Sunday, June 28, 2015

Giving and Receiving

"Doc, I promise to use everything you have imparted to me in the last five weeks in Jesus name!" Sheila told me.   To which I replied, "Amen!"

Sheila and I at the Nutrition Counselors Graduation Ceremony
Sheila is one of 19 nutrition counselors that we recently trained.  The nutrition counselors complete a 6 week training program that cover topics such as maternal and child nutrition, nutrition counseling, nutrition and diabetes, nutrition and HIV/AIDS, and nutrition assessment.  After the training, they are posted to 3 hospitals within the Cameroon Baptist Convention's health system for 6 months practical experience.  Upon satisfactory completion they are sent to hospitals and health centers in four regions of Cameroon to work as nutrition counselors.

For the last year we have been working on redeveloping the training curriculum to make it more "hands-on" and evidence-based. A colleague and friend of mine, Alena Clark, came and assisted with the first 2 weeks of the training and was a huge help as she could provide the nutrition counselors with information regarding the clinical aspects of nutrition.

Alena teaching about the basics of nutrition
Nutrition Counselors working on a role play about hygiene and sanitation

  After a year of thinking, planning, and arranging, it was fulfilling to see what the nutrition counselors learned and practiced.

Sister Doreen doing nutrition assessment on a malnourished child
And at the very end of the 6 weeks to participate in their graduation ceremonies, during which I was thanked for making the Nutrition Improvement Program, "the essence of my existence."

Nutrition Counselors with their graduation certificates. 
The day before the graduation the hospital administration gave me a traditional dress and hat to thank me for my contributions and during the graduation ceremony the trainees gave me a traditional bag.

Traditional Dress with the Nutrition Improvement Program Lab Coat

Christiana presenting me with a traditional bag
Receiving such gifts was unexpected and humbling.  It brought to mind another gift of a meal I had received a few weeks prior to the graduation ceremony.

Eating fufu and njamajama
I received the meal of fufu and njamajama from Maxilline when I was in Kumbo for a quick visit.  I worked in Kumbo a few years ago when I was doing my doctoral research.
Maxilline and I
I was on my way to visit a friend when Maxilline recognized me.  She asked me if I was Sister Kate and after I said yes, she told me she was a participant in my research project and proceeded to tell me everything she remembered about the importance of breastfeeding.  She immediately invited me to her house to meet her family and her son, Daniel, with whom she was pregnant with during our research project.  Unfortunately Daniel was born with sickle cell anemia and was undergoing an attack when I visited her home.
After I met Daniel, Maxilline told me that when she earlier met me on the road she was on her way back for praying for Daniel.  She said, "I know that God loves Daniel more than me and knows his pain and will take care of him."

As I reflect on my recent trip I am struck by all that I received from the Cameroonians.  After I received the gift of the traditional dress, I told the administrator of Mbingo Baptist Hospital, that I come to Cameroon to be renewed through their spiritual strength.  I come to give my nutrition knowledge and I return inspired by their faith, prayers for safety, greetings for my family and friends, and their songs.  And I am learning that it is in the giving and receiving that our relationships are equalized, maintained, and strengthened.

It is hard for me to accept that the best I can is probably not to give but to receive.  By receiving in a true and open way, those who give to me can become aware of their gifts.  After all, we come to recognize our own gifts in the eyes of those who receive them gratefully.  
Henri Nouwen, Gracias!: A Latin American Journal