July 15, 2011

Ugandans Don't Need Gyms!

Don't judge my muscles next to him!

North America has an obesity issue.  I don't think it's deniable.  We spend more money on weight loss: supplements, equipment, gym memberships and diet schemes than any other part of the world.  Yet, we still remain fatter than most of it.  There's no new information there.

But when you visit a place where the people are fit and yet eat nothing but carbs (yes....evil carbs) for all three meals, it brings home how different cultures treat their bodies in relation to their food and their level of activity.

I asked to take a picture with one of the men helping to build the new kitchen at the Almond School (you can see the old kitchen in the back. It's just a shack.)  I asked him if he ever went to the gym.  A laugh was his response and then he shook his head for no.

I could've probably bounced a quarter off of his stomach, but I didn't want it to blind me when it ricocheted back into my eye.

I was slinging bricks and mortar myself, but I didn't look like the female equivalent of him.

Down and dirty.

During my two week stay with the school I observed that the students ate almost nothing but unprocessed carbs: rice, posho (cornmeal), porridge and beans every day, since there was no money for meat, fruit or vegetables.  They would be baffled by North America's obsession with the latest superfoods filled with antioxidants, the perfect protein levels, power bars, meal replacements, low carb diets and the proper daily portions of this, that and the other.  Gluten free this, and lactose free that.  They have never heard of peanut allergies.  On the last day we were there we gave our students and kids at the elementary school slices of fresh pineapple and all of them saw it as a real treat.

Sweet treats!

They students pumped and carried litres of water everyday, played soccer and netball all the time (some of them even break-danced), and had no problems pitching in to help build the new kitchen and girls dormitory.  And yes....it was hot.

Imagine doing this everyday....and with a smile like this.

Is she wearing a sweater!?

They didn't have any computers, cell phones, televisions or anything that required too much sitting time.  They walked everywhere slowly, and a few lucky ones had old beat up bikes to bike around in.

I myself pay a lot of attention to nutrition.  But this experience has taught me that it really is as simple as calories in (whether they be from proteins, carbs or fat) have to be balanced by calories out (physical activity).  Oh yeah, and the calories have to be from non-processed foods.

It was a great time with these kids.

Now that's student engagement!
I want to thank Kirabo Canada for the opportunity to have such an amazing experience.  They take Canadians and Americans in July to the northern part of Uganda to volunteer at the Almond School for disadvantaged youth.  This is the part of Uganda that was hit hard by the LRA who was infamous for its use of child soldiers.  Many of the students of the Almond school have had to watch their families massacred by the rebel forces and some were even taken prisoner themselves.

Check out Kirabo Canada

Kirabo Power!

This was our awesome Kirabo volunteer group from left to right - Calvin, Sandy, Sarina, Lana, me, Dee, Lina, Bryanna, Dena and Sandy (five teachers, two school psychologists, one waitress/makeup artist, one fetish clothing maker and one insurance consultant - talk about a mixed group).  In the photo is also Benedict on the right, the principal of the Almond School, and Charles Dickens (no joke) on the left, our guide and translator....he did other things too, but we never could figure out what.

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