“Suubi” means “Hope”…

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“Suubi” means “Hope”…

“Suubi” means “Hope”…

Founder’s Note: It’s been a week since we returned from our first Glow Exchange program in Uganda. I joined forces with Jasmine Elatab, our attorney/Glow Exchanger in Boston, to describe our experience. I hope it brings you some insight. Love and glow. -Saren

We spent the last week searching for words to explain our ten days in Uganda and there continues to be something lost in translation…

We experienced the moments that sit with you, really sit with you. They’re the moments that allow you to be present and reflective, simultaneously. They’re the moments that shape your present and define your future. They’re the souvenir moments: where you take a part of it and a part of you is left behind in that space.

Fresh in our heads are the moments where we woke up to use the latrine (a hole in cement) after stumbling out of the mosquito nets covering our beds. Fortunately, more vivid and what will last, are the memories of waking up to calls of a rooster at 4 AM and feeling safe; seeing the piglets scrambling around the yard of our host family; hearing the murmur of the children hiking up the steep path from the well with water jugs balanced on their heads; and daily passion fruit deliveries from children excited to use their English phrases: “You are very welcome” and “God bless you.” Nothing was lost on us as we became one with a typical scene out of National Geographic.

12094898_1008863315841038_5063934797835820300_o Christine carrying her jerry can back from the well.

Then we have the memories of our Ugandan partners, including the women of the Association of Rural Women Professionals (ARWP).

How do we explain the superpowers of these women? Not only did they welcome us into their homes, but their courage, genius, and conviction for their beliefs was humbling. We felt ourselves drowning in admiration and looking to them as role models merely after introductions.

11705816_1011579998902703_1294032379496990984_o Members of the Association of Rural Women Professionals peeling Matoke (plantains) for our 300-person Groundbreaking Ceremony.

There was the moment when we asked the group, “What are you told you should or should not do because you are a woman? and the hands from ARWP members shot up faster than we could react. Their responses still echo loudly: “Women should not climb trees, eat chicken, work, handle money, go to school…” and the list continued. We tied ribbons around wrists for each rule we’ve been told personally, and then we declared our freedom by cutting our “limiting ties.” There was a moment mid-freedom declaration when the African breeze blew to remind us that we’re supported… This is not something words can convey.

We also have the memorable moment when our stomachs hit the floor learning that young boys are sometimes beckoned to watch (and cheer on) their father beating their mother? Maybe Dad decided he did not like what was prepared for dinner, or he was drunk and displacing his frustration for not earning enough for his family.

There was the moment when we interviewed the women of the greater community, asking “Do you have access to sanitary pads?” Having done the research for months, we thought we had an idea of the problems girls faced. The research became inapplicable when over 95% of the women we surveyed nonchalantly responded that they use rags during menstruation. You can’t prepare for that moment, for that cold reality.

12029811_1003297349730968_5827399167920001551_o Saren leading a discussion for ARWP members, the Glow Exchange Team, and women of the community.

How do we explain the connection we made with this community? How do we explain how we communicated despite language barriers? We’re trying to define a love that’s not predicated on an exchange of words, but rather a familiarity captured in a glance. 

1965501_1024875980906438_8544031381866871287_o

We hope the message is clear: something tremendous happened while we were there and it is not something that can be explained. Nevertheless, we have a vehicle to our purpose that is clearer than ever before. We have experienced a space for vulnerability, a free flow of love and authenticity, hope and faith – a new realm of possibility for women.

11952759_10102400530754077_8710160120369870013_o Groundbreaking ceremony for The Glow Effect Center for Women and Girls.

In other words, we saw the impossible become possible. We can tell you first hand that your contribution (love, $$s, and sweat equity) went directly to empowering TWO communities in need: theirs AND ours.

We continue to invite you to join us in this journey. There is infinitely more room for co-creation and donations to empower our communities for self-sustainability. Here are some ideas ways to contribute:

1. Follow our journey on social media: Instagram. FB. Twitter.

2. Spread the word about joining our team! We’re looking for an exceptionally gifted and community-driven graphic design/web development intern to join us in creating a world where women are unstoppable. Send style, cover letter and resume to tge@gloweffect.com. Applications due September 17, 2015.

3. Contribute to the building of The Glow Effect Center for Women and Girls. We’re over halfway to $50,000. Help us reach our goal!

“Indeed, we may soon see a pandemic of social entrepreneurship. Here are some classic examples of the disease: refusal to accept the world the way it is, and the direction in which we’re going. An unwillingness to say, no this can’t be done. Persistence. A certain amount of righteous anger about the injustice done to others, especially the poor and marginalized, and a willingness to fight back against unjust systems. And also hope.” -Paul Farmer



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