I am a Board member and co-founder of an NGO in Uganda and have visited there many times. Over and over again the native people have helped me understand how much less I know than I thought I did.
The most amazing of many good stories comes from a large American agency’s partnership with us on a women’s empowerment project. I wondered about their idea to send a shipping container full of multicolored, re-useable cotton sanitary pads. But they were women and had more experience than we did so I stayed mum.
On my next visit the village women greeted me with much excitement showing beautiful quilts they’d made. They wanted me to take them back to America and sell them so they would have the money to pay school fees for their children. As I looked at each one carefully I discovered a label, “Gifts from your friends in Arica.” Suddenly I realized these colorful, beautifully embroidered quilts were made of the multicolored sanitary napkins.
How could one do anything but admire the entrepreneurism of these village women, their drive and their talent! The well-meaning gift was put to even better use than the original intended one. And I was reminded once again of how much I (and we) don’t know and how differently people in another culture may see what we do.
Author: Eden Williams