We ended the last week of January here in Uganda with a lot of excitement! As I mentioned in the last blog, Smile Again Families stayed in office throughout the month of January due to COVID-19. However, the last week we kicked off another year of serving teenage mothers with a training for the small group leaders in the communities we serve! These mothers are chosen because of the leadership potential we have seen in them throughout our time together. They then are trained and sent out to help lead the other teenage mothers in their village since we are not able to be everywhere all of the time. This creates great community within the villages and empowers these young mothers to become leaders in their communities!
Empowerment is what these two days centered around. Our theme for the training was ‘Self- Leadership’; we cannot lead others until we first learn to care for ourselves and take control of our own lives. We wanted to help these teenage mothers come to see that they have so much potential in life and that they can achieve many things while, at the same time, being a young mother. During one of the sessions on Tuesday, a staff member – John Bosco – asked the girls what was keeping them from fulfilling their dreams. Almost all of them mentioned that they felt they couldn’t continue on after giving birth and becoming a teenage mother. You see, many of these young girls feel stuck in their circumstances. Being a mother is a beautiful gift, but it is not the only gift the Lord wishes to bestow upon us. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11.
Throughout these two days, 5 different talks were given: The gift of womanhood, sexuality, self-leadership, circles of concern and influence, and stages of growth. In ‘the gift of womanhood’, I (Aleesha) reflected upon Saint John Paul II’s ‘Letter to Women’ and talked about 5 unique qualities that the heart of a woman has to offer this world- intuition, beauty, self-gift, strength, and receptivity. Following this talk, Stella shared with the teenage mothers the beauty of sexuality when shared between a man and woman bound by marriage. On the board behind her, ‘true love waits’ was written in large letters. It was explained that true love will wait for marriage; if someone is unable/ unwilling to wait, then the lust is winning out over the love. She also explained how the Lord wishes to make us whole again; even if someone failed to wait in the past they can receive forgiveness and start afresh. The self-leadership talk was given by Franchesca, who discussed how to take care of and carry yourself with confidence so as to show that you are in control of your life. She gave practical tips on how to dress, speak, live, etc. We mixed it up a bit for circles of concern and influence and had the mothers get in groups and later present to the large group. They shared what their concerns were in life and what influences those things, as well as what resources they have to overcome their concerns. Lastly, John Bosco gave a talk on stages of growth in which he gave realistic suggestions on how to become more independent and take control of your own life. This is when he greatly encouraged the mothers to pursue their dreams no matter the circumstances they find themselves in. He also asked them to think about 3 things they wish to change about their lives this year so that, together, we can help them start improving their lives so as to live as great leaders someday.
Though the days were packed with talks, we also left room for fun! Many games were played, songs were sung, and the laughter was contagious. As we were reflecting as a team upon the conference, we all agreed that it was beautiful to see these teenage mothers let their guards down and enjoy their time together. It can be easy to forget that their teenage years were wiped away and that they are still just young girls who are craving laughter and friendship. “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28 – A few days away from their responsibilities with time to relax, enjoy themselves, and be invested in was exactly what these young girls needed. I cannot wait to see the time when our dormitory is built and many mothers can come here to find that rest and joy that is so necessary to battle the burdens that life brings.
Speaking of the dormitory… We are beginning the construction THIS COMING MONDAY, February 8th! This has been a dream of Fred and Stella’s for many years now, and it is finally being put into action. We don’t yet have all of the funding, but we are choosing to trust the Lord, as we have seen His faithfulness constantly throughout this journey. If you would like to donate, we would love your support- every little bit goes a long way! It will be such a joy to see this dream being fulfilled before I leave next month. The growth that I have witnessed during my time volunteering with Smile Again Families Uganda has truly blown me away; growth that would not have been possible without all of your prayers and donations! We truly cannot thank you enough. Please know that you are the reason we are able to see these mothers smiling again!
May our Heavenly Father bless you all abundantly.
Some singing and dancing to start off the first day!
During her sexuality talk, Stella used the analogy of cake being bitten into many times – the more bites it had taken out of it, the less people wanted to taste the cake. She then explained how having many partners can make a person less desirable.
Fred joined Stella towards the end of her talk on sexuality to talk about how true love waits for sex instead of choosing lust before love!
John Bosco led the teenage mothers in a few games, but they especially loved this game of dodgeball! It was so fun to see them let down their guards and enjoy their time together!
A group of mothers getting ready to present their circles of concern and influence to the larger group!
One of the group leaders presenting… a great way to build their confidence and gain experience in public speaking!
The whole crew 🙂