Sunday, June 08, 2014

Open Pentecost letter to children in Bellevue, WA

Dear friends at Aldersgate UMC, this letter comes to you from Katherine Parker, a servant of Jesus Christ, called as a missionary and appointed for the service of the gospel in partnership with brothers and sisters in Nepal as a Health Advisor with the United Mission to Nepal. Grace and Peace to you.

I draw strength every day from the assurance that God in Christ has made a way for us to live full, healthy and abundant lives.

On Pentecost we celebrate the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and through our church community. One of the signs of the Holy Spirit is that the message of God's abundant love can be shared and understood among people all around the world. We have different languages and cultures, but the Holy Spirit unites us as one church. Because we want to embrace this diversity and connection, we, as the church today, send missionaries from one community to another to strengthen the relationships and share in the common ministry. We send people from Zimbabwe to Cambodia, from Korea to Mongolia and you have sent me from the USA to Nepal to work together with the people called Methodist and the ecumenical community to promote health and fullness of life for all in a transformed Nepali society.

One part of a healthy life is eating a good balanced diet. This is especially important when you are growing. What did you eat for breakfast to help you grow? Fruits? Vegetables? Grains? Protein? Did anyone have a glass of milk for breakfast? Cows are very special and important in Nepal and people like to drink milk and eat yogurt as an important protein source. But sometimes it is hard for kids to get enough protein for growth because milk and yogurt are too expensive.

My friend and mentor Miriam Krantz has worked for almost 50 years with severely malnourished children in Nepal, especially those who are not getting enough to eat because they have a tummy ache (diareaha). She developed a kind of porridge that their moms can make called Sarbottam Pit-ho, which is a Nepali word that means "super flour". It is made from 3 kinds of locally available grains and beans that are roasted and ground up.
[basic recipe is 2 parts pulse (soybean or chick pea), 1 part corn or rice and 1 part wheat or millet or buckwheat, roasted separately, ground and combined as a flour.]
We feed this porridge to children who come into the hospitals that our church operates in Nepal and we work with the government of Nepal to teach mothers all over the country how to make Super Flour to feed to their children, especially in their first 2 years.

Do you like to eat whole grain foods like oatmeal or whole wheat bread or pasta? Babies in Nepal like to eat Super Flour because it has a nice roasted flavor. All around the world we eat different foods, but we all need good nutrition to grow strong. And as the church working together, we can help each other to stay healthy and grow.

In Nepal, the first line of the national anthem is "Saya tunga, phulka hami, yota mala, Nepali", which means "like many different flowers, we are knitted into one garland of Nepal." They joy of Pentecost is to celebrate the uniqueness of each of you as beautiful, growing flowers that the Holy Spirit is binding together in the love of God, together with children all over the world including in Nepal, to form a beautiful and healthy garland of flowers.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Peer Educators in Doti

As part of the United Mission to Nepal (UMN) program on Integrated Community Development, we have been engaging youth in peer educator training for adolescent sexual reproductive health (ASRH). Last week I was in the far western region of Nepal in the district of Doti with two other UMN Health Team staff, Anu G. and Anu B. To conduct these trainings with child club members in grades six to nine from six schools. The mixed-gender component included the topics of self-esteem, my changing body, sex and gender, STIs and HIV, communication and life-skills and dialogue about the anonymous question box queries.
Students discussing modes of transmission of HIV

Anonymous question box
In this region of Nepal, the practice of Chaupadi (certain purity restrictions during menstration) can often inhibit the ability of girls to attend school. We spent extra days with girls groups to dialogue about their fears, embarrassment and worries and conduct training on menstrual hygiene which culminates in sewing improved washable pads.

Discussions at Rampur Higher Secondary School
Disposable pads are available in the market here, but they are relatively expensive, embarrassing to buy and difficult to dispose (they must be buried deeply to prevent animals digging them up and they decompose slowly). Of the 50+ girls in our trainings this week only 6 are purchasing disposable pads. The rest are using the standard practice of a folded cloth. The main disadvantage of this is that it doesn't stay in place well and makes it uncomfortable and difficult to walk to school or play games. To counter this, we introduced an improved washable pad that they can sew.

Improved washable sanitary pad sewing supplies
Several of the girls don't have scissor at home and so the activity of tracing a pattern onto the cloth, cutting it out and sewing the pocket together was a new challenge. But, working together, everyone was able to complete their project and took home the completed sample as well as a pattern to teach others. Included in our training this week also were three deaf girls and one blind girl.
Tracing patterns and cutting

Girls with their completed "improved washable sanitary pad"
We are also offering a parallel training to youth leaders of the church in Nepal called Christian Family Life Education (CFLE) that incorporates values articulation for decision making, protecting myself from harm, contraceptives & family planning and dialog about equality in marriage and equal valuing of boy and girl children. A short video about CFLE is available from the UMN YouTube channel.