How many of you reading this can concentrate when you are hungry? It can be a real challenge to focus after missing one or two meals, but what happens when a child has not eaten for days can be quite scary.
One of our teachers at Muddy Lotus was concerned because her student was shaking, had a fever and chills. The obvious thought was malaria, but it was soon divulged that our student hd not eaten for days. The teacher brought him some food and within minutes, his health improved and within an hour, he was “fine”.
When schools reopened in April 2015 after the Ebola crisis earlier that year, we were facing a significant health and attendance issue with our students and community members due to food scarcity. Half of our 400 students who normally are diligent about attending school weren’t coming out of hunger and weren’t receiving enough nutrition.
It was a hard one. To know that your children are literally starved while also knowing that World Food Program has made a public announcement that they are going to provide food at the opening of schools because of the high food scarcity – but hadn’t.
Anger washed over me. And then washed away.
“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” ― Wayne W. Dyer
I decided that this could be just the obstacle that be turned into a beautiful realization of the power of community.
One of my favorite childhood books came to mind; Stone Soup. A sweet story written originally published by Madame de Noyer, France 1720. There have been myriad versions since the first, but the one I read as a child has an amazing ending that changed the beliefs of an entire community. Beyond that, the thought of what concentrated nutrients were available in nature. Rice, although coveted, is not a true source of nutrition and turns into sugar after eaten. And processed foods, which are plentiful and inexpensive like in America are also not beneficial to health.
That said, Sierra Leone is one of the most lush, rich landscapes I’ve ever seen. Something had to be hidden in plain sight. After exchanging ideas with the community, our special soup recipe was born. We call it Bone Soup after of of the nourishing ingredients, animal bones. The magic also lies within another special ingredient, the super plant Moringa.
Implementing our signature partnership style, we came up with a plan; if Shine On Sierra Leone purchased four large pots, bowls and spoons for students and teachers along with salt and sweet potatoes – the community would donate the bones, fresh moringa, tomato, pepper, onion and the firewood to maintain the 48 hour boil necessary to extract the calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus and collagen that lies within the bones. The key ingredient that neither of us had to donate because it had so generously been donated to us – pure water. Just over a year ago, through a donation from our friend Ana Becera and her fathers company brought the amazing Jon Rose [founder of Waves for Water] and his dextrous father, Jack, to Sierra Leone to provide water filters to our community and a rainwater system on our school building. This purified water is the foundation for the powerful health tonic we have come to know as Bone Soup.
2 days later, once the soup was ready to eat, the community buzzed with excitement. I could hardly sleep the night before knowing that by the time I woke up, all the excitement would over, and soup eaten.
I woke up to something far more satisfying than praises for delicious tasting soup. I woke up to a miracle. From the four pots that we purchased, our soup had fed not only our 250 students and 13 teachers – but it also fed, 300 community members! I asked Kadiatu to repeat herself two or three times as I could not believe that I heard her correctly. We started the process the moment the pots were clean, and in another 48 hours, we again experienced a miracle, only greater. On this day, 400 community members were fed. Our staff in the states sat quictly immersed in a sense of shock, awe, excitement and overwhelm. We had funded a project for under $1000 and in two days had witnessed over 1000 meals be graciously served by the community for the community. We continued making the bone soup every other day for the remainder of the school year. After the initial cost of the pots, the soup is a $40 investment for Shine On Sierra Leone for every 600 people. This week our bone soup project begins again. Although this year, we are purchasing a 2nd set of pots so that a hot, nutritious lunch will be provided to our students Monday – Friday.
The insight? Where to begin? I will simply end by saying the power, the answers, the solutions lie within and around us. And we exchange ideas with each other as partners, we create something that is bigger and better than anything we could have created on our own.
May bone soup continue to Shine on Our Community.