I’ve been away from my family now for almost 6 days. I miss them. Not in a falling apart, totally pitiful sort of way so much as a my-son-got-sick-and-I-wanted-to-help-cuddle-him-myself sort of way. That’s just how moms are you know. I want the best for my kids, and I want to be there to see it myself.
On Sunday when we visited the slum community, we had an opportunity to meet with a group of young women who talked to us about early marriage and how FH has been able to educate the community on the benefits of waiting a bit longer to get married. We’re talking like 13-14 year old girls being wed, often to older men. Many of these girls have suffered from malnutrition during their younger years which stunts their growth. So, add super-young age to super tiny and underdeveloped girls, and you can see how there can be some major physical issues that can come up because of it all. Still, they all looked forward to getting married and having children. I get that. I was the same way, and I had the luxury of choosing my own husband even.
Again today we sat with a group of women who regularly meet in what FH calls a Savings group.
“Savings groups are weekly gatherings of 15 or so women and teaches them a curriculum that includes values, literacy, numeracy, law, health, and savings lessons. Each week the women collect 10 or 15 taka . And while initially the group invests in items or projects to build capital, as their money grows they can invest in things like livestock or sewing equipment or house improvements. The more the groups can save, the more the women can invest in their children’s futures.” – Lindsey Nobles, FH Director of Strategic Partnerships
In each community we’ve visited, the overall program funding is driven by child sponsorships, but the thing that has really impressed me about FH is that instead of just offering hope to one child at a time, they offer hope to the community through empowering the women and mothers as well.
Most of these women haven’t even known how to write, and sign their names with a thumbprint when it’s required. They care for babies and children and watch them get sick and die from things that are so preventable like poor hygiene and malnutrition. By working with the women to teach them how to better care for their families, to pool their money and save together, by educating them as well, they are able to build stronger families and be a part of encouraging and empowering their children themselves. All of the women we’ve spoken to who are involved in savings groups have seen their children grow up and get better jobs, they tend to encourage their daughters to further education and get married later, and they all seem excited to take part in helping one another realize some of their own dreams as well.
Just like these Bangladeshi women we’ve met, I understand what it is to make sacrifices for my children. We want what’s best for them…we want even better for them that what even we’ve had. We often put aside our own dreams to help our children achieve theirs. Heaven knows that I understand how it’s easy to lose yourself amidst raising a family. When days go by doing washing…
and you get buried under what seem like endless loads of laundry…
but you still try to keep a smile on your face, even though you know there will be more of the same the next day.
I know what it’s like when you’re doing your best to train your children to be helpful and responsible and well-behaved…
but the baby still pitches a fit and might even pee all over your out-of-town guest no matter how hard you tried to get the sleep schedule right the night before.
I know what it is to remind your children to feed and take care of your pets. And sometimes that doesn’t quite look like it should.
We all have dinners to prep for and start…
and bath times to muster through.
We want our homes to be places of joy and welcome.
A place where our doors are open for friends to come and stop by for tea.
And then there’s the back-breaking work of carrying jugs on our heads…
Oh wait! I got carried away. I’m not much of a head jug carrying gal.
But the truth is that just like us, these women love their children and cuddle them when they need it.
We all want to see our children succeed, but still have dreams of maybe starting our own small business?
Or after raising them all and then paying for weddings and dowrys of 4 daughters, once in a while we just wish we could save enough to buy that ring we’ve been wanting for years.
And it’s the times we gather with friends, and learn how to challenge one another, to educate ourselves, to work towards a common goal and grow together…
We remember what it is to dream again, and suddenly we can see ways to turn a life of street sweeping into a life with glimmers of hope.
And there’s something very satisfying about knowing that you’ve accomplished something that without this group would have never been possible.
That joining together as women, you can build each other up and make an even greater difference in the lives of your children.
And then together, they can make a difference.
Together…WE can make a difference.
It’s then that we find joy and are better mothers for it.
Because we know the old saying is true…
“If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”
Sponsoring a child isn’t just helping that one child. It’s an investment into families. And a beautiful thing we’ve found in Bangladesh is that families stay together. Despite the extreme poverty, they aren’t selling their children into sex trafficking or slavery. There aren’t even orphanages spilling over here or international adoptions available for young kids. These people value family, and as a mother who feels the same way, I understand that by empowering mothers and training them, they raise kids who with the opportunities provided through FH, will grow up to change the next generation.
I only wish I’d realized this all long before now. But it’s never too late. Join me and make a difference? Sponsor a child with Food for the Hungry.
If you were that mother, wouldn’t you hope that if someone could, they’d do the same for your family too?
And then one day when someone does, when we’re old and gray and see our children grown and know that we did all that we could to see them live well, think how happy we will be!
**This story would not have been possible without the phenomenal photography of my talented friend Esther Havens.