Dr. Anteneh Roba, Ethiopia born and raised, now resides in the U.S. and practices medicine. He is the President and one of the founders of International Fund for Africa (IFA). International Fund for Africa operates on the principle of Ahimsa (nonviolence and respect for all life) and its founder’s deep and abiding belief in biocentricity and the interconnectedness of all life. IFA promotes non-hierarchical and non-exploitative relationships between human beings and all other life forms. In a day or two, I will be talking more about IFA and Dr. Roba’s efforts to help Africans – humans and non-humans alike. But I’d first like to share two stories with you, stories that Dr. Roba shared with me.
During one of his travels to Northern Ethiopia, Dr. Roba encountered a mother and her two sons carrying wood to a market. The wood, chopped by hand from the few trees that remain standing in the region, was going to be sold to buy food. This mother and her children were hungry. They had been walking for miles in arid hot conditions with no footwear or protection from the sun. The loads were heavy. The one boy, as you can see by the photo looks much older than his tender years of eight. The mom shared how they had not eaten for two days. When asked how much they would get for the wood, Dr. Roba was told they would earn enough change to buy one cup of corn. One cup of corn to share amongst three people. Three people who hadn’t eaten in two days. Can you in any possible way imagine this type of adversity? Can you imagine yourself having the fortitude to carry on during such hardship? This is a test of human resiliency.
Dr. Roba and his traveling companions, Seble Nebiyeloul, IFA’s Vice President and co-founder, and Gregory Goodman a medical student in Boston, unloaded their pockets and gave the mom all they had, which by our measures would be very little. She dropped to the ground in fatigue and gratitude crying out of sheer joy, because they had just given her the equivalent of two years worth of chopping, carrying and selling stacks of wood.This photograph, also taken by Dr. Roba, tells another Ethiopian story of a little girl no older than eight. She is carrying her brother on her back in the middle of an arid area. One glance at her pained, emaciated body illuminates more than my words ever could.
Do you remember being eight? Do you have an eight year old in your life? That little girl in the photograph went from birth to adult bypassing any semblance of a childhood.
Dr. Roba shared his thoughts about these and other encounters with starving people:
If you think those pictures were powerful, try being there seeing it unfold live in front of you. I stood there scratching my head wondering if we all are supposed to be on the same planet.
A few days before I took this picture I was in Houston treating patients with diabetes and heart disease that were 300 to 400 pounds, and then I was in a forgotten land whose people might as well be on mars for all anyone else cares.
It is so surreal.
And on this Day 5
I am more motivated than ever to reach out and help bring connection to the world. There are 1 billion 20,000 million people in our shared planet who are hungry. All of these people have names. Dreams. Desire for joy. Love for their families. Beating hearts. I purposely did not seek out the names of those people discussed above. I intentionally did not share their names as a symbol of a grave disconnect. As long as we continue to see the suffering as nameless, we can remain in a contented detachment from their pain.
Here is a reality check: The money you recently spent on that new pair of shoes, the fancy shirt, a new fluffy bathroom rug, your iPhone, your child’s birthday party, dinner out or even your dry cleaning, could potentially be equal to the amount needed to feed one person for weeks, months possibly a year. We likely eat more food in one day than what one starving mother and her two children eat in a week.
Despite the inane complaints I’ve made during this World Hunger Diet, I am easily reminded of the privilege of having many daily comforts. For starters, I have the comfort of my warm bed and the knowledge there is an ample supply of food available to me – even if I choose not to eat it at this time.
Today I weighed in at 116. The scale tells me I’m four pounds less than when I started this Souljourn five days ago. I have the sense my body is eating itself. I ate a cup of barley at 8:00 and a cup of leftovers at 11:30 am. I needed the energy to get through a busier-than-usual workday. Dinner, a bit on the light side, was another simple yet delightful meal – spinach sautéed in olive oil (I needed a break from the peanut oil) and lentils. Lentils are chock full of healthy, delicious goodness! My husband, in all his confessional glory, owned up to eating a pastry after being dragged kicking and screaming into a coffee shop against his will. And I had many moments throughout the day dreaming about Garden of Eatin Pico de Gallo corn chips.
The nutritional value for today’s meals – you’ll notice how the chai is becoming a regular staple for me:
|Chai Tea (because I’m weak and need need need!)||12 oz||192||4.25||30.5||0.75||0.75||65||25.5||0|
|Barley||1 cup cooked||193||1||44||6||4||5||0||200|
|Black Eyed Peas||.25 cup (dry)||120||0||21||4||8||0||2||153|
|Barley||1/2 cup cooked||48.25||0.25||11||1.5||1||1.25||0||50|
|Peanut Sauce||.25 cups||220||18||8||3||9||0|
|Olive Oil||2 Tbsp||240||28||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Lentils||1 cup cooked||226||1||39||16||18||471||4||731|
Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery.
~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy, before the UN General Assembly
To support the organizations I write about in the series, purchase a World Hunger: Be the Solution Tee. Proceeds from the shirt will go to the Small Planet Institute Fund and the International Fund for Africa. All tees are sweat free and available in organic cotton. To see the selection of World Hunger tees at Conducive’s Humanitarian & Human Rights Tee store, click here
To follow this Souljourn for the Mind, Spirit and Earth from the beginning, click the links below:
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 1
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 2
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 3
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 4
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 6
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 7
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 8
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 9
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 10
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 11
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 12
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 13
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 14
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 15
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 16
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 17
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 18
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 19
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 20
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 21
Solutions for World Hunger: Part I
Solutions for World Hunger: Part II
Solutions for World Hunger: Part III