I’ve been back in the US for about a week now, and two weeks removed removed from Uganda. My head has been spinning with theories, thoughts, observations, research and notes on all things related to nutrition in Uganda. It was time to step back and think about other things for awhile (“Isn’t life more than food?”) before looking back at what actually happened over the past two months. Now it is time to do so.
Before I left for Uganda, I wrote out my goals: to uplift what they already know, to discuss barriers of nutrition, and to turn this research into a tool that community leaders could use to raise the nutritional status of the community. Honestly I thought it was a rather lofty project before I left, but I thought I could at least try it out and see how far it got.
God really pulled together the knowledge of the villagers in a way that I never could have on my own. I asked for wisdom and He gave me ears to hear what they were saying about their health and how food relates to it. Ultimately this allowed me to create a flowchart of their health belief model and explain food and nutrition from their belief system without ever needing to use foreign words like “protein.” And it also helped teach me a few things about nutrition as I started to research particular foods; they had an understanding of how foods relate to health in a way that I hadn’t seen before, even after spending years of studying food myself!
However, just as quickly as a model was created to explain their health beliefs, it became apparent that they were nowhere close to practicing what they believed. The common theme that came out of this was, “I have no choice.” The village is very remote with few opportunities to make money as well as few opportunities to access a variety of foods, especially the ones that they prize as the healthiest. This confirmed what I believed before stepping foot on that red clay soil: God had already given them wisdom about nutrition and health, and that discrepancies between beliefs and practices were caused by other barriers, not by a lack of knowledge.
However, the third goal was the hardest to achieve. Although I was able to talk to community leaders, we were unable to get anything solid established due to a lack of time, resources, and language barriers. In some ways this is very disappointing because I didn’t want to walk away with a goldmine of research and knowledge and leave nothing behind. Yet at the same time I believe God purposed it to end this way. I believe He has different “next steps” for me regarding my research and other ways that it can be used to empower the villagers and have a positive impact on their lives and health.
It’s been a good summer. It started with 5 earthquakes, ended with no water, and in between was rich with blessing, hard work, and an unveiling of God at work around the world. But I think next time I’ll bring my husband!