I chose to share my ROSE project within an article to not only share the work I have done, but show others the importance of nutrition and compassion. First, however, I have to go back to the beginning. My story starts about six years ago on a hot summer night. My parents and I were reading in our backyard and my dad added more fuel to our firepit. The fire suddenly exploded, leaping on and smothering my legs. The second and third degree burns I suffered from afterwards landed me in the burn unit for two weeks, in bandages and pain for the next four months, and in fear and anxiety for the rest of my life. The naive life I had been living was destroyed, and now I saw the possibility of bad things happening in every situation. Now this sounds like an extremely traumatic story, suffering from the most pain a human can endure, however, as cliché as it sounds, this night made me who I am today and gave rise to my passions.
When I was in the burn unit for that two week time period, the doctor specifically told me that in order to survive and heal properly, I would need to eat lots of healthy proteins and fats because of their function in repairing skin. But then I was served soggy pancakes drowned in syrup, pudding, and orange juice. Not exactly the meal my doctor wanted me to be eating. My parents, being the health fanatics they are, took it upon themselves to bring in the blender for protein smoothies, bring me nutritious meals from cafes, and remind me to eat. With this recovery trajectory, I left the hospital after two weeks instead of three, didn’t have to get skin grafts, and today my scars are hardly noticeable. In addition to the amazing efforts of my doctor, I lend a lot of the credit to the incredible nutrition I was receiving at the time which is why I aspire to be a nutritionist and why my ROSE project is largely centered around nutrition and food security.
Fast forward five years and I hear of an organization in San Rafael called the Ceres Community Project. Their mission to deliver nutritious meals to patients suffering from chronic illnesses in an effort to use nutrition as a healing power spoke to my experience and passion. I instantly chose to volunteer. For the next year and a half, I was cooking a variety of healthy meals and treats, packing them into to-go packages, and cleaning the kitchen. I absolutely loved being able to learn about new healthy recipes and develop cooking skills that I didn’t have previously. However, it wasn’t until I interviewed a former patient and the current COO, Jenny, that I saw the deeply positive effect my volunteering was contributing to. Jenny was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer as a single mother with two teenage boys and worked full time, even through her five months of chemo treatments before her surgery and radiation. She came in contact with Ceres through her healthcare coordinator who handed her a pamphlet about the organization. Out of all the information she was receiving, this was extremely important because she had done all the cooking in her household. Jenny felt that by having someone cook for her, she would feel nourished and cared for. When she learned that it was all done by teen volunteers, she was so touched by their selfless actions and mission to serve healthy food especially made for someone going through this kind of a health crisis. After her radiation treatments, she completed a health cleanse through Sutter and started to learn more about the connection between sugar and cancer and she began to realize truly how much food was healing. She expressed her fear that if “we weren’t all eating so much food with fillers, preservatives, and unhealthy ingredients, we wouldn’t be as sick.” The meals she began receiving from Ceres three weeks after being diagnosed not only made her feel healthy and energized, but they also relieved an immense stress around feeding both herself and her boys and made her feel completely cared for by a group of strangers. Even the thought of the community she had become a part of brought her to tears in our interview. I could first-handedly see how the meals I had been cooking once a week were in fact changing the lives of our patients and giving them the love and care they need in the darkest times of their lives.
My interview with Jenny opened my eyes to the Social Justice issues that Ceres is tackling, and I decided to share the work of this organization for my ROSE project in order to spread the word. In addition to sending meals to hundreds of patients, we send cards, wellness bags, and hand deliver their packages, so that along with their food, our patients have a supportive community offering all their support. Many of our patients don’t have access or money for healthy meals or they have been ostracized from others because of their illness. Ceres Community Project fills this gap with both the nutritious food and the solidarity that is needed by our patients.
Throughout my time with Ceres I have witnessed countless selfless acts and met compassionate, generous people who have devoted their lives to making sure absolute strangers are nourished and feel loved. I have also learned of the large population of people (even in an affluent community such as Marin) that must constantly worry about where their next meal is coming from and often can’t afford to think about its health benefits or nutrition quality, an action I take for granted. Ceres has taught me about nutrition, community, and instilled in me a deep compassion for others.
Thank you for reading about my project and a huge thank you to Ms. Levine, my parents, and the entire Ceres community!
If you are a teen, feel free to reach out to me about volunteering there in the future! Email: email@example.com
Coronavirus update on Ceres and Donations: Currently, Ceres is continuing operations and doing tremendous work for our surrounding communities during this time of crisis. While teens are not permitted to cook, they have increased the amount of food being made and extended their program to the poor, elderly, and the sick in order to feed the many families in need right now. They were even able to deliver 500 meals to a senior living community because of an infection and heightened quarantine. They are only able to deliver these nutritious meals with the help of donations, so please help contribute to their efforts!