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Miriam could have been me

Reflections on acting as Miriam in the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)'s ‘Feed Our Future' campaign
, Gladys kyotungire

My name is Gladys. I am Miriam in the ad for WFP's ‘Feed Our Future' global cinema campaign, which aims to raise awareness on the huge loss of potential the world experiences when children suffer from hunger.

Miriam, my fictional character, would have been honoured for her groundbreaking medical research if she hadn't died of hunger at the age of 8.

This ad is being shown in cinemas across more than 25 countries.

"Hunger and starvation are things no child should have to suffer."

When I saw the casting call, I was captivated by the theme. The idea of allowing children to fulfill their potential resonates with a campaign close to my heart, which is about saving the lives of children who are victims of ‘child sacrifice' in my home country, Uganda. This means their body parts are mutilated by witch doctors for ritual sacrifice. Just like child sacrifice, hunger and starvation are things no child should have to suffer.

I was a bit doubtful when I applied because I do not have an acting background, but at the same time I was hopeful because I am passionate about the well-being of children, especially those in vulnerable situations.

Playing Miriam in the ‘Feed Our Future' cinema ad was a very emotional and rewarding experience.

When I got chosen to act as Miriam after several rounds of casting, I was really excited that I was going to be part of something life-changing. I am all up for helping people and making a difference if I can.

"This could actually have been me: I was abducted at the age of 4."

As the time for shooting the campaign drew closer, I became more daunted by my ability to articulate the voice of the character. She deserved to live and see what she could have become — and there I was, sharing her story.

I related to the character even more when I thought that this could actually have been me. At the age of 4, I went missing. I was abducted by the person who was supposed to look after me and my siblings. In those days, in Uganda, children would be abducted and sold for different reasons. I could have become a victim of child sacrifice. Or I could have been sold to another family and who knows what turn my life could have taken. Thankfully, I was found after three days.

"This is not just a film: it's someone's reality."

During filming, the more I repeated my lines as Miriam, the more I put myself in her shoes as a young girl that didn't live to see what she could have become. If I had not been found, I too could have missed the opportunity to see my future and possibly could have never known my potential or ability.

This is not just a film, I thought: it is someone's reality. At this point, I felt really emotional, I wanted to do everything in my power to save a child's life — even if it was just one. This thought compelled me to put my best effort into telling Miriam's story. Failing to do so would have made me feel as though I had let her down.

After filming, it took me a few days to get over that overwhelming feeling that was weighing heavily in my heart. Thankfully, though, there are millions of children who didn't die of hunger thanks to WFP's food assistance, children who went on to achieve their goals. I feel so honoured to be part of making the change that these children hope for and deserve. Soon I will be going back to Uganda to see WFP in action, and I am really excited at the thought of meeting ‘real life Miriams' who are being helped to fulfill their aspirations.

WFP, in partnership with SAWA, the Global Cinema Advertising Association, created the "Feed Our Future" campaign to highlight the potential that is lost every time a child dies of hunger. A 60-second ad is running in cinemas this autumn in more than 25 countries around the world. The ad contains a call to help end hunger through WFP's ShareTheMeal app and is at the heart of a year-long campaign.

When a child dies, our future dies. Just US$ 0.50 a day feeds a child for one day. Donate now.