3 Life Lessons I Learned in Uganda

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 Sara Gelsheimer By: Sara Gelsheimer

A new year brings with it a time of reflection. It’s a great time to think about the past year: its successes and failures, its turning points and its moments of great joy. It’s also a time to use the experiences from the previous year to help shape your approach to the new year.

Exactly one year ago, I was boarding a plane to Uganda, Africa with my husband and a team from Hearts and Hope for Uganda, a local non-profit. I was filled with excitement, nervousness and a readiness to see what the trip would have in store for us. And, no surprise, I came away with some incredibly important life lessons that I plan to carry into 2017.

1. Happiness is not rooted in material things.

This is no earth-shattering statement. I’ve heard it all my life. But going to a poverty-stricken area and witnessing the overwhelming happiness of the people made this statement real. It is not uncommon for those in the rural villages we visited to own no more than one pair of tattered clothes, eat one meal a day and have less than a shoebox full of possessions. Yet, the love and happiness they radiate is immense.

Upon our arrival in the villages, we were greeted with smiles, hugs, song and laughter. Their love and sense of community was all they needed—not fancy cars, big screen TVs or the newest iPhone. And for our short time there, it was as if we were all family, not separated by race, cultures, languages or even 8,000 miles. In their beautiful eyes, you could see pure joy. And it was truly infectious.

2. Share what you have with others.

Though by our standards, the people of Uganda have virtually nothing, they were always willing to share. We attended a church service one morning in the village of Butangala, and in the collection basket, among the shillings (Ugandan currency) was a mango. The woman who offered it appeared to have very little. In fact, it probably would have been part of her sole meal for the day. Yet she was willing to share it.

Most of us have more than many other people in this world. Yet I have a tendency of taking what I have for granted. In those times, I try to stop and think about the woman with the mango. I learned the importance of sharing what you have, no matter if it is your time talents, or dollars.  That, too, leads to a life full of happiness.

3. Sometimes it’s okay to get dirty.

Confession: I am type-A and a little germ-conscious. For those of you who know me, this may not shock you! Needless to say, these traits are not necessarily ideal for traveling to a third world country. It was not easy to set aside my itinerary or eat with my dirty hands. But guess what—I survived!

Not only did I survive, but there was also something liberating about being covered in sweat and red dirt and not being controlled by a clock. I was forced to step outside of my comfort zone, and it was great.

I learned that it’s okay to get dirty.  Life is not always going to be clean and spotless, and that’s okay. You don’t grow from a predictable and perfect life. You grow from the moments that knock you down or force you out of your daily routine.

"You don’t grow from a predictable and perfect life. You grow from the moments that knock you down or force you out of your daily routine."


Last year around this time, not only was I leaving for Uganda, but many of the women at Plancorp and I got together and decided to start the Women’s Initiative. In reflecting on my last year, I realized that those lessons from Uganda are the same lessons I learned from the first year of the Women’s Initiative!

  • Happiness is not rooted in material things.  The relationships we have built over the last year through the Women’s Initiative have truly inspired us to continue our efforts.  And we look forward to building more, stronger relationships throughout 2017.
  • Share what you have with others. We are so lucky to work for a company that encourages us to give back with the talents we have, and fully supported us as we launched the Women’s Initiative. We cannot wait to continue to share our perspective and knowledge with you as 2017 unfolds.
  • Sometimes it’s okay to get dirty. Okay, so we didn’t literally have to get ‘dirty’ per say, but we did have to step out of our comfort zones.  it’s always scary to start something new but the encouraging feedback we received from many of you made it all worthwhile.

From the entire Plancorp Women’s Initiative, we thank you for making it such an amazing first year and we can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!


Sara Sig

Sara Gelsheimer

Founder of the Plancorp Women's Initiative



This post was written by a member of the Plancorp Women’s Initiative, which strives to advocate for clients and women in the community by addressing topics specific to their financial lives. For more information about the Women’s Initiative and how you can get involved, visit the Plancorp Women’s Initiative page.

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Sara came to Plancorp in 2013 with a strong financial background and an even stronger commitment to financial education—particularly for women. A Wealth Manager and Founder of InspireHer (Plancorp's Women's Initiative), Sara is also a new mom. More »