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When it comes to charity, I jump at any chance I get to be involved. I used to look at my privilege of being an American citizen with above average means as something I was unworthy of. There are so many people suffering in this world, so how did I end up in a position that people only dream of having, without even trying? What I’ve come to realize is that I should not take my privilege for granted, but I should strategically use it to bring awareness to the many causes I support.

Circle of Health International has created a challenge where participants help raise awareness on malnutrition and it’s effect on women and their offspring, by posting their experiences on eating like Amira, Tamara, Reeta, Anita or Farida for three days. I joined Amira’s team and ate like a Syrian refugee and this is what happened…

My Experience with the Circle Of Health International

Monday.

Food Allowance (typical Syrian diet):

  • 1/2 cup of hummus
  • 1 1/2 tabbouleh
  • 1/2 cup of baba ghanouj
  • 2 pieces of pita bread
  • 7 dates
  • 3 figs
  • 5 falafel balls

Skipping my morning routine of boxing and my post workout protein smoothie, I headed to heymama HQ at 10am, non caffeinated and a little sleepy. By 12pm I was starving and walked to the Whole Foods next door. Going into this challenge, I did not realize the difficulties or time constraints of making everything from scratch in my kitchen. How on earth do you make falafel balls?? Being at a grocery store, I decided to pick up everything I could for the day. Their buffet had a tabbouleh variation with corn, red pepper hummus, baba ghanouj, strange looking falafel patties, and pita bread. I’m assuming figs are out of season, because they were nowhere to be found, but I did grab a box of dates. Paying a total of $25 for my meal, extreme guilt washed over me. These women live on less than $2 dollars a day, and I had to pay 10x that. Plus, I was drinking bottled water, a privilege these women do not possess.

I divided my food for my lunch and dinner, as my stomach was grumbling and I would have eaten it all in one sitting if it was in front of me. As I was eating my overpriced meal, all I could think about was how terrible it tasted. Again, guilt washes over me.

In Her Shoes Campaign with the Circle Of Health International meal options

Paying a total of $25 for my meal, extreme guilt washed over me. These women live on less than $2 dollars a day, and I had to pay over 10x that.

I always continue to work at night, as social media never sleeps. I’m usually one to stay up until 2am, but I was falling asleep at 8 and had to force myself awake until 11. Still early. I don’t expect this to be from my food intake today, as it was a decent amount, but more so Daylight Savings and the in change my routine, and probably not being able to consume caffeine. Yup, that’s definitely it.

In Her Shoes Campaign with the Circle Of Health International meal options

Tuesday.

Food Allowance (typical Syrian diet limited):

  • 1/2 cup of hummus
  • 2 pieces of pita bread
  • 4 dates
  • 1 fig
  • 2 falafel balls

With no acceptable food in my apartment except for dates, I popped one in my mouth and went to my boxing class. Already in the warmup, I started to feel weak. Even though I was able to push myself through the class, I knew that my performance was subpar and I couldn’t remember most of the combinations. My head also pounded throughout the day. I assume dehydration and lack of protein for this one.

I went home, showered, and popped the last date into my mouth. I picked up my meal for the day at Taim, the mediterranean place around the corner. A third of the price & double the flavor as the previous day, but also half of the food. Today, I should add, is Election Day. A day everyone was excited about, everyone on my social media posting about Hillary Clinton and how #thefutureisfemale.

In Her Shoes Campaign with the Circle Of Health International meal options

I went to an Election Party to watch the the results. Starving from the small meal I had, I was practically salivating over the smell of balsamic brussels sprouts. As the votes rolled in and the race was neck to neck, my nerves got the best of me and I had two glasses of wine. Funny how when I entered the challenge, they told me to be selective of the days I would participate in i.e. Election Day, never would I think that wine would be the one to break my challenge. I’m admitting this because I truly believe that none of you will judge me for it.

Wednesday.

Food Allowance (Circle Of Health International/Greek provided meal):

  • 1 protein bar (calories ~300)
  • 1 piece of pita bread
  • 2 apples
  • 1 turkey sandwich (french style 6″ baguette with 3 slices of turkey, 2 pieces of cheese, lettuce, 2 slices of tomato, mayonnaise)

I woke up with a jolt. I fell asleep before the announcement and I needed to know what happened, even though the pit in my stomach was already giving me a hunch. I paced around my apartment, literally walking in circles in total disbelief. Two hours went by and I remembered I hadn’t fed my cat. A long call to my mom had also happened. I took a deep breath and left to go to pilates. All I could think was, why do I not have boxing so I can take my negative energy out on a punching bag?

I was actually thrilled on the fact that I could have a protein bar after the gym. It was the most normal thing I’ve eaten in days and probably the only reason I could stomach food. I was so hungry that I didn’t even have time to take a picture of it before eating.

In Her Shoes Campaign with the Circle Of Health International bar

On the way to work I went to a deli to pick up a turkey sandwich. When I gave the butcher my specific order, he asked why, so I told him what I was doing. I couldn’t decide if it was a mockery or some light-hearted jokes, I think it was a little bit of both. Comments like “So you’re eating like a refugee with Beats headphones around your neck” and “this is good bread, do you want me to get you some old bread from the street instead?”. Again, the guilt.

Circle of health international sandwich

And then I come back to why I’m doing this; not to feel like I am actually in Amira’s shoes, a situation I most likely will never be in, but to perhaps come to terms with this fact and help in a way that will actually make a difference.

I could have more food this day than the previous two, yet I couldn’t manage to eat that much. The protein bar and the sandwich, which I felt extremely guilty on how delicious it was, were the only things I consumed. Also, having this food unconsumed added to the shame. I felt that I was taking it for granted, that maybe it would not be there in the morning if I didn’t eat it now. This grey day, the rain, the gloominess, it was all very reflective of my emotional state, that’s for sure.

By the end of today, I was in a place where I was confused at what I was doing and what I was doing it for. There was no way I could ever truly be in Amira’s shoes, never fully understand her life. I can eat as little as I want, but I will still have the privileged life I lead. Even if I was volunteering in Syria, living like her, living next to her, I would always be able to leave, I would always be able to come back to my reality which, even with the turnout of the election, is highly more optimistic than the state of Syria or any of the communities that the Circle Of Health International helps. And then I come back to why I’m doing this; not to feel like I am actually in Amira’s shoes, a situation I most likely will never be in, but to perhaps come to terms with this fact and help in a way that will actually make a difference: donating money. $60 will be able to feed a mother for a month. ONE MONTH. I probably spent $60 these last three days on this food. I encourage you all to take the challenge AND donate. I think the challenge is more for a personal discovery to see how you mindfully compare situations, like how you can buy groceries, how you will always have clean water to drink, how you can limit your food, but always have the option to eat more if need be, an option that these women do not have. But at the end of the day, the donation is what really helps them. You can join me on Amira’s team here (Sign up saying heymama Co referred you). Find out more about #InHerShoesCOHI here.

Written by heymama Member, Stevi Sesin

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