This Father’s Day, we want to share with you more about one of our favorite Shanti dads. Fred is the Field Coordinator and driver at Shanti Uganda, and more importantly, he is a fantastic story teller. His perspective, born of many career changes and embedded in recent Ugandan history, offers insight into some of the strengths and challenges of being a father, how to build strong relationships, and what it means to be proud of your family.
Fred was born March 2, 1962 to two loving parents. Both parents were teachers, so Fred was born in nearby Bombo and lived his first few years in the teacher’s quarters of their boarding school. He was the first child to his mother and the second to his father, followed by four more siblings. His parents were examples of patience and kindness, never hitting Fred or his siblings and never fighting in front of the kids. He learned how to be a man from his father and appreciated the doting kindness of his mother. His mom still lives in the house where they grew up, even though her husband has since passed. Fred goes to visit her whenever he is able; he feels he owes her everything for his education and upbringing.
Fred also lived with an auntie in Kampala from when he was three until he turned ten. This aunt had one other son, a brother like figure to Fred in his early years of life. Fred felt so at home in his Aunt’s house on Entebbe Road that he didn’t fully realize she wasn’t his birth mother until he started secondary school and returned to living with his biological parents. He refers to it now as “a system in [his] community, like an exchange of children,” and he reflects on the importance of this system in raising healthy kids and, in turn, health adults. The aunt he lived with had only one biological son, who died shortly after graduating high school, but she is viewed in her community as the mother of many children. She has helped “raise up” over 50 children! In fact, Fred helped to arrange a special celebration for her 82nd birthday. About 30 men and women came out to celebrate this special care giver together because “those are the children she has now.”
Overall, Fred is grateful for the many adults who cared for him as a boy and cites this love as a key building block in his adult relationships. Each caregiver reinforced the importance of building strong communication channels with your children. “I always want to talk to my children,” he states and explains that this is fundamental in helping kids access their full potential. He learned this from his father in full force when he became a dad himself.
Fred and his wife Beth had seven children starting in 1987, a turbulent time in Uganda history, wrought with political upheaval and pending war. Fred was very nervous that his own father would be disappointed and disapproving, but he was surprised to find that his parents welcomed the news with eager acceptance, epitomizing the lesson of talking with your children and working through new situations together. He soon married Beth and decided not to take any more wives, having six more children with her.
Raising kids isn’t easy. Sadly, Beth and Fred lost one child Patrick after a year due to a spinal infection from birth. During this time, Fred learned to value the work of his wife. As she stayed in the hospital with their sick baby, he cared for the house and their four older children on his own. Although they planned to stop having children, the pair continued to try for a child after losing Patrick in an effort to keep his memory alive. They had two more happy babies, and their youngest is now level Senior 4 in school. In another tragedy, they lost their son Joel in a car accident in 2013. Still, he and Beth have remained together and taught their other children about resilience and strength in the face of adversity.
Fred has continued this parenting style with his grandchildren. He loves being a grandfather, and this next phase of life has brought him a lot of joy and perspective. He loves the way they “disturb him with questions,” and he feels delighted by their curiosity. He feels especially warmly towards his granddaughters, noting the special doting bond he has with them.
From watching his parents, he embodied the ideas of patience and tolerance in working to raise children. Fred’s advice on parenting is to not act in anger. He believes that it is always wise to cool down and serve as a counselor to your children to help them actualize their dreams. He also advocates for parents to not fight in front of their kids. His parents never quarrelled in front of them, and he has worked to continue this practice in his own adult home. Fred has adventured a lot and from seeing many parenting styles he has cultivated his own clear vision of how to be the best father he can be.
As far as Shanti Uganda, Fred has become a strong father figure to the whole community. Everyone refers to him as Uncle Fred, and if you are lucky enough to see him around the kids at the birth house, you’ll know just how big this man’s heart is. His silly dancing and gentle, nurturing interactions with the children in the community is a joy to watch. In addition to being the reliable driver, always ready to take women experiencing complicated births to the hospital, Fred has also served as a builder and field coordinator for Shanti. Fred wears many hats, and since he has been with the organization from the start, he feels he can carry out our founder Natalie’s vision of a holistic natural space for moms.
Every afternoon, Fred stops by the birth house to check in on the team of midwives and any expecting mothers. He likes to get the daily update and know if he should prepare for a referral in the middle of the night. He brings his calm curiosity to the grounds, and it is immediately palpable how much he is loved and trusted by the Shanti staff.
What would Fred like to see from and for the fathers of the Shanti Uganda community? He is hopeful that soon we can host more father oriented workshops. He knows the challenges and misconceptions that exist around birth and family planning, and his hope is to educate as many men as possible to change the status quo. His aim is to support more men in the process of becoming fathers and to encourage them to be as involved in the birth process as possible. We are behind Fred 100% on these aims and love the way his energy, commitment, passion, and ambition translate to his daily work with us.
Support loving dads and granddads like Fred by donating to Shanti Uganda