Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Finding (w)holistic health characters for my story

June 24- July 1:

I spent time  during this week doing alternative activities to what I typically do while I am in Haiti....a  little networking, consulting, and researching. A nice change of pace and a different environment than the work that takes place at the orphanage. The experiences throughout the week gave me an opportunity to be exposed to different realities in Haiti, which I find enriching for my understanding and perspective of not only Haiti, but of the world. To say the least, I am learning a lot from people's lives and their stories.

The week prior (sorry a little out of order), I had an opportunity to meet with organization in Haiti that only serves vegetarian food. On the plane ride down to Haiti, I sat next to a young lady my age. We started chatting about life, about what we do in Haiti, and it was an instant connection! I knew this lady was going to be another character on my life journey. She told me that she recently went entirely plant-based and that the organization she was working with was based-off of yogi principals, and therefore, the diet of the children and staff was vegetarian. I was so excited to hear this!  I made arrangements to visit the organization and to connected with the staff in-charge of meals. I wanted to learn more from the Haitian's that were already eating plant-based (and eating this way by choice).

For information on the organization click: AMURT-HAITI
Yoga is incorporated into the school program! Fitness and meditation! 
The House mom, the woman in charge of cooking meals for the children, was my teacher this afternoon. I let her show me around her garden and teach me about her native practices.
I received a lesson on different plants that are edible and/or used for teas/ spices/herbs.


She dried her peels from oranges to be used for spices and teas!

Ripe plantains are super tasty!! 

...and you know you can eat the banana flowers!?

( Click me for Banana Flower Salad recipes on Pinterest)
Yes this kind of flower!
While we were chatting about life, food, and Haiti, the house mom brought out dried pumpkin seeds for me. WHO WAS THIS LADY!? Did she happen to read my blog post: DON'T THROW AWAY THOSE SEEDS?

No, I am sure she did not see my blog post.
She already knew what to eat and how to be resourceful.
A Haitian women like me-- loving her plants, saving her seeds, and using food as her daily medicine. It might be a match made in Heaven.

Our conversation covered the hows and the whys of her decision to go vegetarian, the where and how she learned about nutrition.... she shared with me her story.

Pumpkin seeds. 
Let's just say, I was very inspired. After the meeting, my friend from the plane and I chatted a bit more about a forest that the children in her ministry go to a couple times throughout the year (Sadhana Forest ). I was very intrigued by the sounds of the forest, the philosophies and the practices. A very ONE with nature and with people approach (much like that of the mission I was visiting),

Watch this video...how can you not be intrigued!? This is Kingdom work right here: considering the WHOLE perspective of life.

 I have put the forest on my places to visit in Haiti. I have already started connecting with the organization about plant-based, native eating, and hope to continue learning from their experiences and work, as well!

Meeting the plant-loving people weren't the only exciting part of my last Haiti experience! A friend and I also had the opportunity to visit a health fitness club in Haiti called Energy. We met with the owner of the club, and had a wonderful discussion about health, fitness, and nutrition in Haiti.  He was a very intelligent Haitian man with a heart for physical activity! I am excited about his visions and his passions. He has been working on a national physical education curriculum for Haitian schools--recognizing the need to teach children about the importance of activity for health. My friend and I were able to view his book, which was incredibly well written and displaying diverse activities from track and field sports to basic aerobic movements.

The club owner recommended me to a few books to read, movies to watch, and things to think about in regards to Haiti. He told us about a couple of absolutely beautiful places in Haiti that we will have to visit some day-- I have added them to my list of places to travel to and sights to see.

The Haitian man shared with me this message. I wont forget it: We have a choice in life-- we can choose to focus on the positive things or we can choose to focus on the negative.



 The trip to the fitness club and meeting with the Haitian man gave me another perspective to Haiti. I was able to hear another Haitian's story and to hear his passions, dreams, and experiences.

These experiences are helping me to see a more WHOLE and HOLISTIC picture of Haiti.

Throughout my week, I made a couple of visits to different markets to cost out the price of various native food items. I also discovered a few new foods along the way!

I had the opportunity to meet with another mission about the foods available in Haiti, and we discussed options for meal items for the mission teams that were coming to Haiti! I am thrilled when other ministries are excited about eating more plant-based, native Haitian foods... show casing Haiti's finest foods! I am also excited that people are interested in using nutrition for a means of health and prevention.

"ble" means bulgur in English. It is native to Haiti. 

You can find lentils at delimart! 

Chickpeas! Yes-- I found chickpeas at Delimart!

Cayemite! A new fruit discovery for me! Kind of like a plum, but a little more "milky"

During this week, I also spent some time with my friends in Haiti...catching up and reconnecting. It's important to balance work with life, and through these relationships and communications you can discover a lot about yourself, about your friends, about the world, and discuss ways to become a better individual. Self-improvement and self- discovery can be a result of periods of reflection. Reflection can happen in the contexts of individual meditation or conversations with others. I found myself doing a lot of meditation and conversation during this week.

One of my friends made-up this song for me while we were catching-up....
"Kristina, the Dietitian" Catchy and funny! I might have to use it for marketing purposes.

Conclusion from this week's experience:
Listening is such an important skill to have in life. (click here for my blog on Listening). Being open to hearing the stories of life moving around you and allowing other people to play a character in a chapter or two of your book might add some depth or perspective to your own story. Their experiences and knowledge might even shed light onto a path that you didn't even know existed.

I find it an incredible opportunity to learn from the Haitian people who are actively working for health through holistic measures. One of the struggles I have with being a foreigner is that I come in with my Westernized lenses and am so quick to make judgments based on my own experiences and from my own context of life. I am afraid of the western practices overpowering the rich- holistic culture of Haiti. The (w)holistic culture that incorporates mind, body, and soul as apart of the functioning of life.

On a more personal and professional level, I am starting to create a WHOLE picture to the way I view health and the existence of life. I am starting to recognize that when we only look at one aspect of a country, pieces of worldly problems, or one aspect of diseases and conditions, we forget about the truth that lies in the WHOLE picture. Take for example, nutrition, environment, and health. If we only focus on nutritional needs and we don't also consider the environmental impacts of our processing and consumption to meet these nutritional needs, then we create problems for our health as well. Problems with the quality of the land (that can impact our food supply), the quality of our water (which can lead to water-borne diseases and runoffs into our lakes and oceans.... further impacting our food supply), transmission of diseases between animals and humans  (avian influenza, zoonotic diseases, antibiotic resistance).... even health as it relates to the conditions of the workers trying to create products for your own individual consumption (factory farms and sweat shops). When we look at our health from a reductionistic viewpoint, we fail to recognize how health is based off the context of the WHOLE.

The famous Indian story of the blind men and the elephant might help you make sense of this concept of Whole:  The Blind Men and the Elephant. When we all hold a perspective of "the elephant"  (maybe the elephant is science, technology, nutrition, health, culture, poverty), we hold a piece of the truth... maybe not the whole truth, however. We may be only seeing one piece of the "elephant." When we are able to put together different perspectives  of that "elephant" we can create a much bigger picture. In the context of world poverty and world hunger, my views have dramatically evolved over the past 2.5 years of traveling to Haiti. My understanding of world poverty is greatly due to the piecing together of different perspectives and experiences of all kinds of peoples,  organizations, and academic institutions.

So we could also talk water: This is Water-David Foster Wallace's Amazing Speech

The reality of choosing perspectives and seeing beyond one's self....

"Whole" by T. Colin Campbell is currently the book I am reading. My talk of "whole" and "reductionism" was inspired by the perspectives in this book: About the book and an interview with T. Campbell: About Whole

This video on empathy can provide some more insight on the perspective of whole as it relates the to context of living species in one community (the world). When we view the world from "reductionistic" viewpoints (religious views, country views, species views), we create identities that separate beings rather than connecting humans, and connecting humans to living species and the environment. We really only have one world, and that one world is impacted by the health of each person, the health of the environment, and the health of all living species.

Mark Bittman, a meat-eater explains in his TedTalk "What's wrong with what we eat." about how our eating habits must change for both the environment and health. 

The Environmental Working Group's insight on food, animals, and environmental health: http://www.ewg.org/agmag/2013/07/don-t-waste-conservation-dollars-concentrated-animal-waste

Sweatshops and child slavery used to make food and clothing, have impacts on the health and wellbeing of the workers. What we purchase and what we consume directly impacts the mental and physical health of people around the world. A reality we often don't think about at the cash register.

If you want more education on these issues, follow the links below and read about it:
1. The industry behind our food production: http://www.foodispower.org/
2. Fashion and the environment: http://www.ecouterre.com/mission
3. After math of the Bangladesh factory fire: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-photos-bangladesh-collapse-left-many-amputees
4. Do you know what are in your products!? http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Awareness of the problems is the first step. Become educated and informed. Changing behaviors are difficult---I know. I have a psychology background had have studied behavioral learning. However, once you become more educated and more informed about issues and the ways you can work to change them-- you might find motivation for behavioral changes. Even if they are small... everything counts.

Don't underestimate the power of your actions and influence. You may be one person, but you may also be one pebble that creates a cascade of ripples in the ocean.

Let me just leave you with this food for thought:

“When we live in a system, we absorb a system and think in a system. We lack the independence needed to judge the system around us. "- James Douglass 

Start to recognize these systems you are apart of (knowingly or unknowingly) and start to question if they are what you believe in or things you support... how is your participation in these various systems impacting the WHOLE?

Monday, July 29, 2013

June 2013: Young Adult Mission Team

This is a long overdue blog about my last 4 week trip to Haiti (June 17- July 15). Each week will be it's own blog since I had some pretty incredible experiences over the course of my time in Haiti.

 So here goes a summary of week one.
Pictures are one of my favorite ways of telling the story, so don't be alarmed by the number of photos.

June 17- June 24:

My first week in Haiti, I lead another young adult mission team through Healing Haiti. Prior to the week, the thought of leading a short term mission trip was very difficult for me, especially after having had the experience of living and knowing Haiti on a much different level than a one week trip. I was a little nervous about leading the team and ruining their experience as either first timers or second timers to Haiti. To my surprise, the week ended up way better than I had ever imagined. We did a lot of new things that I haven't done before and all of the team members dove deep into their experiences. They asked serious questions about mission work, poverty, culture, and the world. It was a very insightful group... that wanted to discuss issues of why poverty exists, cultural differences, and the impacts that we can have on reducing poverty and oppression in our world. Weeks following the trip, the team updated each other about what they were working on changing in their lives to help create a healthier and more just world. Many of the efforts were related to consumption-- reducing their consumption of wastes (energy wastes, material wastes, water wastes), consumption of foods that impact the environment, buying fair trade food and clothing, and becoming educated about more worldly problems. The things that the team became aware of and a lot of our discussions came back to the fact that Americans consume much of the world's resources-- and often times at the expense of others. We discussed every thing from fast fashion to factory farms to the environmental toxins we put into the landfills and water streams due to our cosmetics and hygiene products. If your interested in learning more about these, here are a few useful resources:

If the world consumed as many resources as Americans, we would need 4 more planets!http://public.wsu.edu/~mreed/380American%20Consumption.htm

Environmental Work Group (food and products): http://www.ewg.org/

Food Empowerment Project (responsible food): http://www.foodispower.org/

Sol Inspiration (responsible fashion): http://www.sol-inspirations.org/

Day One: Travel Day! Haiti bound!

Some of the team members on our first day into Haiti!

Day Two: we took a group of children from Gerturdes (an orphanage for children with disabilities) to water therapy.

Off to our first activity! 

The children loved the ability to move in the water!! 

After water therapy a few of us ventured to a soccer field to play soccer with a few of the neighborhood boys!

The team was WAY too good at soccer,... beyond my ability. So we decided to run the field! 
Day Three: Delivered water to people in Cite Soleil, Haiti.

It's Water time kiddos!!! 
Washing out her bucket before filling it up!

My little buddy that I met two years ago in Cite Soleil! Haven't seen him in forever! He is turning into a young man! 

Hanging out with the animals at the water truck stop! 

Day Four: We toured Grace Village-- the place I called home for the past year! Following our tour, we took a visit to the elderly in the community. The team also took a trip to Wahoo Bay to enjoy the beautiful beaches and oceans along Haiti's coast! 

Touring Grace Village! 

Visiting the elderly! We brought them peanut butter sandwiches and bananas!

We had a few really interesting conversations with the elderly! 

My beautiful co-leader!

Just being goofy before hitting the waves!

I love the beach!!!

Day Five: Back to Cite Soleil to deliver more water! 
Water stop!

I guess I like to have a little fun with the kiddos! 
And while in Cite Soliel, I couldn't help but notice some beautiful things being sold.... plant food!
green onions and potatoes

Look at all those green leafy vegetables! Cabbage and Carrots! 

Fresh Mangos!


Fresh coconuts!

(one of my favorite snacks)-- Popcorn!!! 


Even in Haiti's poorest slum, you can find a nice balanced and variety of food. Carbohydrates (potatoes, vegetables, fruits),  proteins (peanuts, vegetables), fat (peanuts, coconut). So it's not quiet the food desert you would think! Healthy Food IS AVAILABLE HERE. You just have to keep your eyes open for it!
A man in Cite Soleil even pointed out the Moringa tree to me when we were talking about nutrition! 

A recycling project in the heart of Cite Soleil! Love it!

Following our trip to Cite Soleil, we had the opportunity to visit the general hospital in downtown PAP. It was a very different experience than I have ever had before in Haiti. We interacted with some of the children and the elderly at the hospital. We talked with a few of the parents that were there caring for their children. The hospital is known for being one of the only hospitals that remained standing during the 2010 Earthquake..... just imagining the devastation and the heartbreak of what the hospital looked like that day was unbearable.  

 Day Six: Grace village! Our team went to Grace Village and did stations with the kiddos at the orphanage. We set the day up to be like an Expo Fair where the kids could learn a few different things! We had a solar activity, a fitness activity, a hemoglobin test, and musical lessons. The hemoglobin test was apart of a research project for a student and for my nutritional work at Grace. We were surprised by the number of children who were willing to participate! Following our day at Grace Village we hit up some of Haiti's finest metal artists and then had some of the children from the orphanage over to the guesthouse for dinner! What a treat for them!

Hemoglobin Testers!

I had my hemoglobin tested too. 13.4 g/dL (Normal for woman is 12-15.5 g/mL).  Looks like this vegan has a stellar hemoglobin! 
A homemade solar oven! 
Racing Solar Cars!

Teaching the children about solar energy! 

Yoga with the kiddos!
Picking Moringa! I made my team try it! 


All the younger children joined the teams for Taco night at the guesthouse!

My good friend skye came down from Grace Village to join us for dinner! Skye is a LTM with Healing Haiti. We use to be roommates!! It was so great to see her and catch-up!!

Day Seven: We went to church at Grace Village and then shopped for artwork in Haiti. We also brought some of the neighbor boys out for another round of soccer! They loved it!

Church at Grace Village!

On our shopping trip, we ran into a car race in the middle of PAP! Awesome to see some community activities! 


On Monday (day 8) the team left back home to the United States, except for my team member Kayleen who was just starting her long term missionary work in Haiti. The two of us hung out for a bit to talk about mission work, nutrition, health, and transitional living. I am excited about the work she will be engaging in at Grace Village. Following our conversation, Kayleen headed to Grace Village and I stayed in PAP for another week to attend to other business!! 

To be continued. 

Might I also add that my team members ROCK! We just had a reunion party last night and it ended-up being an entirely vegetarian meal!! It was potluck style and this was the order from me:

1. fruit 
2. veggies 
3. grain 
4. protein
5. dessert
6. beverages 

And this is what we get.....
A great group of friends! 

Homemade bruschetta with sweet potato chips

"Pitimi" (sorghum in English) all the way from Haiti!! I made this one with coconut milk, bananas, mangos, and fresh mint leaves!

"Pitimi" and black beans with lightly sauteed kale, carrots, and onions. Topped with lemon juice, fresh basil, and olive oil.

Grilled veggie and fruit kabobs! No meat here! One of my friends soaked the fruit in Haitian rum and then grilled it... awesome! 

Fresh Summer fruit mix! 

Vegan Rhubarb pie! Complements to the chef for keeping out the animal products! 

Our fancy Healing Haiti cake! 

Need a new refreshing summer drink? Try soaking cucumber, kiwi, and lemon (or use a dash of 100% lemon juice)  in your water. Add mint leaves and chia seeds if you want to get fancy!

Now are you hungry!?