Two Baby Girls, Two Different Worlds, Same Needs and Hopes
The first photo is my wife Ann Marie and our granddaughter Ella Brady in California. Ann Marie’s gaze conveys love and contentment, along with hope and devotion. The second photo was taken a few years ago during my visit to the Bridges of Peace and Hope Partner, Mukwashi Trust School, located in Lusaka, Zambia. The photo was taken in a compound (aka shantytown) called Bauleni. I don’t recall what the Bauleni girls names were but for this reflection I’ll call the little one Umwana, the Bemba word for baby. I do recall being impressed by how gently and lovingly the “big” sister (about 8 years old) was holding Umwana. I think her embrace, like Ann Marie’s, shows devotion, love, and hope. I imagine that both of these beautiful babies could feel that they were loved and protected by the arms that held them, but what vastly different worlds they were born into, and what vastly different environments they will grow up in.
As an infant Ella is already surrounded by books, stuffed animals, music, bright colors, and more clothing than she needs. Her home includes A.I. technology, and assorted communication and safety devices. Her loving parents and grateful extended family have the means to provide her with all she’ll need to be healthy and safe. Ella will have access to an education and medical care that will allow her to be anything she chooses. She is very fortunate to have been born into this family, in this place, at this time. Love will be Ella’s companion every day of her early life, and hopefully every day of her entire life.
Umwana was fortunate too, fortunate to be born healthy to a loving family. They will do their best to raise her to be safe and strong. She won’t enjoy the material comforts or medical care that Ella will have but she will know she’s loved. When I visited Umwana’s home I didn’t see any books or toys there, nor were there any safety devices or appliances we take for granted. Their little home, smaller than our garage, was jammed amongst similar structures, some made from mud, others from cement blocks. The homes were packed together like broken lego blocks, scattered along deeply rutted dirt streets that were strewn with garbage. Umwana’s mom was sitting on the ground talking with other women and cooking over a simple fire. Her big sister carefully held the baby in her arms.
When Umwana is old enough for school there’s a good chance she may be in an overcrowded classroom (60-75 students) that lacks the supplies and technology that Ella will have, but her family will try to find ways for her to receive an education. An education is not a given because many girls in Zambia don’t have the opportunity to finish school. I can’t tell you more about Umwana’s story because I don’t what has happened to her, but I do know that education can be the difference between a life with a very limited scope, and a life that offers opportunities and choices.
At Mukwashi Trust School, class sizes are kept lower (30-35 students) and the dedicated team of teachers receive training based on current research. Visiting teachers from Europe, the USA and Canada have worked with Mukwashi, and left feeling very much a part of the “family.” Many of the girls I’ve met at Mukwashi have dreams that weren’t available to their moms — dreams to be lawyers, musicians, teachers, doctors, journalists, and more. We are striving to help make some of these dreams come true.
As Ella’s grandfather, I have many hopes for her. I hope she is healthy and happy and always knows that she is loved. I hope that when she grows up she understands how fortunate she is. I also hope she will travel to places where children like Umwana live, and that she will get to know, make friends with, and learn with these children. I hope that Ella and Umwana both grow up in a world of peace and understanding, a world where every child will have an opportunity to get a good education and the chance to be whatever she/he chooses.