What I’ve Learned from Visiting the Developing World.
I’ve been to the developing world of Uganda twice now… & I will definitely be going back again.
I consider giving back to be part of my growth strategy, both personally & professionally, & I’ve learned so much from my time immersed in this different way of life that I can’t imagine not going back.
Before visiting the developing world of Uganda I imagined poverty of the likes I had never seen: starvation, sickness & suffering. What I’d never even considered it being was the bright, brilliant smiles of the people. The warm embraces of the women, their epic song & dance, & their unconditional hospitality.
The relationships I found in the developing world have been mutually transformative. From the women in the villages, the children in the program, the Beauty for Ashes Uganda‘s staff & the team I traveled with, these new friends had more to teach me than I expected.
What I’ve learned from visiting the developing world has forever changed my life.
There is so much in my life that I spend insane amounts of focus & energy on that, in the grand scheme of things, mostly don’t matter.
Social media is fun, but it can be a distraction. Having nice “things” provides a level of comfort, but I can survive without them. Having access to information & technology is a luxury, & the number of doors of possibility it opens is endless. Healthcare should be considered a human right, not a privilege.
I have so much to be grateful for.
While visiting the developing world has given me perspective, I have also learned to not feel guilty for what I have. I am extremely blessed, & while I cannot explain why I was born into a life where I have been given so much while others struggle to survive with much, much less… I know I am exactly where I am meant to be, living the life I am meant to live & experiencing the things I am meant to experience, so that I may influence those I am meant to influence & impact & give to, with my own story.
Love makes everything better.
Literally everything. While I have spent my life holding back & reserving love for those who become closest to me, by earning my trust & proving their loyalty (all of which I’ve done as a means of self-preservation & protecting my heart, because of my own fair share of trauma experienced)… my time in the developing world has made me realize that I’ve been doing this “love” thing all wrong.
Love shouldn’t be reserved for only those we deem “worthy”… because who are we to determine who is worthy & who is not? Love casts no judgement. Love knows no bounds. Love is patient & it’s kind… & I can get all biblical & preachy here, because I believe in all of it… but love is also simple. & it makes everything better. & back to my tendency to hold back in order to protect myself: these women have seen & experience more trauma than I could ever imagine & do not hold back their love in any way, which has taught me that it is through love that true healing happens.
Because the world is a messed up place. There is so much injustice in this world. Little girls who are born into a world where they find themselves with no parents at the age of 5 & 3… wandering from village to village, begging for food & a safe place to stay & falling asleep on the road when they become too tired to go on. It doesn’t make sense. That women would see their husbands murdered & their sons kidnapped by the very same men. It makes me angry & I question everything. But I find comfort in having faith that someone bigger than me has a plan.
I have to believe that God knows best. I find comfort in choosing to trust Him. I have learned to take a step forward on the path He is calling me to, even when I think it’s completely crazy & I can’t see the reason. I need to trust that He knows what I need, & it will be exactly the best thing for me. & I learned to trust this by the example set for me by the mamas in Uganda… who have seen struggle & have seen pain, yet still trust & praise God… & they are the most genuinely peaceful & happiest friends I have ever made.
Dance. Sing. Laugh. Smile. Rejoice. We all get caught up in the moments of life that make us feel less than stellar… & it can be easy to get stuck in this place. Social media can suck us into an ugly case of comparison. The media is constantly informing us of everything that is bad in the world. It can be hard to see what’s worth being joyful about.
But not the women of Uganda. They live life with the full understanding (because they experience it first hand!) that life can be hard & it is short. They dance like no one is watching. They sing at the top of their lungs, even if they can’t carry a tune. They laugh with their entire body. They smile bigger & brighter than anyone I’ve ever known. & they rejoice in the good in their lives.
Hope, Hard Work & Resiliency.
Upon my first visit to the village that I personally sponsor women in, I was met with heart-broken & hungry women. They were facing hard times, experiencing months & months of the worst drought seen in years. They were struggling to feed their children, as there was no food to be found anywhere. They were struggling to grow crops to earn an income, as Mother Nature was making this impossible. They had every reason to give up hope… to give up, period.
But they didn’t.
These women stuck together. They prayed. They kept working in ways that were still possible, & they persevered. They kept their hope alive.
A year & a half later, I was greeted by a village of thriving women. The weather had turned, crops were thriving & the women were learning new ways to carry on. They also learned from their struggle, & were hungry to be taught new ways to produce multiple revenue streams so that they might not find themselves in such a dire situation ever again.
These women bounced back, stronger than ever. Determined to work harder & excited for what they envisioned for their future. When a weaker person would literally choose death over survival… these women have taught me to keep the hope, continue to work hard, & how to bounce back from difficult times.
Friendship & Sisterhood.
This is something that I feel like I know a little bit about: the importance of a girl tribe. I launched a business, based on this very belief.
Women need each other. To share the thoughts & feelings of your honest, authentic self is one of the best benefits of sisterhood, & the women in the villages I spent time with live this. When women are empowered, the entire community is empowered. Therefore, there is no community empowerment without women’s empowerment. & the Teso Women know how to empower each other. They connect; they share resources; they carry each other when one struggles. & they are stronger & better together, making impressive strides as a village of sisters, because they live this.
This kind of sisterhood is enviable. But ladies, it’s definitely attainable & I am committed to building such a community of sisters at The Dostal House. (Shameless plug… but, if you’re Cedar Rapids local, I invite you to visit!)