What it means to have vision and be empowered

Here’s a little look inside my head at the moment:

“When am I next training? – what do I need to do more of? I haven’t done a long walk since the other week – what do I need to do to keep my dodgy hip in check? – did I stretch enough yesterday – maybe I’ll have a bath of Epsom salts tonight…. etc. etc.”

And when it’s not that it’s this:

“I’m going to look into candles – I might make candles and sell them because that’s a useful craft to master anyway – and I’ve got to make sure I keep tabs on the chocs I’m selling at work – I hope no one is shortchanging the donation pot – I must check in to our fundraising page – maybe I should do another email – or another shout out on Facebook – when would be a good date for a sausage sizzle – should I ask our butcher round the corner to get involved….etc. etc. etc.”

I’m not quite sure how I’m getting my salary paying job done! My train of thought is constantly mulling over not just training needs so I can damn well finish this 100km and be blimin’ proud, but also I cannot stop my brain from getting creative (and also a little obsessive) over what I’m going to do to raise money.

When I first heard that my cousin-in-law was raising thousands of dollars to take to Uganda I was just blown away. But then when I heard there was a 100km walk involved I wanted in! Which on some level is entirely selfish – initially what appealed to me was the self-achievement aspect – the experience. But then very quickly – like moments later – I also realised I would be helping to make a difference!

Some people walk or run or ‘get involved’ in the event itself – they pay a joining fee and they go along for the ride. And, don’t get me wrong this is lovely – better to be getting off your butt and having some aspirations than sat on the couch while your life passes you by. However, in most cases, a registration fee for any of these events covers the cost of running the event itself – all the administration, planning, set-up, provisions, and many other resources. That’s why it’s important to at least put in a donation yourself when you enter these events. And the difference with this event is that there IS a minimum fundraising amount per each individual. I for one am all for that. If you’re in for the challenge, then why not go that extra mile too?

So if you have a minimum dollar to raise then you might naturally want to better understand where that dollar is going. Bingo! All of a sudden, not only do you want to achieve something for yourself, but you have a vested interest in the cause – rightfully. And of course, many people support events for charities they know well or have a personal affinity with – e.g. a lot of people find comfort in participate in cancer support events because they lost a loved one to cancer or they battled the disease themselves.

When I jumped on board with the South Sydney to South Coast Walk for Hunger I had to educate myself a little – I did not know much about what Business Chicks or The Hunger Project actually do. So if you don’t either – maybe this will give you a bit of an education. The first thing to understand is that the key aim of THP is to empower individuals to change their lives and their community, to break the cycles and history that has kept that community in the same place for centuries.

Let’s look at it like this.

Imagine that instead of being a 31 year-old, middle-class, white, English gal living in Aussie working as a Marketing Manager, I’m a Ugandan, with five children and have been married since I was 14. My daily life consists of getting up at dawn and walking miles to get fresh water, then making breakfast by preparing and grinding crops into something edible from scratch – by hand. My daughters work with me during the day to gather the crops we need just to survive – they do not attend school because they are needed to help the family, and once old enough they will become wives and mothers themselves. And so life continues through the generations.

But what if I could create a vision with the rest of the women in my community – better crops, water supply, and schooling in the village, for our daughters? The Hunger Project makes this possible – not by giving the crops, or the water but giving people like me the tools to strive for the things needed. My village prioritises the requirements for us to improve our position: with better crops we can sell produce at the market, with schooling I can learn literacy numeracy and run the business myself, with a better income I can keep my daughters in school, and instead of having an absent husband working far away in the city he can run the business with me at home. THP trains us and collaborates with us to build an epicentre that is a place to be educated, to receive healthcare, and to meet and strategise with others in the community.

More than that, The Hunger Project educates us about the HIV AIDS virus. For centuries all the women in our culture would never say ’no’ to a man as this is how we were raised to be. And men were raised to believe it was OK to have sex with as many women as they please. The only outcome is that the people are being cut off in the prime of life which affects the whole community – good workers and family members lost… and for what? So all the men and women have been working together to change this and educate themselves about the importance of safe sex.

So you see, with The Hunger Project it’s about internalisation – putting the control right in there where the problem exists – in the communities that need the help. It is what some refer to as ‘mobilising’ communities. It is about the desire within the community themselves to commit to change. No one hands them the power – they are just given the training/understanding they need to claim what is rightfully theirs.

Another example of a cycle needing to broken can be found throughout Bangladesh where the women are looked upon as an inferior race. This actually leads to an endless cycle of malnourishment. A girl is given less food in a home where there is not much food to go around – sometimes she gets none at all so that the men can eat. She has children at a young age and because she is malnourished, so too are her offspring. And so the cycle continues.

The Hunger Project must go some way to promoting self-belief for these women too. This struck an ironic chord with me the other day when I was having a moment of self-doubt. In trying to think of original and spectacular ways to fundraise I started to think “Why are you trying to do this? You can’t do this. You don’t have good ideas about what to do. You are going to fail.” From there my thoughts went to “It’s not even about your original ideas, it’s about just making sure the girls have a massive pot of cash to take Uganda and make more of these ground-breaking changes”. The second thought, while still not very happy, was more accurate.

Once the moments of berating myself had passed I was able to say to myself “I CAN do this. I can bring my creative vision to life AND help those in need. If those women can do what they do and can create a vision and reach their goals then so can I!”

But in the back of my mind is still this thought. The world lacks balance and always has, but while many countries have moved on – they’ve shared knowledge, gone into competition with one another and surpassed themselves in their innovations – there are so many countries that have been left behind. I wonder what world it would be with all countries on an equal level… with ALL people able to strive for a better life? I wonder would it also have the end result of teaching teach the people (like me) in the developed world where to better place our priorities? I hope so.

Donate now if you would like… or just hit like if you liked!


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