicia! It was one of my favorite moments from the trip -- meeting with the mothers union in Fort Portal. Great post!

    Jen :)

  2. That was great! You definitely captured some notes that I did not, so thank you for helping me remember such a special day. This is a wonderful post, Felisa -Cindy

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I think this is a charming issue, I expect you would surely post on it again sometime near the future. Thanks guys! build muscle fast

  5. This post is really valuable that designed for the new visitors. Pleasing work, keep on writing.steve hines

  6. That’s really amazing and extraordinary blogs & can help those who get issues in searching this type of information. massage equipment