SHE Ambassador Missy Lancaster recently visited INA’s program in Uganda, where she was moved by a beautiful country and its people, but devastated to see the levels of poverty. Now, she is doing what she can to help.
I have gained a completely new perspective on life, and honestly, it was a life changing trip.
It wasn’t long after Missy joined INA as a SHE ambassador that she left on what she describes as a “life changing trip”. She knew that if she was going to really understand what the problems were, and how poverty affects people’s lives, she would have to see it firsthand.
For a country girl from Picton, NSW, Missy isn’t afraid of getting a bit dirty or rolling up her sleeves, but even still, Uganda challenged her understanding of what life looks like for people around the world.
“Uganda is such a beautiful country, but with so much poverty. It was a very overwhelming experience, not being conditioned to what goes on in everyday life in Uganda.
I realised just how many things we take for granted in Australian society; things like having a toilet, access to fresh running water and electricity. I didn’t realise that so many people lived without things that we generally don’t even think about.”
Arriving back home, she says, was like arriving back in another world, but far from leaving what she experienced in Uganda behind, she says that it has changed her as a person, and she is committed to doing what she can to help.
“I have been talking everybody’s ear off! I can’t forget about the things that I saw, the people I met and the challenges they are facing. I find myself telling people about the living conditions in Uganda all the time. People can’t believe that the houses don’t have a tap you can turn on with fresh water or a place to go to the toilet!”
The choices, especially for families in Uganda, can be heartbreaking.
“I saw many children, babies as young as one, without clothes, sitting in the dirt, with no one to take care of them. In Uganda, you find a lot of single parenting and mothers have no choice but to go and work on a farm, with few options to help look after the children.
What people have to go through to get fresh water really impacted me; we are so lucky to have what we have in Australia. I won't take it for granted again. It’s very different in rural Uganda where people walk miles and miles to collect water from a dirty creek, that’s nearly always contaminated… and that’s if there has been rain.”
As INA’s SHE ambassador, Missy felt particularly impacted by the difficulties that women and girls face, often trapped into the cycle of poverty, married young and given less opportunity to have an education.
“The thing that has stayed in my mind the most is the fact that there are so many women in Uganda who will never have an opportunity to become something. Their lives are consumed by just surviving, and there is just no other option for them. I met so many women and girls; their strength is amazing.”
Missy was so moved by the plight of the children she met on her trip, that she couldn’t leave without finding out what else she could do to change a young girl’s life. Then, she met 4 year old Rahmar.
“After spending time in the field, I took on a ChildLink and was lucky enough to meet Rahmar and her family. Visiting her home and seeing the conditions she lives in was an eye-opening experience. It was also very comforting knowing that I will be able to help her in such a small way, that will drastically change her life.”
Missy meets her ChildLink child Rahmar (sitting on her lap) and her family.
Rahmar and the other children Missy met on the trip left a lasting impression on her, but not just because they don’t have the same opportunities as children do in Australia.
“The children were so beautiful, they just love to sing and dance! Rahmar was so shy at first but when I started to sing her eyes lit up and she joined in. All the children have such a wonderful love of life, it was so humbling.”
For Missy, the trip not only opened her eyes to how many people live around the world, but also helped to bring her own problems into perspective.
“Being a female in the music industry can be hard sometimes, and it can also be a very materialistic world. Small things can seem like a really big deal; like if someone says they don’t like your music or if you don’t win an award you were up for. It’s not the end of the world, I’m just grateful I have the opportunity to do what I love, and all I hope for is to touch someone in some way through my music.”
I will do whatever I can to help raise awareness about the conditions in developing countries like Uganda. I believe I should use my voice to help create change.
Missy, changed and feeling grateful, is now encouraging others too to get involved, joining her in understanding more about global disadvantage and taking action.
“When I look back on the trip, I will always remember all those smiling faces and all the joy that music brings to people. But I will also remember the not so happy faces, and the responsibilities that a woman has in the developing world.
We can’t change the world on our own. But we can as a collective. Together, we can help change the lives of so many Ugandan people, and be one step closer to ending poverty.”
Missy visited a local primary school where she shared a special moment with the children. “The children just love to sing and dance, they were just beautiful – the best audience!”
Missy takes a selfie with the local children; "they stopped their game of soccer to come over and say hello, they really wanted to be in a picture with me! I can't wait to go back and visit them again."