My wife Kate, the mother of our two young boys, understood immediately when I explained to her that I wasn’t going to be home on Mothers Day. Instead, I was traveling to Africa. She knew that my trip would help bring hope, awareness, and life-saving bed nets to refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan.
Visiting these refugee families in one of the hardest-hit places in the world — and distributing the nets that we’ve worked so hard to raise money for — was too significant an opportunity. Little did I know how this experience would transform what Mother’s Day means to me.
Our time in Kakuma Refugee Camp, located on a searing, inhospitable patch of land near the border with South Sudan, allowed me to meet the most remarkable, resilient people I’ve ever known. These families manage to smile even as they wonder if the world has forgotten about them.
One woman in particular stuck with me. We encountered Achol Deng standing in line with her children at a new arrivals area to receive food, water, medicine, and bed nets. It was mid-morning and already hot when we met Achol Deng; she was visibly exhausted, waiting patiently.
There, we learned that Achol fled to Kakuma from South Sudan after her husband was killed about a week before in the ongoing violence in her country. Suddenly widowed, Achol left home with her four children amidst chaos to begin a seven-day journey to safety. Along the way, she became separated from one of her children. Achol arrived at camp with her three other little ones, hoping against hope that her eldest girl would resurface with a relative.
Seven days trekking through extreme heat and some of the harshest conditions on earth, with little access to food and water, facing life in a refugee camp without her husband and one of her children –- Achol’s reality is unimaginable. Yet she endured, doing everything she could for her children.
As we heap deserving praise on our wives, mothers, and grandmothers this and every Mother’s Day, take a moment to remember Achol and the hundreds of thousands of refugee mothers in Africa like her. These mothers, like yours and mine, are loving, devoted parents. And they need our help.
It’s hard for me to return home to my family knowing that Achol is awake, brokenhearted, wondering if she’ll see her child again. One simple way to help her is to make sure that she can keep the three children with her safe. That’s where Nothing But Nets comes in. In South Sudan and surrounding areas, malaria is the number one cause of death among children under five, yet it’s easily preventable by using a life-saving bed net. We need to send enough nets so that every mother and child forced to flee violence in South Sudan is safe from a deadly mosquito bite.
Honor the mothers in your life by making a difference in the life of a family like Achol’s. Please join Nothing But Nets and send a net today. Every $10 donation sends a life-saving bed net to a refugee family. I just sent five -– in honor of my wife, mom, mother-in-law, and two grandmothers. Help Achol and others like her sleep safely.
Photo copyright: Michael Muller