malnutrition - Related Content

What's New here? Well, everything!

Monday, February 28th 2022 1:55 pm

I am sitting outside my room. There is an adorable dachshund/golden retriever mix lying next to me. I am facing an inner courtyard that is full of gardens and an octagonal chapel that is both simple and exquisite. It gets hot here – in the 90’s and super humid, but I am comfortable in the shade this morning. 

 

I have been in Ascención, Bolivia for a week. It took a while to get connected to the WIFI here, and I know I am a bit late with this reflection. You might be wondering what’s new? Well, everything! 

I am living with the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. They live in different places, but I am here in Ascención where the sisters are nurses, teachers and catechists. There is a routine here of prayer, work, communal meals and Mass. The days starts at 5:30 in the morning and finishes around 9:00 in the evening. There is time for work and time for rest. I admit to enjoying a siesta each day, it’s wonderfully refreshing.

In this climate, there are all sorts of new things to see. The birds are amazing. Each morning and evening hundreds of parrots fly over and a few macaws too! I haven’t done much birding yet, but am seeing new birds each day. I will have time to watch the birds more intentionally soon I am sure. There are also all sorts of butterflies. I even saw a grasshopper who flashed blue as he flew away. Large snails, lizards, frogs, and even a monkey, were some fun discoveries. 

I began my ministry on Monday of last week. Each morning, I accompany Sister Yanira, who works for a Nutrition Clinic here. The clinic specializes in helping some of the poorest families find nourishment for their children. A few of the days we walked through a large neighborhood filled with houses made of repurposed wood with openings for doors and windows and dirt floors. Most had corrugated metal roofs. A few were made from layers of palm fronds. At first, I assumed they didn’t have electricity, but realized that the houses do. Coming from a place with winter, it seems impossible, but it works here. 

This week I met the faces of malnutrition. Some were children who smiled and laughed, but their little tummies were distended with parasites. Even more distressing was to meet children who were fading. Children with no energy and no hope. It was heartbreaking, and equally heartbreaking to see their parents and grandparents, loving them so much, but unable to give them what they need. 

Sister Yanira brings them hope. She talks to them about the importance of nutrition and records each child’s information. As she does, she tells their families about the nutrition clinic, where they can get some staples like milk, and a nutritional superpower, Soya. Sister Yanira promises me that someday soon the children will have their energy back and the bright spark I have taken for granted. 

Most times, it is only Spanish here. I listen and watch Sister Yanira’s work. When the children wonder why I am not talking I explain that I don’t understand a lot of Spanish. It seems kids have natural empathy and many times, they begin to show me kindness by coming closer, showing me their things, and sometimes even giving me big hugs. It’s a blessing that I appreciate. 

My biggest challenge here is not understanding most of what is said. I participate in Mass and in prayer, but most times don’t pick up the meaning. At mealtime, I have to stay really focused because if my attention strays, I don’t understand the conversation. The sisters say in a month I will be able to understand most things, and in three months I will be participating. I am hopeful they are right! I have noticed after a week, I am picking up more. Poco a poco. It will come, I know it will! In the meantime, I continue to practice gentle patience with myself. 

 

With the new life I am experiencing, I find myself in “figuring it out” mode. I spend my time watching to see how things work, learning quickly and asking questions. I tend to be more in the details and less in the big picture. Yesterday, however, in Father’s homily, I picked out the word “Bolivia” and had a moment of wonder as I realized I was actually here, in this place, at this time, following God’s lead. Woah, I’m in Bolivia – how incredible is that?!


Picture of the Week - Week 7

I know I missed posting a photo of the week recently, so here is one! This is a panel on the door of the chapel. The doors say "praised be my Lord" on them and depicts the Canticle of Creatures by St. Francis. It's really cool and of course this is my favorite which has birds from this area. You can see a parrot, toucan, rhea and (I think) a flamingo. I can't quite figure out the other one but will let you know once I see it! 

The convent is part of a Mission, opened by Jesuits when missionary work and colonization first started here. The mission grounds include the convent, chapel and large church. From my understanding (and forgive any inaccuracies because I learn in Spanish!) they were started in area where people lived a more nomadic lifestyle and the church became the center of small pueblos, where people settled. Ascención has approximately 18,000 residents. 

Blessings can be seen in abundance here, from wood panels to smiling faces. 

Newness Abounds - and a Photo of the Week

Monday, February 28th 2022 1:55 pm

I am sitting outside my room. There is an adorable dachshund/golden retriever mix lying next to me. I am facing an inner courtyard that is full of gardens and an octagonal chapel that is both simple and exquisite. It gets hot here – in the 90’s and super humid, but I am comfortable in the shade this morning.

I have been in Ascención, Bolivia for a week. It took a while to get connected to the WIFI here, and I know I am a bit late with this reflection. You might be wondering what’s new? Well, everything!


I am living with the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. They live in different places, but I am here in Ascención where the sisters are nurses, teachers and catechists. There is a routine here of prayer, work, communal meals and Mass. The days starts at 5:30 in the morning and finishes around 9:00 in the evening. There is time for work and time for rest. I admit to enjoying a siesta each day, it’s wonderfully refreshing.

In this climate, there are all sorts of new things to see. The birds are amazing. Each morning and evening hundreds of parrots fly over and a few macaws too! I haven’t done much birding yet, but am seeing new birds each day. I will have time to watch the birds more intentionally soon I am sure. There are also all sorts of butterflies. I even saw a grasshopper who flashed blue as he flew away. Large snails, lizards, frogs, and even a monkey, were some fun discoveries.

I began my ministry on Monday of last week. Each morning, I accompany Sister Yanira, who works for a Nutrition Clinic here. The clinic specializes in helping some of the poorest families find nourishment for their children. A few of the days we walked through a large neighborhood filled with houses made of repurposed wood with openings for doors and windows and dirt floors. Most had corrugated metal roofs. A few were made from layers of palm fronds. At first, I assumed they didn’t have electricity, but realized that the houses do. Coming from a place with winter, it seems impossible, but it works here.

This week I met the faces of malnutrition. Some were children who smiled and laughed, but their little tummies were distended. Even more distressing was to meet children who were fading. Children with no energy and no hope. It was heartbreaking and equally heartbreaking to see their parents and grandparents, loving them so much, but unable to give them what they need.

Sister Yanira brings them hope. She talks to them about the importance of nutrition and records each child’s information. As she does, she tells their families about the nutrition clinic, where they can get some staples like milk, and a nutritional superpower, Soya. Sister Yanira promises me that someday soon the children will have their energy back along with the bright spark of childhood that I have taken for granted until now.

Most times, it is only Spanish here. I listen and watch Sister Yanira’s work. When the children wonder why I am not talking I explain that I don’t understand a lot of Spanish. It seems kids have natural empathy and many times, they begin to show me kindness by coming closer, showing me their things, and sometimes even giving me big hugs. It’s a blessing that I appreciate.

My biggest challenge here is not understanding most of what is said. I participate in Mass and in prayer, but most times don’t pick up the meaning. At mealtime, I have to stay really focused because if my attention strays, I don’t understand the conversation. The sisters say in a month I will be able to understand most things, and in three months I will be participating. I am hopeful they are right! I have noticed after a week, I am picking up more. Poco a poco. It will come, I know it will! In the meantime, I continue to practice gentle patience with myself.

With the new life I am experiencing, I find myself in “figuring it out” mode. I spend my time watching to see how things work, learning quickly and asking questions. I tend to be more in the details and less in the big picture. Yesterday, however, in Father’s homily, I picked out the word “Bolivia” and had a moment of wonder as I realized I was actually here, in this place, at this time, following God’s lead. Woah, I’m in Bolivia – how incredible is that?!


Picture of the Week - Week 7

I know I missed posting a photo of the week recently, so here is one! This is a panel on the door of the chapel. The doors say "Praised be my Lord" on them and depict the Canticle of Creatures by St. Francis. It's really cool and of course, this is my favorite featuring birds from this area. You can see a parrot, toucan, rhea and (I think) a flamingo. I can't quite figure out the other one but will let you know once I see it in nature!

The convent is part of a Mission, opened by Jesuits when missionary work and colonization first started here. The mission grounds include the convent, chapel and large church. From my understanding (and forgive any inaccuracies because I learn in Spanish here!) they were started in areas where people lived a more nomadic lifestyle and the church became the center of small pueblos, where people settled. Ascención has approximately 18,000 residents.

Blessings can be seen in abundance here, from wood panels to smiling faces.

Encuentro in Cooking - Lessons in Life

Sunday, March 6th 2022 1:17 pm

This week, I have noticed the dance that difficulties and love play here. In the struggle of living in really difficult situations, mothers and grandmothers still make jokes and laugh while they work. A young mother who feeds her baby before herself smiles broadly when she is told how beautiful her baby is. I realize I have a choice, too. It’s possible for me to focus only on the struggle or only on the love. I am deciding to honor them both and see the harmony in the totality of the reality here. 

Now that carnaval has ended, Sister Yanira and I are back to our ministry at the nutrition clinic. On Thursday, we made plans to return to a large family we had previously visited to demonstrate how to use soybeans. Called soya here, soybeans are included in what people receive from the clinic. Sister Yanira packed up some educational materials about hygiene in addition to two cups of soybeans that had been soaked overnight, bread crumbs, some oil, vanilla, cinnamon and a blender. We also stopped at the market, an open-air area that has booths filled with all different types of food. We picked up carrots, onions, garlic, a pepper, a couple tomatoes, flour and some eggs.

When we arrived at the house, a bunch of the kids greeted us with big smiles and lots of laughter. The first time we came, they were shy and unsure, but they must have decided that we were safe because they were so happy to see us. A table was moved, a bench placed in front and the youngest children quickly sat down, ready to learn. We were joined by older siblings, some to greet us and do other things, others stay and help with the children, preparations and cooking. The grandmother and the two mothers got things ready for our time together, cleaning everything we planned to use.

Sister Yanira gave the beans to one of the women to cook for some time on the stove in their kitchen. As Sister Yanira worked, she would show the process and then pass it on to one of the women. I appreciated that. It wasn’t a demonstration. It was a social time, where we talked, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company while we worked together. A couple more moms and children appeared, interested in learning what was happening and joining in the work. 

At some point, the kids lost interest and left to play in the yard as we worked. Dogs and chickens lingered nearby ready to pick up whatever we might drop. All the work was done in the center of the yard. There were multiple buildings surrounding us, all made with the repurposed wood, metal roofs and dirt floors. There was a small building for a living area, another for a kitchen and an outhouse toward the back of the yard. The yard contained some trees for shade and/or fruit. There was no grass, only packed dirt. 

We were working with two cups of soybeans. It was incredible what we were able to produce with those two cups. The process took about 2 hours, but was well worth it! We ended up with 4 liters of soy milk and 30 or so small soy burgers. We all washed up when it was time to eat. The prepared food was shared with everyone. I sat with the younger children and loved watching them enjoy the food. both the burgers and the soy milk were delicious - Mi gusta!!!

If you are interested in the recipes to try yourself, click on the little image to the right to view them. Warning! They're in Spanish, but you can use Google to figure out the words you don't know. That's what I did!

Click on the images below to see videos from the day. I had a great time and I think it's clear, the food was a hit!

On Friday, a young mother came in with Elsa, a beautiful baby girl. The mom was so skinny, we worried for her. Elsa was a happy little baby though, and her mom let me take a photo with her. I thanked her for the photo, and felt gratitude for her good care – as well as gratitude that the clinic will help make sure Elsa has what she needs each month.

P.S. For the sisters at St. Rose who have been praying for Carlita and her family, thank you! She is doing better, and is in the hospital in Santa Cruz where she needs to be. For those who have time for an extra prayer, she is a 15 year old girl who has Leukemia. Her family has many struggles including extreme poverty and a bed-ridden grandma. Your prayers are just what they need right now. Muchas gracias!

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