The Ability to Communicate is a Necessity

The ability to communicate is not a luxury,
it’s a necessity in the fast-changing world in which we live.

Kampala, Uganda–The ability to communicate in the fast-changing world in which we live is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

That’s one of the many things I’m learning on this whirlwind trip. No matter where I’ve been I’ve been told of a similar need, the need to communicate person-to-person and one-to-many.

This capacity is life-saving. In the case of areas exposed to natural disasters such as flood zones, inadequate warning of approaching floodwaters cost lives because people didn’t get the word they were in danger.

It’s also life-enhancing. Community radio stations in the Philippines, Uganda and Sudan are bringing important information to their audiences about preventing disease, caring for the environment, rearing children, advising battered women, participating in civic affairs and many other important concerns. In an interactive relationship with their communities these stations are empowering those who lack the ability to tell their own stories and assert their rights.

I suppose this is a learning for me because we in the West tend to take for granted the many ways we can connect and exchange information. Sometimes the technologies become oppressive because they’re so ever-present. Often, we want to escape them, not embrace them.

But that is not the case everywhere. The notice of our visit to Yei, Sudan required a personal messenger travel by bus for a five-hour journey on horrible roads to tell the people in Yei we were coming. They then walked to each individual family’s hut to invite them to our meeting, a process that took more than three days and considerable effort.

At one radio station we visited in one of Uganda’s poorest districts we heard a similar tale. Community correspondents without cellphones hand-write their reports, give them to a taxi driver and hope the driver will be responsible and deliver them to the station. The station, lacking sufficient funds for its own transportation, sometimes receives these reports, sometimes not.

This is life without accessible communications infrastructure. It can mean lost opportunity for training, immunization or the sharing of community concerns.

I’ll write more about this as I have the opportunity to reflect on the trip in the days to come.

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