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Emotional costs and Spirit: How I almost did not write this week's assignment

I went to assist my Adult Literacy class today. I got a new student. She is 27 years old and she has never been to school so today, in the one hour we had, I found that she did not know how to write her name and we learned how to write letters “a” and “b.” Another woman, a 45 year-old widow, asked me if the word “orphan” referred to children who had lost one parent as well. I said it did and she said she did not like calling her children orphans. So I told her she did not have to. She looked at me like I had just told her the rules and then advised her to break them. So I told her my story, that my father had died and I never labeled myself an “orphan” because I had a mother. Finally, we agreed that she would break the rules but she would explain. In her essay, she wrote, “I don’t want to call my children orphan because they have mother.” I did not want them to see me cry, but I wanted to go and bawl in the corner of the room.

I was emotionally drained on my way back home. “Why am I doing this to myself!?” I kept wondering.

A cousin has told me before that I need to not be so affected by the people I meet. Today on my way back, I remembered his words, “These causes cost you, you know. And it is not just the money you use, it is the emotional cost too.” I had broken the little box of my savings money to get transport to class today and here I was, on my way home, needing hugs and on my very last savings. I wondered if he had a point after all. Then I remembered this week’s assignment and actually considered not writing it. I was so distraught, I did not know if I wanted to put myself out there. The journey home was long and noisy in my head.

I asked myself questions. Is the class something that I want to do even when I don’t have the capacity to? Yes. Will I sleep better today, knowing I taught a woman “a” and “b” and gave her hope, despite getting no hugs for my own sensitivity? Absolutely. I would give these women the world, or at least what I have of it. They would probably put it to better use than I have.

For World Pulse, I thought what it meant to be a Voices of Our Correspondent, to have a platform for these women and many more where their voices are heard and their strength is shared. I wanted that more than anything. I wanted to harness what I felt, combine in with what I know and package it to get something worth fighting for.

You see after VOF Week 1 reading assignments, I went on a fact-finding mission. I had been going on and on about women and the media to my friend but he did not get it. I have noticed that sometimes to make the world hear me, I need as many figures as anecdotes. I am still working on the balance of emotion and figures, but I know I will find it. For now, I am looking at our daily newspapers and tallying information in terms of sex of the reporters, of the experts quoted and of the issues covered. This is an idea I got from the assignment and I went back to my friend the other day. I told him the day’s figures. That day, there were only two female by-lines in the paper and one shared by-line. There were 31 stories, no female columnists, twenty-five male experts and one female expert quoted. You know how he responded? He provided the papers for the next day, at no cost to me, “because your project will tell us a lot about our media houses.” I remembered this on the journey home, and knew World Pulse had already been instrumental.

Do I want to put myself, and these women, out there in PulseWire again? Every chance I get.


Sharontina's picture


A very touching story so true to your heart and soul, the words are flowing so easily though a few with pain, but reveals the depth dear Rebecca. I really loved this. And thanks for teaching yours sisters to read and write - Many many hugs to you.


Merlin Sharontina

Rebecca R's picture

Thank you

Thank you, Sharontina. I can always count on you to read a post and leave a wonderful comment. Thanks for the support. And hugs, and hugs, back.



Deqa's picture

Touching indeed

This story is deep with emotions and touches our hearts my dear. I am somewhat emotional like you and I was called sensitive many times because I cant help but feel the pain of others. I watch the TV and my eyes swell from the sad events happening worldwide, I see a friend or even a stranger in distress and I am already crying inside. Its a good thing to be able to feel others pain because then we can help them relief the stress.

You have a good heart my dear so be proud of it. And I knw you will find strength inside you because you are a strong woman.
Proud of you for the work you are doing

Rebecca R's picture

Thank you

Thank you, Deqa. Emotions can be strong sometimes, not necessarily crippling. I am glad that you are the kind of person that feels for others around the world. It is a sign that you are a good person.


Anita Muhanguzi's picture

Thank you for posting

Dear Rebecca your stories tell a lot about what kind of person you are. For one you are a very caring and sensitive person and this is something you should never be embarrassed about. teaching a woman how to read and write is the best thing you have done for them You are giving them the power they have been looking for all their lives. Whether at 25 or 45 there is no age restriction to education. I am so proud of you. I send you a big hug in this comment and i salute you. I wish there were many Ugandans who would do what you do. Do not give up my dear. We are here for you and we are proud to be with you on this great platform. Stay blessed my dear sister and continue to put your emotions on paper.

Mrs. Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Head of Legal and Advocacy
Centre for Batwa Minorities
Skype: mrs_muhanguzi

Rebecca R's picture

Gives me strength

Your comment gives me strength, Anita. I cannot wait to see Pascazia write her name. And, I celebrate everyday they improve. The ones that can write are now using less Luganda in their compositions and finding English translations, sometimes quicker than me! It is a very fulfilling experience.

We learnt tenses on Monday, and it was great to see them helping each other as I was doing the alphabet with the other section of my class.


libudsuroy's picture

Dear Rebecca, Thank you so

Dear Rebecca, Thank you so much for sharing with the world your deepest thoughts about womankind. You are endowed with compassion and empathy that would make our world such a better place. Thank you for infectisng us with such a contagion of hope for adult, lifelong learners. I love the way you thought out loud about your feelings. Such candor. Such honesty. Such gift to confront your deepest thoughts, even those that bother you and makes you think there are more than one of you inside your head, in writing. Tears welled up in my eyes, too, Becky as I read along. But I left feeling the relief and catharsis. Will I read your work again? Again and again, in World Pulse and in other forums. Every chance I get, my friend!

libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Rebecca R's picture

:-) :-)

Thank you, Libudsuroy. It makes me happy to know that you too, as a reader, felt the relief and catharsis that I did. This was a difficult post to write. Not just because I was writing out all my emotions but also because I was also telling of my doubts and my weaknesses. I wondered if it would affect my candidacy for VOF. I wrote two posts for the week and then felt this was it. This was exactly what I wanted to say so I posted, and run away from World Pulse for a bit. Hehe

So this comment comforts me, a lot.

And yesss! Again and again,


Mila's picture


Hi Rebecca,

Wow, you are one amazing woman! Thank you so much for sharing your story and for speaking up for yourself and for the rest of the women in your community and beyond. I found your writing captivating. You gave me goosebumps by sharing your work for the illiterate woman and how you were tallying up the women your local media. I know you will continue to inspire women everywhere, keep up the magnificent work.

All the best to you,

PS--some sources to use for your work with teaching English:

Rebecca R's picture

Thank you, Mila!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! These sites are going to be very helpful. Just this week, I decided to restructure the lessons and I was looking everywhere for help.

I have two sections, one for those that have been to school before but dropped out for one reason or another and another for those that never went to school at all. I have moved from the individual help to incorporate about 15 minutes where they learn together. I have to create proper lessons plans for these 15minutes, but already I think they will help because the women are now communicating more with one another.

In your debt,


Mila's picture

No, Thank you! :)

Hi again Becky,

Here are a few more sites that might be helpful:
You can also search Pinterest and get a lot of specific resources (like for English as a Second Language-ESL) that way too:

I am so proud of your work and it is just amazing to think of the impact you are making.
All the best,

Rebecca R's picture

Great resource


That is a great link! I am using it. It also helped me decide to go ahead and get a few books for them to read. They keep forgetting the words so seeing someone, other than me, use them in sentences might help. Also, my drawings are a bit questionable :-)

I have also decided to keep a little diary of the experience here because the ladies are so amazing, it is a shame not to share them with WorldPulse. Also, if posts get me to have resourceful links in the comment section... ;-)

Hi Rebecca,

Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your story. I understand it can sometimes be hard and we forget why we're doing what we do to help others. I often find myself tired after a long day of work when I volunteer go teach adults English here in New York City, but it I always leave re-energized and inspired by their commitment and hard work.

I applaud your diligence and curiosity in exploring the first week's assignment on women in the media. The fact that your findings inspired your friend to support you show the power of this platform. I hope to see you continuing to share your stories and raise your voice.

Many thanks,


Rebecca R's picture


Thank you, Jackie for reading and commenting. I can relate to that re-energised feeling. I go to them feeling tired and hungry most of the time, then I forget about all that as we learn and leave happy and full of energy. I don't think they know how wonderful they are. They don't believe me when I tell them. But they are.

This is a very powerful platform. I kept thinking about the media thing, until I finally gave in to my curiosity. I will be sure to share my findings here, as well as other stories. Mine and theirs.

Mukut's picture

Beautiful post

Your words brought tears to my eyes. So touching ! Sometimes the emotional upheavals overtake us, then the strength to carry on and "put ourselves out there" becomes that much more difficult. True. So true.

Thank you for the lovely post and congratulation on being selected in the VOF program.

Lots of love from India,

Mukut Ray

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