Friday, November 8, 2013

Two Worlds Colliding

This year, I've had the opportunity to see how the other half, actually the other 2/3rds of the world lives. I've had a front row seat to see what women face in childbirth in Uganda. 

An operating room in Uganda

Seven months later, my husband, eldest daughter and I attended the Woman Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysia was the perfect host country for such a conference as their people are gracious; their country is fascinating and for us cold Canadians, their climate is hot, hot, hot and humid!

With the hosts of Women Deliver in K. L. 

I saw all the displays at the conference; saw photos of young girls and women who had suffered great abuse; read stories of what women face and heard some first hand stories from workers about new projects and successful strategies to save the lives of women in countries such as Nepal. Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Nigeria.

My girl and I with a new friend from Bangladesh Public Health

However nothing prepared me for the still, small Kenyan voice I heard next.

The tree of messages

My daughter and I took a break and walked from our conference room (about the size of a football field) to an adjoining room. In the connecting hallway stood a magnificent sight.  An artificial tree, made from wood timbers, paper and cellphones dominated the hallway. The area was darkened making the coloured spotlights hit the leaves so that they glowed pink, orange, green and red. As we marvelled at its construction, someone approached us and asked if we new how to work it. "Work it?" I asked. "What's to work?"

"Each leaf," she said, "is attached to a cell phone. Each cell phone has a recorded message from a woman or girl in the developing world, along with a written transcript of her message. We asked the girls to record their hopes and dreams for themselves and their country so that attendees at the conference could hear them speak in their own words."

So I reached up and grabbed the nearest cell phone.

I heard the most beautiful voice. Her accent is Kenyan. She is twelve. I listened with care to make out her words. I couldn't decipher her accent well enough to understand her message so I took the leaf in my hand to read her message while I played the recording a second time.

My twenty-one year old daughter has the most beautiful smile. She flashed me a heart-melting smile as I listened. Then I saw her face change expression to concern. She was reflecting my facial expression back to me as I listened attentively to the message.

I called my girl over so we could share the phone.  We listened and read together. Our mouths gaped in shock as we listened to the message over and over again. We began to tear up. What else could we do? The message was made all the more poignant in this Kenyan girl's own voice. 

She said that she wanted to be a police officer when she grew up. She thought she could help her village and serve them in this career. Then she stated what led her to this decision. She said that the police officers in her village needed someone like her to teach them how to interact with children. Many police officers had raped children in her village and she thought a police officer should protect not harm children. She vowed to do better, to be better.

We were stunned and walked on in silence. Are you ever the same person after hearing such a story as this? 

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling 
what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. 
It's the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy 
for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too. ” 
--Frederick Buechner

On the other side of the world, a Kenyan girl unnerved my sense of self. Not only did she challenge me to do and be better but she made me see that this is not enough. Like her, once I see what needs to be done, I must change our world and work to redeem it.


(Travelling and writing for Save the Mothers. Join us Saturday, November 23rd at 6pm as we support the health and dignity of mothers and children around the world. Our auction brings us together to raise funds for the Save the Mothers program. Check us out at


  1. First time visitor here...

    That message went straight to my heart. Over here we also deal with rape incidences and my prayer is for these brutes to come to full awareness of the evil they are perpetrating and STOP.

    Your daughter is beautiful too...the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree.


  2. Thank you Abiola. I'm so sorry you deal with these incidences and I hope you can work with others to help them stop. Children should be safe to live and dream big. Every blessing, Kelly