By Bobbak Makooie
Every day is a busy day when you’re working with ADRA Rwanda, and our mornings start early. Each day the team piles into our truck and we head to various field sites where we engage with community members, but first we must travel up and down countless hills and follow the curves of countless bends, with our routes ranging from paved roads to downright precarious paths. These drives fill me with such a sense of awe, not just for the breathtaking vistas they provide, but for the breathtaking glimpses they give into daily life here; you can see entire lives playing out on the sides of the steep hillsides lining the roads: children playing and running, adults doing laundry or farming, goats, cows and sheep grazing, and sometimes people just hanging out and having a good time. You can’t experience Rwanda without venturing into the hills on the treacherous, narrow, dusty, rust coloured dirt paths; you definitely can’t get an appreciation for everyday rural life without traversing them.
With each drive, I would gaze longingly at the mountain paths thinking that I must climb at least one, until finally I got my wish. I was privileged to attend an EMBRACE project site dedicated to teaching community members how to sustain a locally sourced nutritious diet to support childhood growth and prevent malnutrition. Childhood malnutrition has been a real issue here in the Nyabihu district, largely due to not knowing what composes a balanced diet and how to appropriately prepare foods to not destroy their nutritional value. This is a serious problem, as malnutrition in children under five can lead to severe lifelong physical and mental deficits.
The EMBRACE project team works with community leaders to teach community members, along with providing initial supplies, how to build their own diverse gardens in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Through this venture families and communities faced with malnutrition are now able to use these gardens to supplement their previous diets, and their education on food preparation empowers them to make the best dietary choices possible. I guess it was just my luck that the house volunteered for the teaching site was on the top of a hill; I was able to both witness the incredible work ADRA is doing through their EMBRACE program, and to traverse those dusty red paths I’ve dreamed of since arriving here. I like to think of it as two birds, one stone, and a thousand hills.