Leadership in unlikely places
07.12.12 | Posted in General
I’ve been back from Uganda for a week now but am only really feeling ready to write about it now. Coming home to our exquisite lives in Australia has been difficult and I’ve found myself in tears or on the verge of them quite a few times. A lot of people have asked how exactly it’s changed me, and I’m not sure of that yet, but I know I’ll never be the same again.
We were there for the Business Chicks Immersion and Leadership Program, and I couldn’t help but feel on a number of occasions that every single one of the women in the group were meant to be there – they answered the call to a new level of leadership and stepped into the challenge beautifully.
During our time in Uganda we were confronted by chronic hunger and poverty which is just a way of life for too many. We met a woman who had twin babies – both of the children had runny noses and watery eyes and were too weak to swat the flies off their little faces. We asked the woman what she ate each day and she said “I won’t eat today – I may eat tomorrow.” How was this mother meant to breastfeed her two babies when she was so malnourished herself? She had no means to food or income – as she was looking after the children she couldn’t work and her husband was a casual labourer and worked when the work was there. When the work came in he’d receive approximately $1 a day, and on those days, they’d eat.
In one village we asked a man to show us where they got water from and he led us to a small water hole that was bright green (pictured left), completely covered in algae. Half of our group’s hands went to their mouths immediately – surely this couldn’t be where they got water from? Our translator assured us it was, and worse still – a lot of the villagers didn’t like the taste of boiled water, so they used it/drank it as is.
In one hut, a little girl (or boy – you can never be sure because all the children have their heads shaved and usually only have one piece of clothing which doesn’t give you a clue as to their gender) sat on my lap. This little girl weighed less than my 16 month old daughter. I asked the mother how old she was, and she said ‘five and a half.’ That’s years, not months. She was skin and bones, and hers was another family with no income or access to regular food.
The stories I’ve told you above were some of the gravest we experienced. There were however, many moments of tremendous hope and stories of resilience and success – and these were of those women and families who were involved with The Hunger Project. These people had learnt how to grow better quality food and more variety (some families live off a diet of only one food, like bananas), store their food and sell the excess to make an income. They’d been trained in health practises (like washing your hands after going to the ‘bathroom’), and building structures out of sticks to air out their pots and pans after cooking etc.
I am incredibly proud of the Business Chicks women that took part in the trip – each and everyone of them stepped up and played full out, and together with the members who went on the first trip to Bangladesh their efforts contributed a total of over $380,000 to The Hunger Project. Bravo girls! And two of the women on the Uganda trip have pledged $1,000,000 to The Hunger Project Uganda over three years as a result of this experience – how extraordinary is that?
We’ll be running more leadership programs next year to Bangladesh and Uganda and if you think you may be up for it, we’d love for you to apply – send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you some info.