After my husband visited Uganda in 2010, I couldn’t get his stories out of my head…
The children abandoned after birth—left at police stations, on the side of roads or thrown in Dumpsters. The single mothers with 4-5 children, forced into prostitution just to keep food on the table. Every day he’d send pictures and introduce me to these women over Skype. At first, he was our middleman: “Tell Mama Clare I said hi!” I’d say. Or “Give the kids a hug from me!”
But soon I was making friends all on my own. I’d send updates, little notes and photographs, building friendships and helping where I could. Even from 10,000 miles away I felt connected to this community in a way I never imagined. Years later, I hopped on a plan and visited Uganda myself. When I got off the plane I was greeted by a sea of familiar faces. There were no strangers here. I was reunited with old friends. These friends needed more than a short-term donation of money or food. They needed CHANGE. The women needed to see doctors, to have access to contraceptives. The babies—including one I saw left at the bottom of a pit latrine—deserved to feel loved and safe, and to fall asleep with a belly full of warm food.
If only these women were given the tools to take care of themselves, they might never again be faced with the heartbreaking decision to abandon a child. Because in 2002, I too raised my children alone. I had no marketable skills and was terrified I wouldn’t be able to provide for my kids. During those years, our community rallied around us. We moved in with my aunt and uncle. My children’s school offered us a 50% scholarship, and a work trade for the remaining 50%. A friend helped me get a part-time job doing data entry, which I tackled after the kids went to bed. Those years were tough, but we made it. Turns out, it does really take a village.
Now that my own family is back on their feet, I desperately want to give the women of Uganda what our community gave me: Not a handout, but an opportunity.
There are over 2,000 women and children in the slum we serve. My husband and I can’t correspond with them all, but you can. So we created WANDO for our friends and family to pitch in, no matter how much time they can spare or where in the world they are. It’s never been about the masses or fixing the entire country. For us, it’s about one-on-one friendships—fellow humans offering a helping hand. That’s what really changes the world.