Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sing a song of praise


Today, I just felt it on my heart to blog about prayers. So often we just want to pray to God about our needs, about our suffering, about our problems, about other people's problems. Today, I realized that I need to stop and pray..(especially when I am constantly surrounded by trouble, problems, and daily struggels) to sing a song of thanksgiving. Thanking The Lord for all that I have; the opportunities, the support, and the many wonderful things I have been able to do and be apart of over the past 5.5 weeks in Haiti. It is so easy in a swarm of daily struggels, where you feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and being surrounded by needs and third world poverty, demands and requests, and a constantly fast-pace and changing forget to take time to breathe, to pray, and to sing a song of worship. It is easy to get caught up in the problems that you lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel and the glimpses of hope along the way. I think this is why Haiti has some of the most gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, they are "Simple" (more like remarkable) reminders to take a breath and notice all the GOOD, to keep your eyes focused on the beauty and the "flowers" that are blooming and transpiring EVERY single day!!! I am thankful for these simple reminders every morning and night. 

The focus of this blog is on thankfulness. I find writing this is an opportunity to escape the many internal and external stresses and demands of mission work to reflect on the beauty, the wonderful opportunities, and glimpses of GOD I see everyday. 

First and foremost, I am thankful for my family and friends that have supported me every step of the way. Mission work is very challenging on many levels, and without continued support, I don't think I would be emotionally and mentally able to handle the life of a missionary. It is so nice to have a friendly voice or email with encoruaging and uplifting words to come back to after a challenging day on the mission field. Sometimes these words may even be words of insight, direction, and enlightenment that help to refocus and change my vision. Lets just say that each day is like a battle in a third world country, a battle against poverty. Daily, I feel as though I am a warrior, constantly fighting to overcome the system that has held these wonderful people captive and unable to shine their light in the world. Naturally, some of these battles come with feelings of having some words of encouragement just helps shine light on the tracks made and provides direction to reflect my attention on the good (the battles that you have won) during those midst of trial, frustration, and setbacks. So thank you to all those that have provided a lending ear, a word of encouragement, or have even just followed my work, sent some thoughts and/or prayers. It all means so much to me. 

I am also thankful for this time of service; an opportunity to really give back to the world without expecting anything in return. I have been blessed with so much, and to be able to "pay"  my blessings forward, is the least I can do to show my gratitude. Timing couldn't have been any more perfect either, having Just completed my dietetic internship and becoming a registered dietitian at the same time the Feeding Center at Grace Village was needing attention to get on its feet. I have had no major life commitments at this stage in my life, so I view time as a blessing for me right now. 

Along with time, I am also thankful for the energy and stamina to do mission work day after day. As many people with long term mission work experience know, it is a high demanding environment.....constantly problem solving, communicating, planning, and learning...(sometimes doing things you don't exactly have training in and/ or had planned to be doing). These demands can be exhausting, overwhelming, and very complicated (especially when there are cultural and langauage barriers)...and I am thankful to have energy to get up each morning and start the day fresh!! 

I am thankful for the many educational experiences and volunteer opportunities that have prepared me for EVERYTHING I have been doing. I have been amazed by the number of things I have been able to work on while here in Haiti...and so incredibly thankful for my educational experiences (both in psychology and nutrition) that have prepared me so well for being the nutrition advocate for Healing Haiti. Everything I learned in college and throughout the course of my dietetic internship has been a skill I have used in Haiti. I have been doing clinical nutrition work (helping kids gain weight), food service (meal planning, budgeting, food purchasing, production, food safety, developing mission statements....etc), management (hiring and restaffing to meet the needs of the children better), education (teaching staff, children, and general community about the importance of a wellbalanced diet and using the local markets for food), marketing, research and public health (looking at cultural patterns of food intake and food choices, as well as researching recipies that incorporate foods available to us)... And I am sure there is more. It just amazes me how many skills I have been able to use in such short time....thank you to all my teachers, mentors, and professional connections that have helped prepare me, have given me wisdom and tools, as well as the encouragement to be serving as a dietitian in one of the poorest countries in the world!!!! It still blows my mind that I am actually doing this... 
Helping the staff to use color and presentation with fruits/vegetables in their meal prep....

Getting heights on all the kiddos!!

pizza night using a local produce called breadfruit!! 

Getting weights on the kids!!

The long term missionaries down here with me, have been such a blessing. Wow, let me just tell ya... It's nice to have someone who can relate to the daily highs and lows!! :) These ladies have been very helpful on my emotional roller coasters. I couldn't imagine doing this without them here for their guidance, support, wisdom, and listening ear. Oh and of course...our goofy moments to just laugh!!!! They have been so great to me.. and I get teary eyed just thinking about how much they have helped me with daily troubles and daily joys. They have even down special things for me... like taking me out on a surprise get away for my birthday!!! Thankful for their servant hearts... For our friendship. 

I am so incredibly thankful for my fabulous kitchen staff that has been making great strides in the kitchen. They have come such a long ways since my two week stay back in June. It just fills me with such great joy when I see them working hard...when they are keeping the kitchen clean, purchasing lots of produce from the local markets, and preparing nutritious (and tasty meals), and working on recipe enhancements by taking out items per my request (cutting down on use of butter, sugar, and salt). In the past 2 weeks, they have even managed to get meals out on time!!!! I am so thankful for all their hardwork, and I hope that they too can see the changes and the progress they have made. I just have to take a second to brag about my kids' healthy eating patterns... 2-3 fruits and vegetables (at least per day) with a variety of whole grains and lean protein sources!! We are using more flavorful combinations of food, like avocado and beans, and new spices to enhance the flavors of meals. My night staff has been incredible at learning the new recipes; She has even been able to prepare new meals without me showing her how to do it...and WOW has she impressed me!!! I think she makes some of the best black bean burgers I have ever had!! :) 

Black bean and blugar burgers...amazing!!

Preparing breadfruit Pizza!!!

I know, it looks funny...but beans and avocados really pair together nicely!!

This is black beans and "pitimi" (also known as millet. It is a super grain) paired with Haitian style vegetables. A meal that deserves an A+++ after all recipe modification and the incorporation of pitimi instead of white rice. 

I am also thankful for the health and security I have had in Haiti. As many people know, there is a lot of corruption in third world countries...and I am thankful I have not been impacted by any major threatens. I am so incredibly thankful for my health...the ability to drink the water at Grace Village (yes, from the's purified) and eat the produce from the market (no, I don't bleach it) and not get sick. I can't thank The Lord enough for the negative test results from a resent blood test.. (Yes, blood test, negative results..). There are so many reasons to give praises of thanksgiving... 

I eat a lot of produce in Haiti.... 

Every little opportunity I get to spend with the 56 munchkins here at Grace village, is a chance for me to refresh and to uncover that burning passion inside me. As our ministry continues to grow and expand, I find that our role as the missionaries begans to grow and expand....many days I am spent doing administrative type work (job descriptions, budget analysis, organization structure, protocols and procedures, establishing rules and enforcing them, creating menus and investigating available foods/resources)... I find myself moving away from the kids to work more with the leaders and the staff of the organization here in Haiti. It is amazing to see these leaders grow and expand in their job walk alongside them to help them to establish rules, to help them keep organized and detailed in their work, to help enhance their skills and talents, and to see them be successful!! I am so thankful, though, for the days when I can spend more than 5 minutes with the kids. With my crazy schedule and their busy schedule (school 8-2, lesson 3:30-5, and dinner and worship at 6, bed at 8), it is hard to get to spend a lot of one on one time with the engage with them. I am thankful for the times I have been able to talk with some of the boys about studying. One boy asked me how I study because he needed some help trying to learn materials for school. I shared with him some of my best study tips (writing things out a million times and taking breaks to let my brain rest), and he came to me the other day and told me his studying was going better!!! I am thankful for the times I get to go play with them on the watch the girls do each other's hair, and to just be with them. The other day I had some time in the afternoon to catch-up with a few of the younger boys..they were sitting in their dorms with their school bags. I picked up one of their books on the ground and started reading to them. It just made my heart warm to see their reactions as I read through the book. They were all so engaged. Little 7 and 8 year old boys, Just so intrigued by the expressions of my voice as I flipped through the pages of the book. I couldn't help but think about the times my parents would read my brothers and I books before bed, and how much we loved that time to snuggle with our mom and/or dad and be nurtured with a story. My heart tugged a little too as I watched them inch closer to me, I am not sure if they had been read too much before coming to Grace village...During that simple moment, I  realized how thankful I was to able to give them something I enjoyed as a young kid too. The time of escaping into a world of imagination... These moments with the kids scattered throughout my week really have made me realize how important it is for me to find 30 minutes each day to just be with them, to put down my work, and to set aside my problems each day to just be. I find that these moments are moments for me to refresh, unwind, and rekindle the fire inside me....

The kids before school!!!


Reading books together!!!

Yes, this is a goofy picture of me at the playground... 

Spending some time with the little ladies!!

A little preschooler... I love peaking in the classrooms to see the future leaders at work!!

Meal times are really when I get to see the kids... 

As I sit here and write-out my many reasons to be thankful, I can't help but just dwell on the wonderful glimpses of God showing up in my life through people, through trials, through sunrises/sunsets, through obstacles that ultimately arise in victories, through security and health, and through simple experiences that refresh my whole being.... I am so incredibly thankful that God continues to pour love into my life, to renew me, to refresh me, and to never..ever..give up on me (no matter how many times I fail... How many times I forget to acknowledge the wonderful blessings and reasons to give praise and thanskgiving). 

Thursday, November 22, 2012



Today I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to serve in one of the poorest countries in the world, and to serve along side some wonderful, volunteer missionaires and employed Haitian staff to work towards enhancing the lives of those living in extreme poverty. I love working with the staff to help them prepare well-balanced meals on a budget!

 We are currently working on incorporating more produce and beans in the meals.. And doing so by using some creative, vegetarian based recipes. This week we prepared "mock" joes.. Sloppy joes prepared with beans! The meal was a success even though it ended up being the default of a recipe gone wrong. We were going to make an avocado and bean sandwhich, but realized majority of the avocados were spoiled when we started to prepare the we got creative and added tomato paste, water, Italian seasons, garlic.. Mixed it with the beans and avocado... And tossed it on a bun! The fact that kids came for seconds indicated to me that it was well receptive. when asked if they liked the meal, the kids shouted, "yes!!!" Looks like we will be doing this again...kid tested and approved!! This is the fun part of my job... And stressful. Looking and researching for new recipiecs to try with the resources available to us is the fun part. The stressful part is not knowing how these kids will react to the meal. I am always nervous that they are going to hate it... But love love love when I get responses of joy and kids telling me they want it again. I would be curious to see how the kids would react now if we were to serve the meals provided prior to the menu changes.... 

Another activity I have been working on this week is enhancing the work and production of the kitchen so that we can function even stronger as a feeding center. I am working on a mission statement for our kitchen, as well as new job descriptions and chains of commands to help the planning, purchasing,and production of the meals to be more precise ...further improving tighter control over inventory and budget... And enhancing our ability to do more good with the resources we have!! 

Happy thanksgiving from Haiti!!
Thank you for all the continued support!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Brief update of my life in Haiti..

  Ready, set, go..

Here is a quick update on my life here in Haiti.

Things that I love about being here:

1. Waking up at 5:30 AM to the beautiful angelic voices singing worship in the feeding center
2. "Sun shows" at night and in the morning... Haiti has the best sunrises and sunsets!! And being on the mountain you can see them all... 

3. Being a dietitian. (More on this below)

4. Serving alongside a wonderful group of missionaries and Haitian employees of Healing Haiti

5. Learning ..learning things about culture..about poverty...about humanity..about mission work..about living in service..about myself...about new foods and ways to prepare new foods...about being a leader and allowing others to be leaders....the list goes on. Let's just say,I am always learning. 

6. Finding creative ways to use foods that are locally available to us at the market

7. The markets in general.

8. Seeing these kids become healthy...
9. Adorable kids and fun staff

10.  Problem solving.. 
11. Hot Haiti sun!!!!

The challenges of living here..

1. Constantly surrounded by poverty....this can bring up some undesirable emotions. I am in one of the poorest countries in the world.

2. Finding time to write a blog... 
3. Feeling defeated by things that don't go how you planned or anticipated
4. Unexpected surprises or problems that interrupt your "to do list"
5. Not always feeling capable/suitable/equipped of the work, the challenges, the problems..
6. Don't have the luxury to always get in a car, go to a grocery store, go out to eat, go to a mall, call up a friend, use the Internet, get your nails done, go to a sports game, run down the street...
7. Cultural barriers.. Poverty barriers..language barriers
8. Only 50% of the population can read or write.....and trying to educate new material, literature, recipes in a kitchen.
9. Not always having an answer or control for some of the things that happen here. 
10. Not being able to help everyone that comes to your door with a need, a problem, a request... And trying to communicate that with them. 

The skills I have used, the things I have done, and projects I am working on...

1. I would say I have used every skill of a dietitian.. 
Clinical dietitian: I work with kids to help them gain weight. Currently, I have 14 kids on 2 supplements per day. 
Education: work with staff and children to educate them about food, food groups, meals, lifestyle patterns, and the importance of a good diet
Food service: oversee budgeting, menu planning, purchasing, production, and management in a haitian feeding center
Public health: look at dietary needs of the population and study food trends/ patterns 
Research: spend time researching food, researching recipes, researching problems with under and over nutrition, researching the culture...
Management: work on job descriptions, chain of command, hiring/interviews
Marketing: having the kids sample new recipes, using a Facebook page and blog to not only to share with people about the service work I am doing...but encourage them to be creative with food and take action to prevent acute and chronic disease in their own personal lives.. (Didn't know I was marketing to you? Well, now you do!!!)

2. Created a new menu that incorporates more produce from the local market and that increases the use of vegetarian protein foods, whole grains, fruits/vegetables, and cutting back on the use of butter/sugar/salt.. 

3. Working on new recipes that make use of local foods, but offer the kids a variety of foods and ways foods can be prepared to maximize their micronutrient intake. 

4. Working on budgeting for the feeding center..and for grace village

5. Investigating food trends and patterns.. (This is an interesting one)

6. Serving alongside a staff to help build them up and create a system that can function without my physical presence.. 

7. Helping the staff understand some basic rules of the kitchen.. Like covering food in the fridge, making use of foods before they go bad, how to prepare certain foods, how to get meals done on time.. 

8. Working on more menu planning and portion sizing...always making sure we have enough food, finding a replacement for the unsweetened condensed milk we are using (aka cream) and realizing our options are very slim picking between whole and full cream milk...finding new foods available to us in Haiti that we can purchase and use, job descriptions, staffing, getting my 14 kids to a good weight to finish supplements... the list goes on. 

9. I am also working on my photography and editing skills...after a long day, I love being able to edit pictures and share them with the world!! (Check out my Facebook page: and  the nonprofits Facebook that I am also adding pictures too:

Things I miss...

1. My sweet baby niece... my mom and dad, my brothers and sister-in-laws, and all my friends. Oh I miss them all so much..

2. Warm showers

3. A dishwasher..

4. Being able to get in my car and go wherever I need to go.. (Don't get me wrong, I love a challenge of trying to figure out how to live without certain things that are usually convenient)

5. Honeycrisp apples and frozen yogurt...

I am probably missing a whole list of things I have done, experienced, miss, love..But this is a brief update on my life. So their ya have it. Brief. I am so incredibly thankful for this opportunity to serve... To develop and grow, individually, but also watch the children become healthy..the Haitian staff become educated and successful in their roles and responsibilities... And SEEING the wonderful and beautiful things and people growing and developing EVERYDAY here.