Pap & Porridge: Day One Reflections from Ellie


Ellie and Nomvula

Day one of our fast is nearly complete, and it has definitely been a thought-provoking experience thus far! A large part of today was spent running some errands for my CHOSA-related duties: getting our year-end newsletter mailed out, etc. I was having some major cravings throughout the day, but living in this momentary lack while doing my daily tasks associated with CHOSA gave me such a deep sense of purpose. Our fast helped me to remember that there is something so much higher that we are working towards together, and that even the seemingly menial tasks are contributing towards a greater good. It really changed the way I looked at my entire day.

I was quite hungry by the time I ate my first bowl of porridge, as I had skipped breakfast, and despite the bland flavor I found myself scraping the bowl to get every last bit! This small moment really got me thinking: if I can be this hungry after missing one meal, imagine the countless children who eat only one small serving of pap a day. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and am reminded of a conversation I had with my mother shortly after beginning work at a wonderful organization in Mpumalanga, South Africa. I mentioned to her that the organization aims to provide (among other things) “a meal a day” for the most vulnerable children in rural communities. My mom was shocked by this, and for good reason – most of us in the United States, even in the poorest communities here, cannot imagine having access to only one meal a day. However, this is a stark reality in the communities we serve, particularly for orphans and other vulnerable children that lack the provision that a parental figure can bring.

An image that kept flashing through my head today was that of my “host sister,” Nomvula, whom I lived with for a long weekend in a village in Mpumalanga last year. She was 15 years old and living in a one-room home with three younger relatives – what we call a “child-headed household.” I will never forget my first night there. I had brought some basic groceries with me (mealie meal, beans, bread, peanut butter) so that I wouldn’t be a burden, and Nomvula set about to cooking our meal over a fire. She handed me a plate with a serving of pap and a few pilchards (sardines) from a can, and then sat down next to me. I was confused, as there was a significant language barrier and I didn’t know how to ask her, “what about your dinner?” Then, she reached over to the plate I was holding and began to eat. The two of us sat on a bench, her only furniture, and shared this small plate for the evening. My heart broke to realize the deep level of food insecurity that children in these communities experience – that even with the food I’d brought, she had to carefully ration each bit, not knowing when she’d have access to more. I am so grateful to organizations like CHOSA, and the many community-based efforts we support on the ground in South Africa, to ensure that children in these desperate situations are “fed” in body, mind, and spirit. May we remember how blessed we really are, and may we feel challenged to do our part to ensure that on a global scale, every precious child has access to these most basic necessities.

Ellie Gunderson
Fundraising Coordinator, CHOSA

Support Ellie in her fast by pledging a donation to CHOSA at www.razoo.com/story/papandporridge!

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