7 Challenge

The Haiti Hunger Diet and A Congo Fast

Well. Eating rice for breakfast, a banana for lunch, and beans and rice for dinner is no picnic. That’s what I learned on Monday when I ate like a poor person from Haiti as part of my 7 Challenge. I think I kind of cheated on the banana-they grow wild in Haiti, but 94% of Haiti is deforested, so I’m not exactly sure where the “wild” is. I had planned to skip lunch, but at 12:30 in Target, I had a moment of weakness and bought a banana. I’m just proud it wasn’t a Snickers bar. I had 200 calories up until dinner when I had 300 calories.

Bottom line: aside from the adequate food supply around me, clean drinking water, a clean bathroom, a climate controlled habitat, and complete financial security, I was just like a Haitian on Monday. Oh, and I bought diapers and vitamins at Target. But aside from that: Haitian.

As you can imagine, I felt miserable most of the day. Refraining from popping a few of my kids’ Goldfish crackers in my mouth or eating the crusts from their toast made me realize just how easily I can access food whenever I feel the slightest bit hungry. After my Haiti Monday, I can see how people take desperate actions when food supply is in jeopardy. I know that even on that Haiti hunger diet, I still have never experienced true hunger. And I fervently, repeatedly thank the Lord for that, because Monday was not fun.

But if I thought eating like a Haitian was rough, eating like a Congolese is going to be nearly impossible. Why? Because they don’t eat. As reported in the NY Times, many families in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have taken to harsh food rationing they call Delestage: “Today we eat, tomorrow we don’t.” Some days the little ones eat, some days the big kids eat. The NY Times article is heartbreaking, sharing how at the end of a day with only a little bread in the morning, the little ones are weak and whining. Why are times so desperate in DRC? The people who are having to ration food have jobs as police officers, teachers, tennis coaches, etc. Still, they don’t have enough to feed their families. DRC has rich national resources, but their corrupt government and land owners keep most of the country in poverty. Civil War and violence has wrecked Congo. Atrocities upon atrocities have happened there. You know that issue of 60 Minutes featuring the child soldiers in Africa? Yeah, that was in DRC. I may have concerns with my government here in U.S., but I’m so thankful for my country and its government as I learn what corruption has done to Haiti, Congo, and other countries.

So today I’ll eat a piece of bread for breakfast, drink tea the rest of the day, and have a banana or a sweet potato (both native to Congo) for dinner. If I’m able to eat less than that without endangering my children, I will.

Why am I putting myself through this again? I know I’ll never reach any kind of kinship with the starving people in Haiti or Congo. However, feeling hungry through the day causes me realize how much food I have, how much food I waste, and how many people–valuable, precious human beings–need help. The hunger also reminds me to pray. I want to be moved to make a change. Hunger and the small degree of empathy it brings prods me from awareness into action.

Are you doing a 7 Challenge of your own? Tell me about it in the comments!

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