My Trip to Uganda & How it Changed My Life

So today’s post is a bit different than my usual, but it’s about something I’ve been wanting to share with you guys for a while. It’s actually about a big part of my past that I’ve never brought up much here on the blog and since today is International Day of the Girl, I figured the timing is perfect. You see, back in 2009 I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Uganda in eastern Africa. It was incredible and the kind of trip that changes your life forever. Really, if you’ve been to a developing country or one with extreme poverty you know what I’m talking about. You come home a completely different person. A better person. More grateful. More appreciative. And motivated to make a real change in the world. That’s how I felt anyway. I want to share this story of my trip to Uganda and how it changed my life with you guys today because it’s a big part of who I am, so grab your coffee and find a cozy spot!

It had always been a dream of mine to go to Africa. I’m not really sure why, but from the time I was a little girl I just felt this calling on my heart to go. As I grew older I began learning about the challenges girls and women face in developing countries, especially post-conflict zones, and I was especially interested in girls’ education. I learned that most girls living in poverty never receive a secondary education and many don’t even make it into primary school. And this is just one of many issues that girls and women encounter in the developing world. The more I learned, the more my heart broke. And the more I wanted to help.

I began volunteering with various nonprofit organizations and it was actually one of those connections that gave me the opportunity to travel to Uganda. I was absolutely ecstatic. I was newly married at the time and I can still remember running up to my husband in the backyard of our first home and telling him, “I’M GOING TO AFRICA!”. It was a dream come true. The trip was only for 10 days, so I convinced him to go along with me for the adventure. We basically had no money at the time, but we scrimped together just enough to make it happen. And with that we both set off for what would be one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

We were fortunate to spend our trip with a fabulous organization called One City Ministries.. The organization’s founders are from Florida, but they live and work in Uganda. They only knew us through a friend-of-a-friend type of connection, but they were absolutely incredible and allowed us to basically shadow them for our entire trip. It was amazing. We got to travel to remote villages near Mbale, which is located in eastern Uganda, and see first-hand what life is like for people living in extreme poverty. It was heartbreaking. I had never witnessed conditions like that in my life and it was truly hard to see. But at the same time, it was so very inspiring. We met families who had basically nothing, but they were so happy and full of joy. Especially the children. Every where we went the children came running. And they always had big smiles, beaming like little rays of sunshine. I’ll never forget those sweet faces and the experiences I had on that trip. I learned so much about the world, myself and even God. I prayed constantly during that time and my faith grew in the most profound ways.

I could never share all of the things I learned in Uganda in this one post. But one of the issues that really hit me hard was how young girls were missing up to 5 days of school each month during their menstrual cycle, simply because they did not have access to sanitary napkins. Instead they were using things like tree bark and old rags, which clearly didn’t get the job done and put them at risk for awful infections. Girls were basically dropping out of school just because they got their period. How terrible is that?! I couldn’t believe it, so when I came home from Uganda I immediately started sewing reusable cloth pads. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but they can be washed and reused dozens of times. I got my friends and family involved, started a website, the whole shebang. I even got companies to contribute to our cause and in total we were able to donate over 600 reusable pads to girls in Uganda.

After finishing my pad project I started my master’s degree and continued working with organizations for girls and women in developing countries. I was lucky enough to volunteer with She’s the First, which is an incredible organization that helps girls all around the world be the first in their family to attend school. It was an awesome experience and I even got to travel to New York City to attend the Women in the World Summit in 2012. But my first real job came immediately after I finished my master’s degree and it was with an organization called Project Education South Sudan. Landing that job was like a dream come true, because I finally had a paid gig in girls’ education. It was amazing. I’ll always look back on that time in my life and feel grateful that I was able to work for a cause I loved so much.

Isn’t it amazing how God takes us through such different seasons in life? That trip to Uganda and the work I did following that experience really feels like it was a lifetime ago. And to be honest, some days I wonder what things would be like now if I had continued on that path. But God had a different plan for my life. One that I never could have predicted. Right now this season has me chasing babies and renovating our fixer upper. And even though it’s very different from the things I was doing just a few years ago, I’m so grateful this life. I’ll continue to follow wherever God leads and maybe one day I can find a way to bridge my love of home decor with my passion for girls and women in extreme poverty. Seems completely do-able, right?!

Well I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart today. And I hope this inspires you to follow whatever passions you have in life–wherever God leads you. I’m so grateful for you guys and I really can’t thank you enough for all the support you give me on a daily basis. It truly means so much! xoxo

Today is meant to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face around the world, read more about International Day of the Girl here.

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60 Comments

  1. 10.11.17
    glenda LaFont said:

    what a wonderful journey you had.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      It really was, thank you Glenda!

    • 10.17.17
      CArolyn Bonner said:

      Could you share your sanitary pad pattern? I’m connected to Kenya and it would be wonderful to take this to them. Beautiful share! Thank you.

    • 12.5.19
      TamaraR said:

      Glad you relinked this blog! I love that you took action when you returned home. So many people come back from ministry trips pumped up about THEIR growth & patting themselves on the back for helping, but then do nothing tangible to continue the momentum. Thank you for doing more.

  2. 10.11.17
    SYLVIA h MEETZE said:

    WOW!! I love your post and look forward to them but today’s made me admire you even more! Thanks for sharing!!!

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it Sylvia, than you so much!!

  3. 10.11.17
    Tammy Ganci said:

    Amazing!!! When a trip or something in life lets you take with you a good feeling, good memories, a lets’ help attitude and a warmness you can’t explain unless you have lived it, that is something other then ourselves making it happen. I understand completely….I went to church just a few weeks ago for the first time in maybe 7 years, I am proud I went on that Sunday morning, but I am not proud of the fact it was 7 years. But I cried, right in church sitting in the pew, not for anything bad but for the fact I felt at home. Make sense? We all have our life changing, altering moments that we don’t even realize at the moment they happen, but they do happen. Enjoy another blessed day.
    Love
    Your blog friend,
    Tammy

    • 10.11.17
      Cynthia said:

      Tammy congrats on going to church once again, im happy your rejoicing to be home again! You watch and see the Lord doesnt waste anything! Those seven years God will still use in your life. God bless you!

      • 10.11.17
        Tammy Ganci said:

        Cynthia,
        Such kind soothing words…thank you
        Have a blessed day
        Tammy

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Aw sweet Tammy, I am so happy to hear you returned to church after 7 years. And it warms my heart to hear that you felt like you were at home. That’s incredible and I think it shows you are definitely in the right place!

  4. 10.11.17
    Michelle said:

    Thank you for sharing your incredible journey. I needed to hear those words to put my own life in perspective and appreciate all that God has given me. You are an incredible person to have helped so many women with your project. You have touched many women in Africa and here at home. Thank you.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      I am so happy to hear it helped you gain a little perspective about your own situation Michelle! Sometimes that’s all we need to have a major attitude shift. Perspective is everything!

  5. 10.11.17
    Kim Lord said:

    I think this is by far the most “beautiful” post you have put out! I have always wanted to go on a missions trip too and this was so inspiring! I was moved to happy tears…this is our purpose to help others and leave the world a better place any way we can! Thanks for sharing this!

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Aw Kim, thank you so much! I really appreciate that and I am so happy you enjoyed this post. I hesitated to even share it but I am so glad I did!

  6. 10.11.17
    Rhonda S said:

    I am impressed with how God gave you a heart for those precious young girls in Africa. What a life changing trip that was for you and your husband! We have taken for granted how blessed we are here, in this country, to enjoy all we have been given and yet they who have very little, have great joy! Should make us stop and appreciate our blessings and give more to those in need out of our abundance. Thank you for sharing how God used you and changed your life, sweet Sarah!

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      We definitely take for granted how blessed we are, Rhonda! I’ll never forget how hard it was to see those sweet people living in such extreme poverty, but I am grateful for that experience because it gave me so much perspective and taught me to truly be thankful!

  7. 10.11.17
    Cynthia said:

    Man you hit it on the nose when you said ” and to be honest, some days i wonder what life would be like if i had continued that path”. But you are enjoying the season you are in thats where the Lord has you right now. And he does have a way of putting our passions all together! I too have wondered that. But i also know if we delight in him he will give us the desires of our heart; which indeed you are doing! Keep it up friend! Loved how you shared the pictures too!

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Thank you Cynthia! And I agree with you, God has a way of pulling everything together to make it work for His glory. I’m just happy I had those experiences when I did and now I’m grateful to be in this season of motherhood. Tired, but grateful! 🙂

  8. 10.11.17
    Linda of No.Cal. said:

    WoW !! What an experience of a lifetime. THANK YOU for sharing. hugs 🍁Linda of No.Cal.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      And thank you for dropping by to read my story Linda!

  9. 10.11.17
    Beth Levenstein said:

    That was an amazing journey and experience. The pictures of the children were priceless. We are fortunate to live the life we have, and I am thankful for it. I am sure your experience has made you a better person and I am glad you shared it.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      I agree Beth, we are so lucky to live where we live. It blows my mind to just stop and think about how hard life is for so many people around the world at this very moment. We really are so very blessed in this country.

  10. 10.11.17
    Kristie said:

    Loved hearing your story! I confident that God will use you again to serve as his hands and feet in the future. He will never waste a willing heart. Blessings my sister! Serve On……

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Aw thank you Kristie! And you’re so right, He never wastes a willing heart.

  11. 10.11.17
    KImberly said:

    That is amazing. My daughter in majoring in international studies & wants to “help” people. I’m going to send her your story & the organizations you linked. Kim

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Oh please do share it with her, Kimberly! And that’s awesome she is majoring in international studies. I’m sure she has a very bright future ahead!

  12. 10.11.17
    Lynda said:

    Wow! Thank you for taking the time to actually do something meaningful. I think most of us “dream” of doing something but never have the opportunity or are caught up in “life”. I know I am guilty of it. My passion is animal welfare and I dream of one day taking a trip to Africa for that cause. We will see if God leads me there one day. 🙂

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      That’s wonderful Lynda! I pray that God will open the doors for you to live out your dream and make a trip to Africa for that cause.

  13. 10.11.17
    Nikki said:

    Thank you so much for helping the young girls. You have such a big heart! Loved reading about your journey.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Thank you Nikki, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I hesitated to share it, but I’m glad I did. xoxo

  14. 10.11.17
    Meg said:

    Thanks for sharing! I am 33 and a nurse practitioner and have always wanted to go on a medical mission trip to Africa. I don’t see how I’ll do it now that I have a family but maybe God will allow it one day. Thanks for sharing! Very inspiring!

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Meg there are so many opportunities to use your knowledge as a nurse to help those in extreme poverty. Just keep your eyes and ears open and I bet God will open those doors for you one day. You have plenty of time!

  15. 10.11.17
    Vicki said:

    Thank you for sharing! I can see my 18 year old daughter going down a similar path. I would like to share her story with you❤️❤️❤️

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Oh that’s awesome, I’d love to hear it!

  16. 10.11.17
    Angela Servello said:

    This just proves to me that you are an angel sent down from heaven. What a selfless, beautiful person you are. Your parents must be so proud. God bless you.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Oh Angela, you are the sweetest! Your incredibly kind words always bring a smile to my face. Thank you for all the amazing support! xoxo

  17. 10.11.17
    Barbara Segerstrom said:

    I thank you for being bold and transparent in sharing this part of your life, I too admire you more. I’ve always been able to detect your faith through your blog.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      I’m so glad to hear that Barbara, because I’d definitely be nothing without my faith. Broken and messy, but saved by grace. xoxo

  18. 10.11.17
    Mary said:

    Thank you for today’s post! An organization that I have been involved with is sewpowerful.org and it addresses the issues of girls in Zambia not attending school during their monthly cycles. Possibly some of your readers would be interested in checking it out. God bless you and your sweet family.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Oh I am going to look at their website tonight, thank you for sharing Mary!

  19. 10.11.17
    sharry good said:

    “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”ost reminds me of a Mother Theresa quote
    “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
    I praise you for following God’s path for you…when so many make excuses and shy from their “inner voice” aka God’s voice. You are an inspiration- thanks for using your platform for good, deserving causes!!!

  20. 10.11.17
    sharry good said:

    Your post reminds me of a great Mother Theresa quote:
    “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
    I praise you for following God’s path for you…when so many make excuses and shy from their “inner voice” aka God’s voice. You are an inspiration- thanks for using your platform for good, deserving causes!!!

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      I absolutely love that quote and it’s so true. The work I did was tiny in comparison, but if we do small things with love that makes all the difference. I’m just grateful God gave me that opportunity! Thank you so much for being here and all the support Sharry!

  21. 10.11.17
    Lelanie said:

    I was born in South Africa, but moved to New Zealand a few years ago. I wouldn’t change that for the world because apart from missing my family and my country terribly, its wonderful to be safe and comfortable. And that is something that I will always be grateful for. Being grateful though, is one thing that I think New Zealanders sometimes lack. Because they don’t know any different, they take so much for granted and sometimes are so entitled. Experiences like this humble a person again. Thank you, I loved this post.

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Wow, thank you for sharing this with me Lelanie. I am so glad you are in NZ and safe now. And I agree with you–we take a lot for granted when we don’t really know any different. Perspective is everything, so it’s experiences in life that humble us. Thank you so much for dropping by the blog today. xoxo

  22. 10.11.17
    Jeannie McBride said:

    Such beautiful kids & gorgeous smiles.

  23. 10.11.17
    Teresa O'Connor said:

    Oh wow I have tears reading this , I was skipping through I.G last night and came across your story. You are so inspiring, you are an amazing lady.. Sometimes people just don’t know where someone has been or what they have done. Great enlightening post Sarah, thanks for sharing that part of your life with us. Awesome. oh and awesome photos too!

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Thank you Teresa, I really am so glad you enjoyed this post! I always appreciate your kind words and support. Big hugs to you my friend!!

  24. 10.11.17
    Donette mullinix said:

    Thank you for sharing! Missions are so dear to my heart and we have been very involved in Nicaragua for about 17 years— now have a daughter living there working as a missionary with girls who have been in abusive situations. So knowing your heart makes me want to keep up with you more.

    We are getting involved with daysforgirls.org to help with the feminine hygiene needs. Can’t believe this need had never crossed my mind!

    Thanks for what you are doing!

    • 10.11.17
      Sarah said:

      Donnette, I have always wanted to go to Nicaragua! That’s amazing that you’ve done so much mission work there and now your daughter lives there. You must be so proud! What part of Nicaragua? And Days for Girls is a great organization, so glad to hear you’re getting involved!

  25. 10.12.17
    Brittni said:

    Thank you so much for sharing. It really is heartbreaking to see.

  26. 10.12.17
    Tara said:

    I really enjoyed reading about this side of you. Thanks for sharing!

  27. 10.12.17
    Doreen said:

    It is wonderful you were able to travel to Uganda and experience what you did. Then to supply them with sanitary napkins is so fabulous. It is heart breaking the poverty around the world that people live with. God is strong and will take care of them and help people like us give them a better life to the best of out abilities.

  28. 10.13.17
    Mary Ellen Eckels said:

    Love, love, love this post, Sarah!!!! And it’s beautiful, the way God weaves all our experiences together – even the ones that don’t seem to have a connection to one another. You can be sure that where God leads you and how everything works together will be amazing. Enjoy where you are now – my path, while to different places in life than yours, is quite similar – and I’ll bet every one of His daughters can say the same. <3 God Bless.

    • 10.13.17
      Sarah said:

      You are so right Mary Ellen, God leads us exactly where He wants us. Every season has a purpose and special meaning and I’m just grateful to have the experiences I do. Sounds like God has been doing the same leading in your own life! 🙂

  29. 12.5.19
    Chris said:

    Their faces and the sheer joy! It sounds like an amazing experience, Sarah.

  30. 12.5.19
    Carolyn said:

    What an amazing experience! Beautiful pictures!

  31. 12.5.19
    Kim said:

    What an amazing trip and pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  32. 12.6.19
    Sherryl said:

    What a beautiful heart you have. It’s hard not to be changed when you visit a third world country. I think it’s so important to be content in our lives. As women it changes in the different seasons of our lives. Thanks so much for sharing!❤️