Topic: Education and Values
I'm BACK! Time for a Thanksgiving dinner...
when you realize you're thankful for everything in your life
I just returned from 16 days out of the country, on a humanitarian mission to northern Uganda. Sometimes it takes leaving one place to recognize what you've left behind. You see things better from a distance. I can tell you the trip was life changing for me and I sincerely hope I was helpful to the people I had the privilege of serving.
I functioned for the first week as a physician, working alongside the Medical Director of St. Luke's Angal Hospital in Nebbi District,northern Uganda. My work involved seeing patients in their OPD (outpatient department, the emergency and walk-in clinic), the isolation ward and cholera tent and serving as a physician-mentor.
The second week I functioned in my farmer role, teaching nutrition, crop diversification to provide nutrient dense foods, food safety and HACCP methodology. My final lecture to community women addressed their greatest and immediate health threats and nutrition.
I kept a detailed journal and will share stories in future posts. But for today, I simply want to share a reminder that we all need to periodically express thanksgiving for the many blessings we have. I made a Thanksgiving dinner last night and invited friends over to do just that.
The Alur tribe, the group of people we served in this mission, is geographically located about 20% in Uganda and 80% in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were converted to Catholicism by Italian missionaries in the late 1800s, and who have stayed with the community, building their church, school, and hospital. (Interestingly, the tribe since its historical beginning in 850 AD has always been monotheist). Christianity has grounded their ethics and the basic concept of responsibility for one another. This made it easy for me to teach farmers the need for them to be the nutritionists and educate their market to the need for new crops to provide needed nutrients.
The British occupied Uganda and had taught them European farming techniques, so they all knew how to save seeds, amortize soil, do no-till gardening, etc. What they lacked, and I hope was able to provide, was the concept of a nutritionally complete diet from produce, grains, legumes-- (I'll leave the discussion about livestock to future posts.) We also addressed nutritionally vulnerable groups and food safety in detail. They “got it” and I feel confident will implement the suggestions. I was fortunate to have the minister of Agriculture and a NGO official involved in setting up community gardens send 20 trainers to my seminars. The minister of Agriculture has also taken the 120 packets of heirloom seeds and materials to start 600 new nutrient dense plants of various types and will distribute the seedlings to these farmers for the upcoming growing season to try. If they like the products, they know how to save seeds to keep them going.
My point about the Thanksgiving dinner—see how we have diverse food groups in a typical dinner? Good protein source, colorful sides. Especially note those sweet potatoes at the top. The Alur grow sweet potatoes and yams but in a sad, ironic twist, they are white and devoid of beta carotene. Consequently, the population suffers from “preventable blindness” because they have no access to orange produce. Another problem associated with vitamin A deficiency is loss of immune function due to T cell dysfunction—in a population burdened by HIV/AIDS. Needless to say, I concentrated on this nutrient, but also provided information on all essential vitamins and nutrients and what to grow for your community's health.
For today, let me share this quick recipe for glazed sweet potatoes (though a quick microwave bake with butter, salt and pepper sounds good too!).
GLAZED SWEET POTATOES
Clean and place about 4 lbs. of sweet potatoes in a pot to boil about 15 minutes, tender but still firm.
Discard the water, and peel the skins from the flesh of the potato. The skins should come off easily.
Cut the potatoes into quarters or wedges.
In a large skillet, melt one stick of butter. Add ½ cup of orange juice and ½ cup brown sugar.
Bring to a simmer and add the cut up sweet potatoes, turning to coat and heat through.