Changed Forever

A reflection by Sally Ryan, CROSO Board Member since 2010, after visiting Uganda in June 2016.

 

Sharing a week in Mbale, Uganda with Molly MacCready, the Director of CROSO, has altered my mind significantly.

We had enlightening visits with present and former CROSO scholars who were forced to live on the street at one time, but now are current university students and graduates as a result of our CROSO scholarships. We were also invited into the network of our partner organization C.R.O., Child Restoration Outreach. C.R.O. is an organization that rehabilitates and cares for the street children in Mbale and has supported all of the CROSO Scholars through the end of secondary school. I have previously thought and read about many realities related to the struggles of such developing societies, but those concepts now have taken on a new heartfelt personal and profound reality inside me. It is easier to understand and care about such challenges conceptually, but to have this new and deeper knowing has changed me.  

Do I regret this deep inner change?  Was it more comfortable not to live in this altered sense of reality?  In some ways, I was definitely more comfortable before my visit; it was easier and I liked that comfort zone.  Can I ever go back to my old self? Revert to my old mind and relieve this intensity and sense of connection?

Maybe I could “go back” to that old reality of myself….

  • IF I had not felt the physical touches and emotional attachments of little children on the CRO playground like Matanda Derrick who needed to perform his raps for me, from Nuri Gloria who wanted me to sing her name each day, and Wasua who was just off the street and needed encouragement from me each day to connect and get help from the CRO staff….
  • IF I had not walked the streets with profoundly dedicated CRO social workers and seen these wise workers advise, counsel, and invite several children to rehabilitate at CRO. Maybe I would not be so altered if I had not seen the looks on these children’s faces showing fear or resistance or hope in these street corner encounters, or walked with the young boy who accepted the social workers’ invitation and walked back with us to CRO, possibly leaving the streets for good….
  • Maybe I could “go back to my old self” if visiting our CROSO scholars at their Universities had not revealed rave reviews from professors regarding our scholars’ leadership, discipline, and academic success, making it clear how much is possible for young adults whose early lives were lived begging on the street…
  • IF in interviewing our present scholars they did not express such hope, resilience and gratitude for CROSO and the future possibilities that these scholarships gave them and their families….
  • Optimized-DSC_6331

    Current CROSO Scholar Stella (on the left) welcomed Sally to her home.

    Maybe I could revert to my old comfort zone if when I walked through the area where many of our scholars live in bare subsistence housing, I had not felt the warm welcome of the scholars and the honor that they expressed to us due to our visiting them in their humble homes and poverty challenged neighborhood….

 

  • IF I had not heard the deep concern of some of the graduates and near graduates about the weak Uganda economy and lack of jobs, their fear that the CROSO scholarship ending at graduation could mean a struggle to fulfill their dreams and lift themselves and their family members to a new level of comfort….
  • Maybe if I was just touring, not sharing with so many people in my own language, English, one of their three of four languages with English being the one they learn in formal education, I could have stayed on the OUTSIDE of this community, just peaking in, not communicating in full shared discourse, victories and struggles of their lives in the past and as their life is unfolding today….

But these experiences were the reality of my journey with Molly into the needs and aspirations of former and present children on the streets of Mbale.  I really did hear over and over with the CROSO scholars their gratitude and hope that their CROSO scholarship gave them.  Yes, I saw it all…I felt the desperation and the hope…I experienced one by one, the beautiful resilient spirits of these Ugandan people, young and old…and now, my heart and mind are changed forever.

16 thoughts on “Changed Forever

  1. Wow. Thank you, Sally for articulating to those of us that may never get out of our cultural comfort zone the emotions, perceptions, and “stretches” of this experience. I am so grateful to Molly and all of CROSO for the work that you do for these Ugandan scholars and their communities.

    • I thought I already responded to you, Janet, but do not see my response so I will again. I feel so fortunate and blessed to have been able to ride on the coat tails of Molly’s respectful relationships with this Ugandan community I made the people totally accessible to me…with their full hearts and bright eyes love of their community of CRO brothers and sisters.

  2. Very powerful.

    • Thanks for reading this, Rita. I’ll share more some day when we have one of our rare times to visit! I hope you and Mike are doing well. We love you!

  3. Melissa Wimer

    Wow! What amazing work CROSO is doing! What a fantastic board member you have in Sally. This heartfelt letter allows us to be present to the realities of people’s lives so very different from our own. Thank you all for your amazing, loving work.

    • I was very aware that we were about 1000 miles away from each other, Melissa. What an amazing connection we have regarding credible contributions in communities of this continent. We bot will carry so many in our hearts. Please connect as soon as you touch ground in IL os we can share stories and pictures. I now have a slide show to support my narration of this story. Christine would like to come also..

  4. So glad for you and CROSO that you went and saw for yourself, Sal. ‘Forever changed’ is so what our world needs, thank you and Molly and all at CROSO for your service!

    • Katy, your niece is a blessing to all of us who work with this project. It is because of her work that I had such a wonderful experience beyond my head understanding of ways to connect with needs across continents in a humane and effective and loving manner.

  5. Laura Rose Boyle

    Wow… Beautifully written. I can only imagine what kinds of impressions this experience has left in your heart. And I can see from the photos that you too left impressions in their hearts! How amazing for them to know that a sweet woman named Sally is caring about them from across the ocean. And not just caring, but sharing their stories, believing in them, and fundraising for their education! Inspired forever!

  6. Barbara Blough

    It really does take being turned inside out, out of one’s comfort zone, to really change for from-now-on. It isn’t easy. Real change will continue to be not easy. These kinds of experiences are of such value to young students, working adults and older folks alike. It is experiences like these that open hearts and provide leadership training to anyone with the courage to go. Sally, you are one of my heroes!

    • Yes, Barb, thanks for your thoughts. I did get quite a kick out of being a 70 year old first time visitor to Uganda. I was grateful and proud to be able to go and pretty much keep up with my 40year junior partner, the amazing Ms. Molly MacCready! Riding motor cycles, meeting a community of people who open-heartedly shared with us their needs and their gratitude…it was truly “over the top” as an experience.

  7. Jean Hennessey

    Sally, your open mind, and more, your open heart allows for change and it sounds like it just got BIGGER. What an experience, this encounter with a reality so unlike our own. Thank you for bringing this strong message back with you. And thank you to CROSO for their dedication to these children.

    • My dear Jean, I was just “doing the next right thing…” it was right for me to say yes, and go. I learned so much in the heart kind of way, even if my head had already wrapped itself around much of what I was to see and feel. Brought love to a new reality…

  8. Thank you, Sally, for sharing your beautiful reflections with us.
    Experiences like yours ARE life-changing, and you have the remarkable ability to express the causes and effects of those experiences so that others may learn and increase their understanding of CROSO’s work in Uganda. We all need to learn how to step out of our comfort zones as you did! What a wonderful way to change lives and make the world a better place.

  9. The change in you is rippling out to all of us who have the great gift of knowing you and your generous spirit. I am a bit changed from reading this beautiful piece.