Over the past few days, I’ve met people who never knew their father, never even saw a photo of him. People who walked on foot to Uganda, people who were born in camps in Uganda, whose mothers told them stories of home, of South Sudan, a place they had never seen or couldn’t remember. One man’s mother paid for him, her youngest and favorite son, to go to Uganda for school. When he surprised her with a visit five years later, she didn’t even recognize him as her own. One woman’s mother had her at 15 in a refugee camp, then trained to be a volunteer midwife to deliver healthy babies for free. Shortly before independence, she brought her children back to South Sudan on a bus of singing women, women who like herself now wonder what they returned for: no work, more hardship, more war. Celebrating Mother’s Day from afar I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the life I was gifted from my own parents, and by the perseverance of women in this country who are mothers to so many children, both their own and others they have taken in like their own.
(And a special thank you today to Jean Francois, our resident security adviser, medic, and stand-in mother (?) who spent the day incessantly checking on me as I tossed and turned with a fever. He replaced my ice packs again and again, spent an hour trying to find a vein for an IV drip, fed me Tylenol, and sat by my side while I slowly sipped Gatorade he made for me. I am so grateful for the IWMF and everyone who works for it!)