Wrapping Up the Week 2.16.13

The snow that wrapped up this city and left us a paralyzed package with a big frozen bow at the top is down to a mere pile and a slush. It’s amazing that one week ago we never thought we would dig out of our piles. Warmer temperatures hit the greater Boston area and we are basking in sunshine and mid 40’s. Other than the fact that the snow left on the ground is ugly brown and grey streaked, the warm weather is welcome!

On to the wrap-up.

Miami Herald, Afghan Women March Against ViolenceOn Afghanistan and Women: On Valentine’s Day in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, activists held a march protesting violence against women. Afghan men and women are speaking out, openly and loudly, to call for an end to violence and abuse. Read about the march in the article “Afghan Women March Against Violence” published in the Miami Herald. It’s a great reminder that lasting change happens from within.

On Street Kids in Karachi: Pakistan has one of the world’s largest populations of street kids. It’s throat catching tragic – but like so many things, there are whispers of redemption in the middle of horrible situations. This whisper of redemption is through a Street Kids World Cup soccer match. It’s an amazing endeavor and I’m so glad to know about it. Take a look at this article “Saving Karachi’s Street Children One Goal at a Time”. It is inspirational and educational.

“Finally, there was an arena that provided a clean slate for these children, where their worth was not dependent on what was in their pockets or whether they sold their bodies” ~ from the article.

On White Privilege: I don’t usually get into this topic – it’s too big, too complicated, too defeating. But having our oldest daughter with us for a couple of months is challenging me to look harder at some of the things I just brush off and don’t think about. My challenge this week came through an article that looks at the movie The Impossible. I am sure that this movie is amazing, and Naomi Watts has proven herself once more by being nominated for an Oscar for her role in this film. But – and this is a big but – isn’t it troubling that the film emerging about the Tsunami in 2004 that took thousands of lives, many of them children, most of them Asian, focuses on the survival of a white family? And the original family was Hispanic….! I know I’m posing a controversial opinion but I’d love for you to read this article called “Notes from the Margins: White People Problems” and see what you think. Weigh in through the comments or through the comments on the article itself.

On Making a Difference: Oh you will LOVE this website. Freerice.com is an organization that donates rice through World Food Programme to those in areas where hunger is rampant. But there’s a fun twist to their donation – they have you go into the site and answer questions – for every question you get correct, they donate 10 grains of rice. It doesn’t sound like much but through clicking through and answering questions correctly yesterday I ended up donating 660 grains of rice. It’s FUN! Try it today – if enough of you try it we can set up a Communicating Across Boundaries team.

On the Blog: Every day I’m reminded how amazing you all are – your comments are thoughtful, challenging, affirming and daily encourage. More and more comments have come on the post “‘Saudade’ – A Word for the Third Culture Kid.” If you get a chance – take a look. It’s amazing the responses that speak to belonging, memories, and loss.

On my Bedside Table: I took a break this week and did fun! I reread Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – that quintessential mystery, romance novel that many of us read in high school. I was not disappointed.’

Where ever you are – whether Istanbul, Yemen, Cairo, the UK or anywhere else – have a great day! As always – thanks for reading.

The Face of Hunger

This piece was originally posted just under 2 years ago when I began blogging. At a time of year when my refrigerator is full, and making or buying special sweets and savouries is daily on my ‘to do’ list, I find it’s easy to lose perspective; to fret about what I can’t afford instead of recognize all that I have, and all that I need to realize about those who go without. So with that in mind I wanted to post it again. Thank you for reading.

I was not  familiar with the face of hunger. 

While I am aware of this as a problem, my personal experience with it is limited.  Somehow the problem of hunger had worked its way to a corner of my brain that registers “Real but not understandable” in a robotic voice.  I grew up in the developing world and children with bloated stomachs and tiny legs were common.  As can often happen when one is a child and sees their world through a child’s eyes, adult experience is needed to bring better understanding and perspective.  It was in this context that I saw the face of hunger with new eyes, with transformed vision.

It was in Pakistan 2 years ago – the beginning of week two of my trip to take part in flood relief with internally displaced persons.  This particular village had just been re-inhabited   You could see the line from the flood waters on the mud and brick homes about three feet from the ground.  The crumbling bricks promised the need for a complete rebuilding of the homes to make them safe.  Animatedly, the women told us their story:  “The water came!  We knew we had to leave – we took whatever we could and walked 5 days to Khanpur.  We couldn’t walk at night because of the robbers.  Look!  Look over there!  You can see that the water is still here! We lost so much.  We just returned a couple of days ago.”

It was another story of loss and displacement.

This day it would be a tail-gate clinic.  This put ‘tail-gating’ in a new context and forever changed the idea for me.  We opened the back of the van and arranged the portable pharmacy as best we could and began the clinic.

There seemed more than the usual number of malnourished children on this day.  We were giving out Plumpy’Nut, the miracle pint of goodness guaranteed to make a dent in malnutrition, like it was candy.  “Two tablespoons, morning and evening”  “Buh chumcha isubh, isham.”  We had it memorized so when the doctor needed the community health worker/interpreter we could function alone with no need for interpretation.

The face of hunger came half way through the morning in the person of a young mom, emaciated with her dark eyes sunken into a lovely face, a baby clinging to her breast sucking furiously, desperate for a drop of milk.  The breast was completely dry, there was no milk.  The baby’s face and body so thin, wide-eyed, not even energy to cry.  I stepped back, hardly believing what I saw.  My heart caught in my throat and I felt a wave of nausea.  The baby couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 kilos but by his length I knew this was not a new-born.  Maybe seven or eight months old.  The mom was desperate.  This was not a malnourished child – this was a child that was starving accompanied by a hungry mother. Plumpy’Nut was not going to work its miracle this time.  This baby needed an act of God and admission to the mission hospital. The mom was holding her baby with a depth of love that words would fail to describe.  Cradled in her arms, her eyes pleaded for help and a miracle.

I don’t know if the miracle ever came.  The nature of our work was moving to different areas with medical needs every day.  There was a need to move forward no matter how difficult the situation; we couldn’t afford to be paralyzed by emotions that would prevent us from helping other people with other needs at other villages. During those minutes we did exactly what we should have, what we could have.  Vitamins, Plumpy’nut, instructions to the mom, a letter to authorize admission to the mission hospital, all with the un-spoken thought “It’s not enough, I know it isn’t enough”

This was the face of hunger. I had seen it, touched it, wept for it. Now stamped in my brain, marked on my heart, I would never forget, could never forget.

The robotic part of my brain had been re-programmed with human emotion to cry out to God to feed and comfort the face of hunger.  My response to “care for the widow and the orphans” would be forever adjusted.

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress” James 1:27
During this time of year, when hearts and pocketbooks are more open, might I suggest a couple of organizations to donate to that work specifically to provide either food directly or to develop projects that affect the local economy, ultimately offering long-term solutions to the problem of hunger. 
  • Food for the Hungry – With a mission to “To walk with churches, leaders and families in overcoming all forms of human poverty by living in healthy relationship with God and His creation.” this organization is well-run and innovative in its approach to world hunger.
  • Central Asia Harvest Project, Kazakhstan – this project “seeks to improve the quality of life for small-scale fruit farmers of eastern Kazakhstan through a farmer to farmer training program and development assistance designed to improve farming methods and livelihoods.” I’ll be doing a longer post on this organization in the next week.
*The picture shown is not a picture of the child mentioned in the post. While this child is malnourished, she was treatable with Plumpy’nut and vitamins.