GHI + Resonate: Candide's Story

July 17, 2014

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to partner Gardens for Health International, an organization that works to provide lasting agricultural solutions to chronic childhood malnutrition. Resonate led a training on storytelling at their farm for new Field Educators. One of them, Candide, decided to share both her own story, and what the day meant to her.

What I have learned from the storytelling training is that when you want to tell your own life story, you need to first think of the values you want to pass along, and then convey them through it. For me, I have come to understand that my story has the ability to inspire the audience to whom I am telling it.

The day that we received training on storytelling was a blessing to me, especially because I was able to hear the stories of my colleagues. I used to think that I could never tell the story of my life, but after listening to these coworkers, I realized that we have so much in common in our experiences.

The “story of self” told by the facilitator cleared my fears. We considered what she went through to be in the position she occupies as a trainer. I realized that my story—of how I suffered malnutrition, overcame it and became a strong mother who accomplished her studies—was important, too. I think if I tell it to a mother of a malnourished child, it could bring her back to hope for a bright future for her child. Because I am the person I am because someone took care of me and treated me until I healed.

In brief, my name is Candide. I am 28 years old and married with one child. I am the sixth child among eight siblings, and I would be honored to share with you the story of my life. When I was born, my father was a lawyer and my mother a farmer. They told me that I was only able to walk at four years. When I turned five, they sent me to elementary school, and my brothers and sisters would carry me on their back on the way to school. When they were tired they would drag me behind them, and that is how I learned to walk properly.

I succeeded my first year, but in the second year I had kwashiorkor. Even though my family had enough resources, they lacked the knowledge and skills to prevent malnutrition. I lived with chronic malnutrition even though I was performing well at school. I have a bad memory of close relatives calling me “chubby cheeks” because of the symptoms that were obvious on my face and hair.

When I turned 10 years old, my father died and we started facing the lack of food at home, since our mother was afflicted by disability and chronic disease. A cousin of mine came and took my two older sisters to live with her, because she could pay for their high school tuition. I was left with my younger brother, sister and mother.

My mother spent more than two years gravely sick, without any medical treatment at all, and in great misery. People wrongly proclaimed her dead three times. My sisters struggled to finish their studies. They knew they would live well if they stayed strong. My sister and I came up with new ways of providing food at home—one collected charcoal from the street and the other looked for sweet potatoes left on the ground in neighbors’ fields or at the market.

When I turned 11, I found myself on my own with my youngest brother and mother. I took measures to go to school three times a week, and on the remaining days I would go to work for food or cultivate our fields. Even though I didn’t always attend school, I came second in our district in the national exam that occurs at the conclusion of primary school.

Truly, we become what we are meant to be. When other children went to high school and I couldn’t afford to, I thought my dream was dead. But by surprise, my older brother, who I hadn’t seen for more than five years, came back home. He took me to the hospital for treatment and took me back to school. He took care of our mother, and life went on.

Even though I healed from kwashiorkor, its consequences still come back to my life. I may be at my home, and just like that, one of my sisters and brothers calls me “Kwashi” (the diminutive of kwashiorkor). This used to hurt me, but not anymore, since I understand that it is a part of my experience. Instead, it pushes me to work hard, so my children won’t be called such nicknames. I would not wish it even for someone else’s child.

When GHI selected field educators, they didn’t know me or the history of my life. This is the reason why I will do my part for families, neighbors, my nation, and everywhere I go, because that life of malnutrition and its consequences—I have experienced it! I know well what it feels like.

Megan Madeira