• Mary McConnell

Waking Up Hungry

Travelling to Haiti is always an eye-opening experience, no matter how many times you have been there. I will never forget what one of my friends who lives in Haiti said one day. It will forever stick in my mind. He said, "If I wake up with a few dollars in my pocket, I don't wake up hungry. But if I wake up with no money in my pocket, then I wake up hungry". He went on to explain that if he wakes up with a few dollars he knows that he has the means to purchase some food for himself and his family that day, but if his pockets are empty, he starts off the day without any idea how (or if) he and his family will be able to eat anything at all. What a shocking reality about the way of daily life for many of those living in Haiti ... a reality that most of us here in North America can't even begin to fathom.

During the early days of my time in Haiti, witnessing and experiencing first hand the harsh living conditions and daily struggle just for survival was extremely humbling. I lived directly among the locals in a one room cement home with no electricity or running water and at times, barely any food. I thought I knew what hunger was, but I soon realized that in reality my body and my mind had never experienced true hunger before. Hunger in the sense of eating food for the sole purpose of satisfying an intense nutritional need and having nothing to do with the culinary enjoyment that eating food here in our country provides us. Even the nutritional requirements that are met by the food that we eat is rarely, if ever, resulting from being on the brink of crucial necessity and survival in our day to day lives.

Describing the feeling of being truly hungry is difficult. It goes beyond that familiar feeling of "discomfort caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat" (Google Dictionary definition). The feeling of hunger that I experienced in Haiti came from deep within the cells of my body that were calling out for nourishment. I wasn't just hungry; my body and mind were desperate for some vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats, all of which had been drastically depleted from my body due to the lack of an easily accessible and nutritious food supply. I remember one particularly challenging time when I had survived on a diet consisting mainly of white rice for days. My body and mind were completely drained. I could barely drag myself off my bed.

Another experience relating to the lack of food supply in Haiti was being witness to the truth and reality of completely bare cupboards with not a crumb of food to be found anywhere. Haitians live from meal to meal. That is IF a meal is to be had. There are no extras, no leftovers to throw away, no "thank you, I've had enough" words uttered and certainly no desserts indulged in after enjoying an elaborate first course meal. The stark reality of the Haitians way of life hit me hard. I had never in my life not been able to eat something, anything, when I was hungry. I did experience this when I was in Haiti and is something that will be forever etched into my mind. We have all been hungry in our lives, but I had never experienced the concept of there not being ANY food whatsoever to eat to satisfy my hunger before. In Haiti there were times when there was literally nothing for me to eat, not a cracker, grain of rice, piece of chicken or slice of fruit. This is what many who live in Haiti experience daily. Something that thankfully, most of us can't even imagine, but tragically is a distressing and sad reality for so many in this world.

For the first time in my life I completely understood and will forever understand the true meaning of hunger, which is nothing compared to what we so easily feel is the definition of needing to grab a bite to eat here in North America. The next time you find yourself saying, "I'm so hungry", think again ... are you really?


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Mary McConnell

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