Friday, November 2, 2012

Shot@Life Trip Blog: Motherhood is Universal (videos, whee!)

I promise you, I'm going to get wonky on the statistics and foreign policy soon. Those of you who know me know I'm prone to do that. But let's dwell on the emotion for a bit more and the idea of motherhood.
(Stuart Ramson/Insider Images for UN Foundation) 
Nine Shot@Life volunteers went on this trip. All women, all mothers. (You can see a few staffers in this photo as well who happen to be women) We made quite an impression as we moved about the countryside. One of the boys at St. Zoe's school stood up to ask us, "Aren't there any men in your organization?"...which is a fair question. The answer is, yes, there are male Shot@Life champions, but mothers were selected for this trip because Shot@Life wanted American mothers to be connecting with Ugandan mothers. In Uganda - as in many parts of the U.S., no disrespect to my husband or other caring fathers - it is the mothers who are primarily responsible and concerned about children's health. So, we wanted caretakers talking to caretakers. And we wanted to talk not only about vaccines, but the other things that concern us about our kids no matter where we live on the planet.
                                                                                    (Stuart Ramson/Insider Images for UN Foundation) 
We spoke to mothers all the way through the trip in individual conversation, but on Day 3 we sat down with a group of about 10 mothers sitting exactly opposite us in a group and had a Q&A session. You can see them in this photo of all of us together in front of their church.

We asked them questions on a range of topics about what concerned them most in life. Sometimes we spoke about their own health care needs and their desire for more emotional and medical support for mothers who test positive for HIV. Yet regarding feelings about their children, their answers were focused and on target: their children's health and education. They stayed on those points with the tenacity of a presidential candidate on Meet the Press. To their credit, they are dogged advocates for their families. One of my questions was, "I am often telling my children not to fight and to keep their fingers out of their mouths. What do you tell your children over and over?" There was only one answer: Stay in school. My last question to them was, "My favorite part of being a mother is laughing with my children. What is your favorite time being a mother?" The answers were: when my children are healthy, when they are in school, when they have enough to eat.

There was a question to them that was also revealing about our similarities and differences at the same time. We asked, "What activities do with your children when you have some extra time to spend with them?" One answer was "making bread to sell." In one way, we were struck that there is not really a concept of having free time. All activities must be revenue generating in order to survive. Our family bike rides don't really connect with their paradigm. At the same time, I was struck by the fact that I also make bread with my children because it's fun for us, it teaches them a skill, and it's healthy. The activity itself is the same even if the necessity isn't the same for us here in Illinois.

As it happens, that night it was my turn to record a video diary entry for our trip. You can see it below along with a video made by Shot@Life. I swear that at the time I recorded my segment, I didn't know there would be a video called "Motherhood is Universal." Yet it's a phrase that was top of mind for all of us after our conversations and a concept that ran through our trip experience.

For more video reflections from the rest of the delegation - and to see some of their blog posts as well - visit

My reflections on Day 3 of the Shot@Life Uganda Trip

Shot@Life's "Motherhood is Universal" Video

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