Monday, April 29, 2013

Come and Listen

Listening: the verb that I am trying to make the most active in my life. Listening requires more than just hearing with your ears. It's an active form of hearing that requires giving attention to a situation or event beyond just the physiology of sound. I am learning to do more listening to people, events, and problems than merely just talking and doing.

 I am also learning to ask more questions and to seek more answers as a way to create a clearer picture of the nutrition problems I see in Haiti (and around the world). By listening, I hope to develop solutions that are practical and sustainable for the people and the communities in which I serve. 

This past week and weekend I had some incredible opportunities to dive deeper into Haiti. They were opportunities to gain new perspectives.
Our new babies are so stinking cute!!!

 Monday: I took time to get to know our groundskeeper that has been gardening around the village. I asked to see his gardens. He seems to takes a lot of pride in them! He took me to the garden beyond the gates. When we reached the garden, I was blown away! There stood five Moringa trees--full blooming Moringa trees! WHAT! How could I have been living at our village for about 8 months without knowing we had FIVE Moringa trees on our property! The lesson I learned from this: ask more questions, listen more closely, and keep my eyes open!

We have squash growing!

On our way to his gardens! 

picking moringa!

A sweet smile and a lovely tree!


Someone's got moringa for me! 

Teamwork getting Moringa!
 While we were picking Moringa, this guy (see picture below) came over to talk with us and help our groundskeeper  harvest Moringa.  We got to talking about  the gardens here in Titanyen. He pointed to his garden just outside of our property. He was growing things like melons, sorghum, corn... He was really interested in the nutrition work at our village. When I started mentioning some of the Haitian foods we serve, he laughed in surprise that I knew these foods and meals existed. One of the kitchen ladies (who was also with us on our adventure) told him that Maggi is not good for the body and that using too much fat can cause acid. Hmmm... impressive. I asked him about the foods he ate, and we talked about what he ate when he was growing-up--- pitimi (sorghum), potatoes, cassava, corn, rice, plantains. Exactly what I expected---he didn't eat rice everyday when he was little.

Listening... learning.. asking questions.

I love this picture. I asked him about a tree that was growing on the property and what it was used for. He picked off two leaves and put them on his cheeks. I cracked out a good laugh--he looked so cute! I guess the leaves are used when a kid is sick as way to provide relief from the aliment. 

Tuesday: I made two of my Haitian friends watch a TED talk by Jamie Oliver about the global trends for nutrition and chronic health problems. The video focused primarily on America, however, we discussed how the content of the video was important for Haiti despite the context in-which the speaker was addressing. My friend even added, "this isn't just an American problem--it's a global problem." He could see the "fast-food" similarities and the changes in dietary patterns between Haiti and America.

Later that day, I hopped in the Kubota at our village and went with our Haitian staff to deliver meals to the elderly in our community. I had our elder caretaker ask the elders a few questions for me. We were only able to talk to 6 of the elderly on our meals-on-wheels program due to time constants, however, their messages were valuable none-the-less. None of them cooked with Maggi when they were growing up, and they ate a variety of foods (more than just rice everyday....). They ate things like pitimi (sorghum), corn, plantains, potatoes, tubers..... Most of them had gardens and grew these foods. Interesting... 

Visiting the elders

Interviewing them

Hey, sweet face! 

Cute kids!

Add caption

Hard at work! 

Did someone say Moringa?! I keep seeing them everywhere! 

Little peanut! 

Stopped to see the eldercare taker's house! Love the color!! 

Friday: I was scheduled to give a talk to the kids at school about nutrition with my friend that teaches nutrition at the clinic. I woke-up early and was ready to go that morning; I was feeling a little nervous about talking to the kids. (I know-- me nervous). I found the school director and asked if he'd seen my friend. The director didn't see him, so he tried giving him a call. While we waited for the 9 o'clock presentation, the director and I discussed some things about nutrition. He kept telling me that I need to give the talk even if my friend wasn't coming. I kept saying, "No, no.. I'd rather have him talk. Maybe we can reschedule?  He is Haitian and a teacher here. The kids already respect him and they will listen better to the message coming from a Haitian." .... The director wasn't going to let me get away. We continued talking about the nutrition education in Haiti. "I have connections to other schools..." He kept alluding about getting me into different schools to give a presentation, to talk to other parents, teachers, and children.  A bit before 9 am, we walked towards the feeding center where the kids were gathered for morning convocation. I waited anxiously by the open doors. I kept looking down the dirt road at the entrance of the property---my friend was no where insight. The school director grabbed the pastor on the way out of the feeding center and asked him to translate for my presentation. "Nooooo. I can't do this alone" was all I could think in my head. I had no option.. the director was pretty persistent.  I quickly raced into the kitchen, grabbed a variety of fresh produce from the cupboards, the fridge, and even from the bowl of food the ladies were preparing for lunch. A good presenter, especially with kids, always has visuals. I took a deep breath and started to talk to the kids.

Education.... gives you the tools to make informed decisions about your life.
Nutrition education is necessary and important for all human beings. Including those living  in third world countries. 

Words just poured out of my mouth. All anxieties gone. I introduced myself to the kiddos, told them what I studied in school; a lot about the body and food. I asked them if they knew what nutrition was, and explained to them how the body and food interact. I gave them a basic overview of how eating can prevent health problems, and how eating poorly can actually lead to many health problems (which can also cause a cycle of financial burdens). I asked the kids if they new all the foods I had brought for the presentation. They knew them all--smart kids! Just as I was finished, my friend walked up to the doors of the feeding center. Pheeewww! I called him up, introduced him to the kids, and let him steal the show. My friend talked to the kids about the African Heritage pyramid. He was great with the kids! He kept them engaged and had them participate in the lesson by pointing out food groups, by singing songs, and repeating him! It was great to see my friend talk ownership of this. He totally rocked!!

The kids were smart! They know vegetables! 

This is my passion.... 

My friend stealing the show... he rocks! 

I love teaching, but I really do enjoy being the assistant sometimes too. 

The children had a chance to participate! 

Later that day, I sat down with my friend to discuss the problems of getting good nutrition in our community. I asked for his honesty about my message and about my dreams for good nutrition in Haiti. I often do this with my Haitian friends--ask them what the barriers are to getting my message across to the people and how can my message be applicable to their lives. I cherish their feedback and their insight. So far no one has told me I am crazy and should stop trying! My friend shared some insight with me and put perspective on the barriers, but he also provided ways we could overcome barriers. Together, we are problem solving and creating solutions...

keeping our eyes on the light. 

Also on Friday, the feeding center director and I had the opportunity to have our first consultation meeting with another ministry in Haiti. It was great to see my friend coach the other kitchen director about making changes in purchasing and cooking (yes-- she included not buying anymore maggie!!).  I enjoyed stepping back and listening. I wasn't just listening to the two of them speak creole to each other, I was listening to the whole activity. My friend reading through the other lady's budget and weekly cooking items, making suggestions for change, providing ideas for meal options... I could evaluate the amount of skills and knowledge she has gained over the course of the year. Even beyond the simple conversation and activities happening infront of me, I was also listening to the way I was  feelings inside...all kinds of warm bubblies. To say the least, I was impressed. I loved seeing my friend take ownership over the feeding center and the menus. She rocks!

A trip to the countryside...Love this house.
Beautiful soil..
I love the countryside.
Saturday morning: I packed up a bag of trail mix and hopped in the truck to go on a field-trip to the mountain. I was invited to go to a school that several Haitians in our community sponsor. Over 100 children attend the school Monday- Friday, and then many of them come to the tent (yes, the school is held in a tent) on Saturdays for praise, games, and community! The drive out to the school was fairly short-- only 20 minutes from our village. It was absolutely beautiful on the countryside! Luscious green plants/ trees and rich-brown soil. The air was crisp and slightly cool. There was a lot of farms and small gardens--- I was in love. I asked the Haitians why Titanyen was so dry. They told me that everywhere surrounding Titanyen was green, but Titanyen doesn't have trees so it doesn't attract the rain. I am learning that there has been a lot of deforestation in Titanyen due to the charcoal industry. We need to plant trees. Anyways, the school kids were really sweet! I mainly spent my time with my friend's niece. We danced, laughed, and sang together! My friends sang and played guitar for the kids! They are so talented and so full of energy; they literally light-up a room with their presence!
Sing me a song! 

Zanmi Mwen! 

My new little buddy! :) 

After praise and worship, the kids and I played duck-duck-goose. I was going to just stand back as an observer, but my friend waved me in to play. I couldn't turn down his invitation. Who wouldn't want to miss a game of duck-duck-goose with a bunch of cute kids!?

I fit right in! 



Our field-trip to the countryside ended with a visit to my friend's family garden. It was a short little walk down from where we were playing with the kids. It was a great experience to see how people on the countryside live. The house was very lovely, and they had a lot of plants!!

on a walk through a field....

Visiting the farm
Loved their cozy home. 

Thought this was pretty cool. They call it the "depot" (basically a storage room for food or other goods). 
The kitchen! 

So what did I learn on this experience? That it is great to see beyond just my small community. Gaining perspective requires stepping outside my bubble of comfort--it requires diving headfirst into different people's lives and understanding their story. Trips to different parts of Haiti also give me a chance to see the differences in how people live and also observe any differences in the nutritional shift. (I still saw wrappers of packages "bon-bons").  The beauty of the countryside (really, it is not too far from Titanyen) gives me hope that we can some day have a beautiful, luscious, and vibrant Titanyen. That all of Haiti can be restored back to lots of small family gardens, lots of fresh produce, and good health.

Pick me a mango!

Sunday: I finally tracked down our groundskeeper/ gardner. All weekend, I had been on a lookout for him because we had talked about having a meeting. I wanted to interview him, ask him questions, and know more about this man. I learned that our groundskeeper has a garden in the mountains! He used to live by the garden, but moved for his job. He misses his garden, but is able to visit on his days off. Good thing! He still owns the garden and has people helping him with it. He grows things like corn, sweet potatoes, plantains, beans, pitimi (sorghum).... lots of things! I asked if he has success with his garden, and he responded with a laugh and smile, "Wi!" (yes in English). I continued to ask about how he ate when he was little. The same response I get from most of the elderly-- potatoes, squash, pitimi (sorghum), bean soups--- he told me that he used to eat a lot like we feed the kids now in the kitchen! He told me he doesn't cook with Maggi anymore--- he learned this from the kitchen staff! (Later, the translator said he is thankful for my message because he wants our Haitian grandpa to live a long time). I continued to dive deeper into the topic of the nutrition transition. "How is the food different today than when you where little?" I asked him. He told me they used garlic and pepper instead of Maggi. We continued on with the conversation about rice.... He told me that the popularity now is RICE. People use a lot of rice because they don't know the importance of the corn and pitimi (sorghum). In the countryside, however, more people use pitmi (soghum) and know the importance of it. He said the food trends in Haiti have changed..... and it was at that moment the interview stopped.

The groundskeeper stopped the conversation to tell me...
"I find truth in your mouth" and the translator continued on, "What you talk about is real!"

Those words will forever resonant in my heart.

When we seek wisdom, we find truth.
Here I was seeking his wisdom, and here he was discovering my truth.

I am thankful for taking time out of my busy days to listen.
I realize now that I am not the only one listening.
Other people are listening to my actions, my words, and to the changes in the Feeding Center.
My Haitian Grandpa! 

After speaking with my Haitian grandpa, I had a conversation with another Haitian friend. He poured his heart out to me, and I am thankful for that. I could hear his concern in his voice for his people.. he kept stressing the importance of having me speak to the community---- educating them about nutrition, teaching them how to cook, and how to eat in balance. My friend told me, "It's better to eat quality than quantity." and he continued on, "We need to eat things good for our bones, our body, and our blood."

Bon-bon wrappers.... 
Eat whole and natural food. 

I guess you never realize the impact you have when you educate one person--it becomes a ripple effect.  Supposedly, my friend is now educating  his family, his neighbors, and his friends at school.

He says to me, "If you teach one person, he can go somewhere and keep what you taught him in his mind...." My message has resonated with him.

Monday: At our staff meeting, the feeding center director shared that the kids are learning to like the foods we give them. She has noticed that they are throwing away less food, and asking for more!!! Maybe it is was that "What would Jesus eat!?" video or the talk about Daniel in the bible that got them to accept that plant-based eating is not just better for your health, better for the environment, but it is also biblical!

The feeing center director and I also had our second consulting opportunity with another ministry. We visited their ministry this time-- it was a very beautiful facility and the missionaries were very nice! I enjoyed talking with them about nutrition in Haiti, providing some insight, and giving them ideas to "freshen-up" their meals for the kids in their program! Again, one of my favorite parts of the consultation was seeing my friend dive right in with the other Haitian staff. It was great just watching her "do her thing." On the car-ride home, we talked about some visions. I was excited to hear her vision  (and know that it was very similar to my own).... it involves cooking classes, programing, and education.
<3 soul sisters 

When we arrived home, I told her how proud I was of her and that I was impressed by her knowledge! She laughed her cute little laugh, and smiled a big grin, "Thank you, mama, for teaching me what you know!" It was one of those moments I wanted to cry.

If you don't stop to listen, sometimes you really don't see the impact you can have on one person's life.

And even how that one impact can create a ripple effect to impact
......hundreds of people's lives.

Seek wisdom, speak truth.
...and give LIFE. 

Hanging out after church with some of the kiddos! 

sweet smiles!

Hey pretty girl!

Enjoying a little sun, fun, and the beach! 

Training these kiddos to crave whole, natural foods, and to not be afraid to try new foods!

The beating of my heart has become the dance for my life....

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