How do you decide to go to Africa, and come back with the mission of founding an international cooperation organization? Well every organization has its own history…This is ours!
First of all, the why I dared to go to Africa… Well, if you're of my generation, you probably have vague memories of your mother telling you to eat your meal and enjoy it because 'the children of Biafra' they don't have any. Vague memories of OXFAM announcements with children who have only skin on their bones surrounded by flies. If you're like me, it touched you right away, but you put it somewhere in a drawer in your memory, well buried, away from everyday thoughts.
Problems of abundance
I became a nutritionist in 1997 and until 2017 I spent 20 years trying to solve 'Too's problems. Too much abundance, too much variety, too much quantity. The children of Quebec have been my cause: they no longer know or and are unable to keep up with all this food variety, which makes us see a normalization of food neophobia. It is normal, it seems, for a child, not to want to taste 26 vegetables and to prefer the countless refined cereal products and the 44 flavors of ice cream of Baskin Robbins … but as a paediatric nutritionist, we work hard to make them eat it! We try as well as badly to unravel them through all this variety, but as a professional, here in Quebec, do we really make the weight? We cannot compete with this abundance, so our impact is limited… And in my 20-year career, cases of severe malnutrition similar to what is common in Africa, I can count them on my fingers with one hand.
Except that one day, the drawer ajar. My own daughter told me one fine day in November 2017: ''Mom, I don't understand how your generation does to do nothing and keep eating three times a day knowing that elsewhere they are starving. And I don't understand why there's military service. There should be mandatory humanitarian services for all, not military services.'' I'm rarely speechless. Everyone who knows me knows, I always have an opinion and a response to everything. But right now, no. My own daughter had spoken, and I was speechless. But not without ailments!
In my head, I saw myself at his age, still full of idealism, or I too found this unacceptable and I was sensitive to the videos of children of Biafra! He broke into my memory drawer.
Taking the plunge
A week or two later, I met a family going to Benin, through whom I knew a little about life there and realized that we may not let children get eaten by flies while we film them… but that there is still a great deal of chronic malnutrition in Africa, and even last resort solutions such as placing a child to work, hoping to raise some money to feed the rest of the family. There are girls who don't go to school to bring food to the market. And there are infants dying of malnutrition in Benin as well. It's not a distant video, it's reality.
So I wanted to go and see her face to face. I gave 20 years, to the TROP of America, I decided to give a month of my life to the 'PAS ASSEZ' of the rest of the world. And that's how it all started!
Until the day of the departure, my daughter kept telling me every day: ''I knew we're not leaving!'' . For two months the tickets had been purchased and she still did not believe it. I don't, either., Everyone was asking me what I was doing this for, why Benin… Etc. I left Quebec for this journey with no idea what would await us, but I came back with a firm intention to do my part.
Apart from appeasing my conscience and being consistent with my values by taking my daughter at her word, I had three goals:
- Breaking down the barriers and fears that prevent anyone from visiting this continent: finding the host families, the right partners, describing everything in detail to my colleagues in Quebec so that everyone sees that helping elsewhere is possible. For years I thought about it, but I didn't dare, out of fear. Afraid of not being able to fend for myself, or even of being kidnapped for the milking of white women!To die of tourista or malaria, to be the victim of a coup d'etat… all kinds of fabulations allowing me to choose inaction, status quo.So I told myself that it was always the first time that was the worst, and that I could do the first time not only for myself, but for all the nutritionists in the world… create a bridge and see what happens!
- Making the reality known: I realized how much we are kept in the dark and that we really know very little about this continent – it's like a big blur. I wanted to see the real business – not to make blinders anymore, and to discover a country that probably has a lot to teach us!
- Hearing the needs: it was NSF's first trip, and you don't change a situation in a month! But by going around the problem in depth, by hearing the vision of all, by consulting, each mission brings out sustainable solutions that local professionals want to implement. They just have to support them. It is to follow, everything is to be invented, but one thing is certain, it is our responsibility to at least try!
We have to talk about it to change things, the fight against hunger must be at the heart of the discussions because children die every day and for 40 years, the children of my mother's Biafra are a reality, they have not moved! It is because we do not know what to make of it, we do not have access to the harsh and pure reality that the emerging peoples live. There's so much to share!
One simple way to follow us: our newsletter. One simple way to support us: become a member! A little 20 that goes far, and a gesture of solidarity that all can make today to end hunger in the world, together.
And in these times of global upheaval, emerging countries need even more solidarity! NSF perseveres in these projects, but it is only together, by dint of soldarity, that the fight will be won!