This week I'm one of 9 Shot@Life champions who have departed on a delegation to Uganda to view UNICEF's Child and Family Health Days. So many things are running through my mind. I feel like I'm having a Margaret Mead moment. "What would Mead, the famous ground-breaking anthropologist, have done?", I thought to myself last week when I was packing and worrying about leaving my two young daughters behind, 5-years old and 19 months old. Then it happened...
I was reading to my little one before her nap and she started bubbling her lips, meaning she was taking her fingers and playing with her lips. Having read a few of Mead's books, it reminded me of her witnessing this practice many years ago among people in New Guinea. Could it have been a sign from Margaret, herself, that this was meant to be? Probably not, but I enjoyed fantasizing about it as if it was.
Anyway, curiosity got the best of me. I wonder what life is like in Uganda. What the people do, say, dress, eat. Where do they live? Where do they go to school? I can't wait to experience the culture first-hand. I can't wait to tell my kids and my grandkids.
I won't be taking a steam ship for months to get where I'm going and live among the local people for years, like Mead did in the 1920's. No, I'm going for one week, and I'll be riding into the rural villages on UN vehicles with UN staff. But the wonder, the intrigue and the willingness to want to understand people new to me is there.
When reading, With a Daughter's Eye by Mary C. Bateson, Mead's only daughter, I winced at her accounts of how her mother would leave her to go to the field. I thought how could she do that? And yet, here I am, a stay-at-home mother of 2 young daughters, 5 years old and 19 months old, jetting off to Africa for the week with dad in the driver's seat. There's a yearning inside of me that's telling me that I'm supposed to be here right now, on this flight, to Uganda.
This morning on flight day, I woke up with a feeling of uncommon calmness. There it was, my own "gut feeling" that this is meant to be. My kids have been without me for almost that long once before. I've left them letters for each day and hid prizes around the house. They are in good hands, and we will be cuddling again soon!
The purpose of my trip is to witness the work that UNICEF is doing to help save the lives of children. Every 20 seconds a child dies of a vaccine preventable disease. Can you imagine the horror? Losing your child or children to diseases that some person in the world has the knowledge to prevent? It is an injustice, one that we can solve.
I've been invited on this trip due to World Moms Blog's advocacy for life-saving vaccinations for children in the developing world. This past year our advocacy has led to fundraising, lobbying Congress on the importance of vaccines and global health, the beginnings of a global documentary with the GAVI Alliance (who is also a Shot@Life partner) and an increase in grass-roots advocacy for the movement.
Mead conducted her studies through participant observation, the anthropologists's rule of making no changes to a culture, but simply observing while taking part and taking notes. This is what we've been sent out here to do, observe. And if we're inspired, we will go home and tell the world what we saw and make some noise about these efforts to provide life-saving healthcare to the children who need it most.
So here's what's going to happen. I'm going to go to Uganda, (as mentioned, on the plane now), observe the example of how UNICEF is making a difference in the child mortality rate there by providing children Vitamin A tables to help prevent blindness, polio and measles immunizations, deworming tablets to those who need them and insecticide treated bed nets to help prevent malaria. That part is rainbows and butterflies.
But, here's the part that is going to be really tough.
The children are also going to be checked for malnutrition. How am I going to react inside when a child is found to be suffering? In front of my own eyes? We've all read about it, seen pictures or watched video, but what is it like when it's happening right in front of you? Is the impact any different? What will it feel like observing the Child Health Days when you have 2 of your own children at home who have regular well visits and access to a doctor?
Losing a child to a vaccine preventable disease or from malnutrition just isn't a common reality where I live in suburban New Jersey, USA. But, no matter what I see in the days to come this week, I feel more motivated than ever to keep on advocating for children.
I encourage you to help me get the word out about our Uganda delegation. You can start by just sharing this blog post on Facebook or Twitter.
To follow my account of the trip, you can also follow the World Moms Blog Facebook Page for my personal photos and comments from the field this week!
We can do this together! Come along with Shot@Life to Uganda this week!