Denise Belista (top left), poses with children from the local community in Uganda. Denise served as a global justice volunteer assigned to serve with Days for Girls, an organization that promotes health and education through sustainable feminine hygiene products.
Wandering Uganda: Serving, Changing, Growing
By Jesse N. Love with Denise Belista
Denise Belista is a member of Seattle: Beacon UMC and served as a global justice volunteer for eight weeks in Kampala, Uganda. Denise supported development and education on reproductive health through the Days for Girls organization.
“Two months wasn’t long enough,” shares Denise Belista. “I didn’t know I’d miss Uganda this much.”
Denise recently arrived back to the States after serving almost two months in Uganda through the Global Justice Volunteer program of The General Board of Global Ministries. For her, this experience provided eye-opening moments, unexpected feelings, but also familiar vibes since she has traveled abroad in different cultural settings.
Denise was assigned to serve with Days for Girls. It’s mission: “Creating a more dignified, free and educated world through access to lasting feminine hygiene solutions.” For many in this area of the world, not having these products can affect one’s ability to go to school and/or simply feel comfortable. Some are ashamed to talk to friends and family about such issues. The lack of available sanitary products can be an emotional and physical burden for young girls and women.
Reusable pads created by Days for Girls. Learn more about this organization, here.
Denise was involved in various aspects of the production – as well as the educational process in creating, informing, and distributing reusable feminine pads in urban and rural Uganda. She helped organize kits, researched formulas for developing soap products, and even observed project and business meetings.
But what really made an impact on Denise were her interactions with the local community, especially children. Next door to where Denise worked, she would often see children. Before learning her name, many would affectionately call her “mzungu,” which can mean “traveler” or “wanderer.” They would run to her with big smiles as she walked down the dirt road towards her compound. For the young girls and women she would meet, she would field questions about feminine hygiene products and health issues. After several weeks, Denise formed strong bonds with her new friends, both at work and in the community.
Denise became involved with the Global Justice Volunteer program through both her local church leaders at Beacon UMC and through Exploration, an annual event open to young people interested in ordained ministry provided by The United Methodist Church.
“I still look forward to going to seminary and exploring the elder route. Going to Uganda showed me how much I love working with children,” shares Denise.
Denise will continue to be involved with her local church, develop leadership at Christmas Institute, volunteer time at The Pacific Northwest Conference offices, and may also explore becoming a Global Mission Fellow.