I write this blog on my first morning back in Portland having just returned from a Her Trip to Jocotan, Guatemala, a rural village where Healing Waters just inaugurated a new water purification system. As I sit here processing the last few days, I am having difficulty putting into words what I experienced.
During my time there, I was enveloped by the love and joy of children growing up in an environment very different from the one I’ve known. My heart is filled with gratitude and I find myself counting my blessings.
Instead of engaging in childhood play, kids younger than 10 years old spend their days laboring, making tortillas or harvesting coffee to help support their families. One beautiful young girl, at the age of 11, cares for her three younger siblings due to absent parents. There is limited access to clean water and nourishing food, causing some children to work tirelessly in the heat on only one small meal per day, lacking the energy to support their growing bodies.
I see the evidence of malnutrition and food insecurity in the dull eyes and lifeless expression of a baby laying limp in a woman’s arms, the decaying teeth of a five year old appearing two years younger in stature, and in the short, sparse hair of a beautiful seven year old girl who, tugging on my arm, asks to braid my hair.
My heart breaks as I think about the abundance of food, cook books and health magazines surrounding me at home. I consider the contrast between food insecurity in places like Jocotan, compared to the insecurity many women (myself included) have developed around food and body image here. Living in a country with unlimited access to food, we no longer look to it for nourishment and survival. Instead, we manipulate, overeat, restrict and count calories in an attempt to improve our outward appearances and resolve our insecurities. As a result, an unhealthy relationship and preoccupation with food has formed, robbing women of the joy and confidence that they’re intended to experience throughout life.
My intention in sharing my thoughts is not to negate anyone’s food associated insecurities. Having struggled throughout college with my own unhealthy relationship with food, my heart is to help restore women’s relationships with food and their bodies, enabling them to feel empowered, alive and strong.
Counting my blessings is one thing that has helped improve my relationship with food. When I count my blessings, my insecurities fade as I focus on all of God’s gifts in my life, instead of being consumed by a desire for a flatter stomach or thinner thighs. By doing this, I’ve been able to appreciate food for the nourishment and strength it provides, allowing me to pursue things I love, and enjoy the blessings I’ve been given.
So how can we count our blessings, and also help relieve some of the insecurities that the children (and adults) face abroad? Healing Waters and The Her Initiative are working to positively affect the economy, welfare and wellbeing of communities like Jocotan, Guatemala, by providing access to clean water and health & hygiene education. As a twenty-something I’m not able to make large monetary contributions to this cause, but I do have $25 dollars that I can give each month through The Her Initiative to help support the mission of Healing Waters. I can also help by sharing this opportunity with you and hope that you will do the same with others.