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Hunger and Fullness

Rosemary with a member of the Palmira Pentecostal community keeping flies off of lunch! Photo: Suzanne Rumsey

March 31, 2015

By Simon Chambers

PWRDF sent a delegation of diocesan representatives, Youth Council members, a local farmer and PWRDF staff to Cuba in mid-March.  They blogged while they were there, and now that they’re home, we will be posting their adventures in their own words.  Today’s instalment comes from Rosemary Parker, Youth Council member from the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario.

For the first few days of our trip to Cuba, I noticed my stomach would feel funny two or three times a day. At first, I worried that I had consumed some non-purified water, and would start to experience other unpleasant side-effects. However, as we were walking through yet another incredible farming project supported by PWRDF partners, it occurred to me that I was not sick at all–I was hungry!

As a middle-class, educated, privileged Canadian, I have food security. I can buy food when I am hungry, I can afford food that will nourish me, and I can access food from across the world. Unlike the many marginalized groups of Canada and Cuba, I am rarely hungry.

This realization stood at odds with the stories of the people who benefit from the farming and gardening projects funded by the Episcopal Church of Cuba’s Mission Development Program and the Cuban Council of Churches’ Sustainable Development Program.

Personal and societal barriers (such as isolation, disability, poverty and rationing) prevent many Cubans across the country from accessing adequate, nutritious, and locally produced foods. It was therefore challenging for us as a group to visit these church-based projects and to be served by them.

Each community would describe the many difficulties that their people faced in terms of food, show us the incredible and creative ways that they have managed to provide food to others, and then, invite us–these privileged Canadians with more abundance than they even realize–to sit down and eat like royalty.

On the one hand, we struggled not to take for granted the amount and quality of food we were given. On the other hand, we wrestled with this tension of being fed so well by those who have so little.

While the individuals involved in the farming initiatives did eat and benefit from their own hard work, these experiences made me wonder about how often we as Canadians and Christians willingly go hungry and deny ourselves so that others can be nourished and served.

I am likely not the only one of us who rarely feels true pangs of hunger. In our consumerist society, it is so easy to indulge ourselves however and whenever we want. In order to understand the significance of food security issues, I think we are called to wait a moment before satisfying our hunger, and to pause and consider the bounty that we consume.

We must learn from the selfless ministries of our partners in Cuba, who reach out to the people in their midst, and feed them when they are hungry. PWRDF is a large organization that focuses on broad issues like food security.

However, what I saw in Cuba were these little areas of abundance and vitality, spreading hope and joy into the local communities and into the lives of Cuban people.