Margaret MutumbaThis year has been challenging for many of us in many ways. In my case, 2020 has presented interesting life challenges. For one, I was not able to travel to Uganda this summer for my field work. Additionally, all schools were closed. This meant that I had to balance full time work and family life as a parent. For example, I defended my thesis proposal at 8:30 p.m. to avoid disruptions from my little one. The isolation brought on by the COVID-19 lockdown, like many, was poignant – particularly for an extrovert like me. Then came the death of George Floyd and the racial upheaval that followed, opening my eyes to the enormous task still ahead of us as a human race. Through all this however, the most challenging part was losing a close family member and not being able to travel to say my final goodbyes. 

All these factors made me feel overwhelmed. More than ever, I needed to be close to my family but that was not possible (because they are in Uganda and the borders were closed). Furthermore, I did not have much time to process it all given the joys and demands of family life.  

Therefore, I was compelled to find ways to cope. One of the first things I did was turn off the news and turn to meditation and prayer. I took long quiet walks and practiced mindfulness by paying attention to the beauty around me. I also restarted my gratitude journal, writing down three things I am grateful for each day. In addition to this, my supervisor, Dr Craig Janes, made the decision to host weekly lab meetings with my Global Health team to check in on one another. I am so thankful for those meetings because we were able lean on each other for support.  

This experience has been a powerful reminder that life is unpredictable. We cannot take anything or anyone for granted. We need each other and through difficult times, the best of us can shine through. I have come to appreciate the little things in life; the difference a compassionate supervisor makes, the kindness of a neighbour dropping off groceries at your door and the gift of good health. We are still here and that is our testimony. 

- Margaret Mutumba, 3rd year PhD candidate in the School of Public Health and Health Systems 

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