March 1, 2016
I have watched girls walk 3 or 4 miles with no shoes to get to school. I have watched them sit in the blazing 95 degree sunlight as their stomachs growl because they will not have lunch.
I have heard girls worry that they will not be able to pay the fees to continue in school. They need to work to help support their family, and some may even be forced to marry at a very young age to alleviate the burden on their family.
I have listened to girls describe how fathers will pay for their sons to take tests but tell the girls that if they choose to go to school and not work, they will not eat.
Girls have stated that they are beaten or they have to watch their mothers be beaten if they ask for money to pay school fees.
I have seen children whose clothes are nothing more than rags walk miles to pump water from a well.
I have watched children who cannot hear try to survive in this harsh cruel poverty.
These stories make my heart scream, “These girls are powerless, their life is hopeless, I feel so sorry for them, they are VICTIMS!”
However, Fields of Dreams Uganda does not treat these girls like victims. Instead, we tell the girls that they have POWER. We tell them that they have power to control their future. They have power to make good decisions. They have power to live a life of meaning and purpose. We tell them that they are unique, compassionate and loving young women. We tell them they have the power to dream and to fulfill their dreams. We tell them that they have power to change their world.
When I stop to consider what we are saying to these girls, I wonder, are we lying to these girls? I wonder this because I often act as if I am the victim, as if I am the one that is powerless. In my home in the United States, I can get up from my couch, walk a few steps to the sink, and I can have clean drinking water. I dress my children in a different clean outfit each day for school. I drive my children in my heated and air conditioned car to school. I feed my children three meals a day and they even get snacks. My children attend an amazing school for free, and I tell my children I love them multiple times every single day.
Despite the obstacles and hardships the girls in Uganda face, they meet us at the school singing and welcoming us. Even though they do not know how their parents will pay for the next school session, they have the power to dream of being a doctor, lawyer, teacher or scientist. The girls sit in the grass with empty stomachs and a history of abuse, yet thank God for creating them and protecting them. These girls know that their circumstances are dire, but they choose joy. They choose hope. They choose life. And through these choices, these girls hold onto their power.
Why does it matter if I have power?
I’ve taken many mission trips and service trips over the years. Most of my friends are supportive, but there are always people who say:
Why would you waste all that money to travel to another country?
Wouldn’t it be better to just send the money to the people in the country to use so you can stay home?
Why do you think one week will matter?
Are you really making a change or only putting a bandaid on a wound that is hemorrhaging?
Why would you use your vacation time and spend time away from your family?
Why bother to go on a trip like this when all of the problems are still there when you leave?
These questions are the questions of a person who has given up hope and who has lost their power. I may not be able to feed every hungry child in one school in Uganda, but I can give a few children some candy. I may not be able to prevent the parents from abusing a child, but I can tell that child that she has power and is strong. I may not be able to force a parent to love a child, but I can tell that child that she is valuable, beautiful and loved. I may not be able to control a child’s future, but I can offer her hope that there are people that care. I may not be able to build new school buildings with electricity, but I can pay for a hygiene kit that will allow a girl to go to school when she has her monthly cycle.
If just a small percentage of us embraced our power, and used it for change, think of the world that we could build. Today, I choose to have control of my attitude, despite my circumstances. Today, I choose to embrace my power, and to use every ounce of it to pour love into these children.
I hope that you will find your power and hold onto it. I hope that you will use your power to encourage someone with your words, and I hope that you will use your power to take action. After all, with great power, comes great responsibility.