Due to the nature of our upbringing, my husband, Josh, and I developed a non-profit from the ground up in Charlotte, NC called The Abandon Project. Our mission is to serve at risk communities that are not able to access basic needs and resources that would allow for a successful future. A few years ago Josh and I moved into a low-income area in the East Charlotte community so we could “put our money where our mouth is”, so to speak, and show our friends that we are willing to struggle with them. We believe this grass-roots, sustainable approach helps create raw and real diversifying change.
One of the most pertinent needs we see in our community today is the necessity for knowledge about health and wellness. Over the course of my time in East Charlotte, I have experienced situations where single mothers have bought into the lie that to feed a family of five on a family-of-two budget, they can only afford frozen chicken nuggets and oodles of noodles. This form of dieting has caused children to incurre type 2 diabetes, rotting teeth, and weak bones because they are not provided the proper nutrients required in a daily diet. The lack of education leads to a deficit in the knowledge of what a truly healthy lifestyle looks like. Along with this, much of the epidemic here in East Charlotte comes from a long line of generational misconceptions on dietary needs.
Though it will take a lot of persistent effort to break generations of bad habits, I am committed to providing this community with the resources they deserve. I have decided to pursue my masters in nutrition so that I can provide this community with these much-needed resources in order to ensure a beautiful future. Pursuing a masters in nutrition has already taught me so much about how I can change these communities’ lives for the better, and I believe that being certified through the Nutritional Therapy Association (which I will be in October) will only better my chances of combating the various diseases and lack of “wholeness” this community has.
I created a “health initiative” for our community in East Charlotte about two years ago and have had weekly and sometimes bi weekly meetings with elementary to high school students, as well as with many mothers in the community. Not only do we cook, but we also participate in physical activity together. I provide health education classes for older children and their mothers. We learn how to cook healthy alternatives, and in turn cook these meals for the families in our community. At our weekly cooking class, we learn about proper nutrition, why we need it and we learn the necessary cooking skills so that we can create these meals for ourselves in our own kitchen. Not only do we learn about cooking, we also learn about mental health and physical activity. We are so humbled to say we have already seen so many success stories because of the power of this community gaining this knowledge. Mothers are now starting to come to me requesting recipes for their children and asking when we are able to come and cook and teach them again. I get text messages about these mothers increasing their water intake and pictures of healthy recipes they are now feeding their families! We have also partnered with a local meal prepping company who donates wonderful meals to these families that are fresh and locally prepared.
I have a lot of dreams for my community, some that seem overwhelming at times. I know though, that as long as I continue to show up and stop for the one that is all that truly matters. My organization has dreams of reaching so many more people in order to pursue the hearts of others who otherwise would have no hope for their families or their families’ futures. I hope to fine tune a sponsorship tool in order to bring the upper and middle class communities together with my community to find a sense of unity. The idea of individuals coming together and pouring into one another is a huge piece of becoming “whole” and towards solving that divide. I would love to see partnership/ sponsorship opportunities coming out of this. Where individuals in the upper/middle class are able to sponsor those who might not be able to afford a health coach, and in turn we all begin to develop relationships with one another and push each other towards the same goal, health and wholeness.
We have also officially begun our community garden, more on that in a future post! I can’t wait to see my family get their hands dirty, find their worth in the soil and learn the value of nourishing their bodies from something they cultivated themselves. Thanks to the NTA Global Fund I am able to see some of my dreams come true in our community and I can’t wait to share!
Even though there is a long road ahead, I will count myself successful if I can even just give one person hope for changing his or her own life for the better.