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Inverness mum gives children a life-changing insight into poverty by taking them on mission to Uganda

By Alasdair Fraser

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A mother fed-up hearing her children complain about being poor packed them off on a "mind-blowing" trip to Uganda to see what poverty really means.

Inverness-born mum Ziz York (36), a foreign aid worker, said the eye-opening two-week expedition gave Nia (4) and Robyn (8) a healthier outlook on the real meaning of poverty and stopped them complaining about not getting everything that they want.

The overseas project co-ordinator for Welsh humanitarian charity Teams4U said: “Before we went to Uganda, my daughters had been complaining ‘oh, we’re so poor’ because they’d seen friends get holidays to Disney World or getting X-Boxes for their birthdays.

“I said ‘you have a roof over your head, we have loose change in our pockets, we can buy pretty much what we want in a supermarket. We are in the top five per cent richest in the world’.

“But Nia said ‘no we’re not. We don’t have a mansion or servants’, but taking them to Uganda made her think.

“I think they have an understanding, now, that they are lucky to have much more than most kids do.”

Ms York paid for her children to accompany her on a working trip last year.

She said: “We do live in a suburban bubble, so Uganda was mind-blowing for them.

“I think the biggest eye-opener for them was just the lack of clothing. They were seeing children that were a quarter dressed because their clothes were that ragged.

“They saw the lack of basic supplies we take for granted. The Ugandan kids didn’t have pens, paper, underwear, and a lot of them didn’t have shoes.

“There were no toys.

“My kids weren’t fully exposed to the most dramatic things like children dying from malaria or suffering from serious malnutrition because of the lack of medical supplies and food.

“But they got enough of an idea about why we need to help. I wish more British people could get that perspective.”

The birth-rate in Uganda is 5.6 children per woman, more than double the global average of 2.4.

Teams4U works with more than 1000 community leaders to tackle the over-population issue as part of the Department of International Development’s bid to support 360,000 women and girls with modern methods of family planning, as well as helping 200,000 females gain proper education.

Ms York added: “On my last trip in October, we dealt with 375 community leaders – priests, nurses, doctors, teachers, headteachers.

“We found lots of statistics, even from their own government, that they just hadn’t had access to. We were able to change opinions.

“When you get headteachers writing on their evaluation form ‘the biggest thing I learned today is that menstruation is normal and not a disease’, it makes you realise the scale of the problem.

“One of the most powerful moments so far was when a priest said to me he genuinely thought that family planning was there to kill them, but now knew it was for their own development.”

Uganda remains one of the world’s poorest countries, with high inflation, unemployment and inequality.

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