Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kandahar Through Afghan Eyes 2010

Monday was full of meetings and luncheons and void of classes which suits me just fine. Tuck and I have been incredibly lucky to have had so many opportunities since returning from Kenya to mix and mingle with big wigs from Kenya and the UPEI and to be able to speak to such a diverse range of groups, from students and faculty, to church groups, to the members of the Souris Village Feast and later next month to the members of the Home Economics Society (to name a few). Monday we had a meet and greet with the Kenyan High Commissioner, the Vice-Chancellor's of the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. UPEI is in the process of building partnerships with these institutions since they have Masters, PhD and post doc programs in nursing and nutrition at their respective facilities. Partnering with them would give our students who travel over more street cred and would help us in the implementation of our programs, as well as being able to work with their students to keep our programs going all year round. Basically, it would be great for both UPEI and the Kenya schools. We got to speak with all the vice chancellors and meet once again with the High Commissioner. The nice thing about Kenya is that once you meet someone once, you are essentially family. They do not forget you and are more than hospitable if you are ever to go visit them, so it was great to make a few more connections over there for when I go back (fingers crossed) in May. We will definitely hook up with these people and maybe even get to sit in on a Nutrition class or two, which would be really neat! I'd love to see what they are learning compared to what we have learned, and what the teaching methods are like. All the classes are in english so we'd even be able to understand!

After the meet and greet, we attended a luncheon called "Food for Thought: Focus on Women in Afghanistan." It's diversity week on campus so there are luncheons being held all week. I am so glad I got a chance to go to this!! Thanks to Jen who hooked me up with a free ticket. There was a photography exhibit all around the room, with the most beautiful and incredible photographs, all of which were taken by students aged 15-18 years old, taken in Kandahar. Under each picture was a paragraph about life in Afghanistan and how the picture represented an aspect of it. There was a speaker from "Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan." I had read Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, about empowering women in Afghanistan and educating girls and women so I was somewhat familiar with the topic, but clearly there is a lot I didn't know and still is. The speaker was amazing; she spoke about the organization and what they were doing and the conditions for women in Afghanistan. I had goosebumps the whole time. It's so incredibly humbling to listen to people who are doing so much for people they don't know on the opposite side of the world, and absolutely incredible what they've been able to accomplish. I always get so emotional when I go to these types of presentations, and have to stop my self from breaking down and bawling in the middle of the presentation. It just blows my mind how this world works. I know I've said this before on this blog, but it makes me so sad that a person's right to education and health depends entirely on gender and where they were born.

After watching this presentation, hearing personal stories about the work being done there and learning about all this organization has done, I really felt empowered, and any doubt about choosing Kenya over a clinical internship placement in a big fancy hospital had vanished and I am now 100% confident I made the right choice.

It always seems like the problems in countries like Kenya of Afghanistan are so huge that you wonder how you could possibly make a difference in the grand scheme of things. But the great thing is that people do make a difference, every day. Maybe they aren't changing the world, but they are educating one person about one thing, and that person will educate one more person etc. I have added going to Afghanistan to work on a project like this to my bucket list. I may not know a lot about teaching, but I do know a lot about food. And that's all it takes; you don't need to know a lot about everything, you just need to take what you are passionate about and find a way to share that passion and inspire others to care about the topic. Food is universal, it's one of the only things that is used world wide to celebrate, to mourn, to survive. People need food, no matter where they live or how they live. I feel very lucky that I have studied something so applicable to any population, that I can use what I've learned to educate people in any country, and in any conditions on the planet. There are always ways to make traditional foods more nutritious without compromising the traditions associated with them, the flavours and the texture, and to do so in an economic way that is achievable for everyone.

So now I just need to find out what I need to do to get to Afghanistan and what I can do when I do.

I ended up buying two books they were selling as a fundraiser:

Bitter Roots, Tender Shoots: The Uncertain Fate of Afghanistan's Women by Sally Armstrong
The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis

I'm looking forward to reading them when I finish the book I'm currently reading (Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi, which I'm really enjoying, and is mind blowing in it's own, completely different way)

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