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A Message to Donors October 31, 2010

Posted by Mike O in Charity.
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As I wrap up my trip here to Uganda (getting over a minor cold I picked up while here, same as at home), I marvel at how I have gotten so much more out of my work here than I put into it.

You see, Winnifred Nazziwa here is my daughter; not by blood or by adoption, but in every other way. That is how I view her, that is how I treat her; and she treats me like Dad in exactly the same way (well, A somewhat handicapped father while here- far more handicapped than her wheelchair makes her. Mzungus take a long time to figure out this country and culture and need to be treated like small, not-too-bright children until they do). I get far more out of my relationship than I put in, making it very different and so much more special than a simple act of charity.

As my daughter, I have many responsibilities to her, ones I take very seriously. That means not only paying for her education, but participating in it with her. Which means communicating with her constantly, praising her when she does well, scolding her when she doesn’t and- when she asked me to- to be here for her graduation from college, if it were at all possible. For me, it meant putting off a return trip to Uganda an entire year (I knew- in the economic times- I could not afford back-to-back trips). And, while I regret not getting back here sooner, I will never regret the decision to be here for her Big Day. I must say that I felt even prouder than when my blood-related son graduated college earlier this year; while Alan and Winnie both faced medical challenges to accomplishing this, Winnie’s were more significant and her Dad much farther away. And I was treated with a great deal of respect while here; far more than I deserve, because the credit really goes to her mother for giving her the drive and determination early on and her large support base of marvelous friends (very special young people, indeed). But a big part of the respect I received was because, sadly, so few Donors make the trip for that Big Day.

I also know- just as with my son- that my obligations did not end right at graduation. There is setting up house (costing about the same as a semester’s tuition, in Winnie’s case)- and supporting them in finding a job. Long before now, I explained to Winnie- and she accepted this as true- that her ultimate freedom comes the day she no longer needs any help from Dad- other than the emotional support and guidance parents give to their dying day. That explanation was also part of being a parent; explaining the need to leave the nest and making them understand it to their benefit. But these are really tough economic times as you all know (and I was massively relieved when my son in the States found a great job after just a couple months of searching). Winnie has just started her job hunting and I am with her until she succeeds- because she is my daughter. Because of her drive and determination, it won’t take long, but it’s important I do my part as a parent.

I would ask all donors to these kids to realize the greatest joy and gift comes from being a full-fledged parent, as opposed to one merely writing a check. The latter is a transient feeling of doing good; the former a lifetime of meaningful accomplishment and joy.

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