Tearfund Blogging Challenge

Jess McGlynnJanuary 4, 2014

When I heard that Tearfund were inviting bloggers to apply to accompany them on a trip to Tonle Batie in Cambodia, my mind immediately raced with all the amazing opportunities such a trip would afford me: ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity’, ‘a life-changing experience’, ‘the chance to visit and make a difference somewhere’….the list is endless. Going on a trip like this, would, most definitely be all of those things and more.

Whilst I am more nervous of posting this than I have ever been about an application before, you will be pleased to know I am sure, that I have pulled my socks up and thought about what I could bring to a trip such as this. What I could offer, rather than what I could get, if I were given the opportunity to travel with Tearfund to Cambodia in March this year.

When I was 19, I travelled with my parents to Zambia, to attend a Christian conference which was taking place in Lusaka. As part of the trip it was arranged that we should ‘visit’ a shanty town, by which I mean that we all piled into a minibus and were driven through one of the poorest places in the area. Witnesses to the poverty and yet, somehow looking at the ramshackle shelters and the barefoot children chasing after us, there was still some degree of separation. I remember commenting to my now husband, that the glass made it seem less real, as though I was watching from somewhere else.

Later on during the same trip, I was walking in the grounds of the hotel when I came across a wedding taking place; a traditional Zambian wedding. Being newly engaged myself, and my mind being full of all things wedding related, I took an immediate interest and was delighted when some onlookers invited me to sit down with them and join in, taking the time to explain what was going on and all the different elements which made a Zambian wedding unique such as the idea of only being given practical gifts. The female guests at the wedding formed a tunnel, which the bride passed through. Each of the women handed the bride an item which would be used in the kitchen of her new marital home. I can’t think why that stuck out to me so much, perhaps the dawning realisation that I would have to produce a culinary offering which was more complex than beans on toast for my future husband!

Having something I understood, something tangible that I could grasp and hold onto really brought it home for me when considering the different lives the people of Zambia led. It was something I could understand and hold onto. Something which made it seem so much more relevant, instead of just observing something from behind the safety of a window.

We see and hear so much these days about people and their plights that I think there is an element of desensitisation. We remove ourselves from having to fully understand the implications of what are hearing, and to protect ourselves from feeling too deeply.

Well, I want to feel. I want to experience, to touch, to hear. To be able to share with you all, my followers and readers, people I engage with on a daily basis. I want to find the words to break down those walls of protection and say, ‘hey, here is a mother just like you. Who has hopes and dreams for her children. Who loves them unconditionally and would do anything she could for them. Who didn’t choose her circumstances but was dealt them anyway. Who could see real and tangible changes in her life.’  There will be people on my social media network won’t have come into contact with Tearfund and the work they do, and I would love to be able to contribute to raising their profile in the way I know best, to demonstrate how successfully Tearfund have already helped people in the village of Tonle Batie and how much more they could do with an extra 60 people contributing financially, just £3 a month!

Whilst I would love to say that this isn’t about me, I know that it is. I know that this trip would change me, would remind me of something I learned almost a decade ago. That this is real, everyday life for people and no matter how we choose to see it; through slightly muffled ears or by only partially seeing, it is still happening. I want to be able to look into the eyes of another mother, someone who is only separated from me by the cards that she was handed and to let her know that she is not alone. That there are other mothers out there who are standing with her, supporting her, willing her on, humbled by her bravery and dedication to her children. My heart breaks when I think how easily it could have been any one of us. Nobody chooses to live in poverty but it is a burden many must carry each day.

I think that to truly understand, we have to be able to empathise. And to empathise there has to be an element that we can identify with. That is what I can bring, I am a mummy to two young children, most of my readers are mummies who share my journey. I would love to hold the hand of another mummy, to look her in the eyes and let her know that whilst I may never truly and fully grasp her situation, I know that there are other mummies out there who are supporting and praying for her and others like her. That she is not alone. Most important of all, that change is coming. I believe that by using my words to share this experience that I could contribute to seeing change happen for the families in Tonle Batie.

This is my entry for the Tearfund Bloggers Challenge.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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