From the beginning of time people have gathered in circles, sharing meals, engaging in conversation and telling stories. Conversations that happen around dining room tables or kitchen islands result in opportunities for learning, exploring possibilities and co-creating together. Stories bond us together and suddenly, the world is made smaller and more significant. At Amplify Peace, we believe in keeping the art of storytelling alive and honoring the teller.
We recently held our first Peace Café, an informal gathering of women, a safe place for conversation and where storytelling came alive. We highlighted the narrative and journey of an immigrant, specifically, an African journey to the US. Four countries were represented: Zambia, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi. It was a time for sitting around tables for dialogue and understanding. It was a time to hear the struggles, challenges and opportunities. Below is a story that was shared, a story that needs to be heard. It was written from our friend, Margaret from Uganda.
This movement is incredibly important in bringing about the awareness that people from diverse backgrounds can live together peacefully and learn from one another. It’s my great pleasure to both be a part of Amplify Peace, and to watch it flourish.
My story is a little unconventional. I was born and raised in Uganda and at the tender age of 20, I left the only home I knew to pursue higher education. I moved from a sunny tropical climate to cold, grey London, England. Talk about a culture shock.
Beyond weather, the biggest culture shock I faced in England was realizing that I was black. At that time, I knew the history of racism and colonialism in the UK, but it felt altogether different living as a black person in a white majority culture. I was determined to become a part of my new home. But rather than acceptance, I found that it kept telling me, reminding me, that I would never belong.
For the first time in my life, I was a minority and it was quite difficult. My difference made me stand out, even though all I wanted was to be in community. I would ride on the train and observe men and women dressed in fancy suits. I wanted to be a part of that, to have a sense of purpose, to have somewhere to go, to be someone of importance.
In the midst of this, I got married, I had a daughter, and I got divorced. Like anyone who has been through divorce will tell you, it was brutally hard. But, my divorce built up my resolve even more— if I wanted a different life for my daughter and I, I needed to build it, brick by brick. I went back to school for Social Work and graduated with my daughter and sister cheering me on in the audience.
With my degree in hand, I then decided to take another risk and move my daughter and I to the United States.
It was bold… I had already assimilated into English culture. I had friends and neighbors that helped babysit. I knew which markets had the best deals and which nurseries were most cost-effective. And yet, I was opting to leave because I wanted more for us, and I knew that the United States was famous for having better opportunities. I also knew I had more to give, and London wasn’t affording me the ability to actualize my full capacity.
And so, we moved to a rural town in Massachusetts, and again experienced the challenges of learning another culture. But, with those challenges came growth. I met my current husband who will be celebrating our 20 year anniversary in December, and over the course of my career, I’ve worked with different communities including abused children, the elderly, medically vulnerable adults, Native American communities, and people nearing their end of life journey.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
Because my experience of being an immigrant and my experience of meeting different people and traveling, that I am able to connect with my patients the way I do. I am more empathetic, compassionate and understanding, not because I know exactly what it means to be abused or to be dying, but because I know how to go beyond myself. Any form of adversity inevitably leads to wisdom about the human condition. And so, I recognize I’m not a good social worker despite being an immigrant, I am a good social worker because I am an immigrant.
Through connection, we can hear each other. Through kindness, we can be vulnerable with each other. And through vulnerability, we can love each other.
Connection is powerful. Kindness is powerful. Love is powerful.
Today, I’m proud to be the mother of a wonderful, brilliant 28 year old daughter who is already giving back to this great nation. And I’m privileged to have met so many great people from different places doing great things. I am honored to hear your stories, and I thank you for listening to mine.
Ready to share your story? Email your story to email@example.com. Please paste your story in the body of the email, or attach it in a Microsoft Word document. Please limit your story to 500-850 words. We can’t wait to hear from you!