The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity for the Somebody’s Mama community, and we have had the opportunity to share our vision with hundreds of friends. In the process, we’ve heard one question over and over—how did Somebody’s Mama start?
For the first time, we’re featuring TWO mamas as our Mama(s) of the Month, who were responsible for helping us turn our first good ideas into action. Meet Amy Williams and Sister Ephrance Nuwamanya.
In 2011, our co-founder, Leia Johnson, met Amy at a local ONE gathering in Oklahoma City. Over the course of the evening, Amy shared about her NGO, the Bushyeni Alliance for Rural Health and Development (BARHD), which works in southwest Uganda. About a week later, Leia attended an informational meeting and fundraiser at Amy’s house in Norman, OK and met Sister Ephrance, who was visiting the United States representing BARHD’s in-country NGO, Bushyeni Integrated Rural Development (BIRD).
At that time, Amy and Sister Ephrance (in Uganda, nurses are referred to as “Sisters”) were attempting to complete a clinic in a rural community, and Leia’s interest was piqued when they mentioned a need for a “placenta pit.” In an area where blood-borne illnesses (especially HIV/AIDS) are a serious threat to community health, placenta pits are commonly used for proper disposal after birth. Leia committed to Amy and Ephrance to help, and Somebody’s Mama was born.
After calling and emailing a few friends (check out this Mother’s Day post from Leia’s personal blog asking people to participate!), Somebody’s Mama was able to donate a little over $1,000 toward the effort to help complete the placenta pit, and we had officially sponsored our first project!
Since that first interaction with BARHD and BIRD, their work has continued to grow exponentially, largely aided by American and Ugandan Rotary Clubs. Recently, Amy emailed us about their progress:
“In the past eight years we have gone from one modest health clinic to four clinics which serve approximately 30,000 patients a year. Two of the clinics have maternity wards allowing mothers a safe and sanitary place for deliveries. We have seen more mothers opting to move from the traditional "at home" delivery assisted only by a female family member to the use of the Maternity Wards. HIV/AIDS has gone from taboo to something that draws hundreds of men and women to our clinics for testing. Our Orphan Sponsor Program has gone from just over 100 secondary students to 290 and twelve University students. To date we have distributed 11,000 mosquito nets with another 1,000 being given out this summer. Clean water and sanitation has been a focus the past four years. We have partnered with Water4 and Rotary Clubs to fund multiple wells and water containment systems.”
One of the reasons we love what BARHD is doing is that they are constantly in tune with the needs of the communities in which they work. Their success is heavily dependent on the work of their Ugandan friends at BIRD. Sister Ephrance has received diplomas from Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the areas of Health Management, Reproductive Health Services, and Malaria Research respectively. In addition to her professional training and service as a nurse for over thirty years, Sister Ephrance served as the first female member and then president of the Bushenyi Rotary Club. She is married with six children—all of whom have received at least one degree from university.
Sister Ephrance and her staff understand the needs of their community in a way that helps their American counterparts to pursue the most helpful and culturally-appropriate projects. At Somebody’s Mama, we believe in building partnerships with people who are on the ground, serving in their communities just like we are at home in ours. We recognize our strengths and passions as a piece of a much bigger puzzle—one that can not even begin to be put together if we don’t first listen to the stories of people who are living day-to-day in the communities we are hoping to empower.
We asked Amy what lessons she learned from her own mother, and she told us, “My mother was a strong influence in my life. She became chronically ill when I was about twelve years old. She taught me to be strong and that you can do more than you think you can.” Amy also noted her mother’s strong faith and commitment to hospitality. As a mother of two boys and step-mother to two daughters, Amy refers to motherhood as one of the best God given blessings in her life. She added, “It’s rewarding to have grown children who are respectful, thoughtful, and compassionate” and that any challenges she has faced in motherhood have paid off in the blessing of five little people who call her Grammy. Her travels to Uganda have taught her that women—mothers and grandmothers—everywhere feel this pride in seeing their children and grandchildren thrive.
Our partnership with BARHD three years ago was the beginning of what we hope will be a long and fruitful friendship, one that links Ugandan mamas to Sister Ephrance to Amy to us and to you. No words can express how grateful we are to BARHD and BIRD for inviting us on this journey with them. We are united in our love for each other, which knows no boundaries.
(Follow BARHD on their website or Facebook page to keep up with their work.)