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Rise Against Hunger meals are so much more than meals. I saw this firsthand when visiting distribution partner organizations in Managua, Nicaragua. These meals not only change lives — they also transform and reshape the futures of communities.

I met Beatriz in an orphanage on the outskirts of Managua. She is 16 years old, and will soon transition out of life at the orphanage. She has beautiful long hair and the biggest smile. She is working hard to perfect her English, and took every opportunity she could to practice with me. Recently, she developed a passion for flying and hopes to become a flight attendant, putting her bilingual abilities to work! Having never been out of Managua before, she sees flying as her opportunity to see the world and change the course of her future.

Beatriz reminded me of what I was like when I was her age. She is a typical young teenager, spending time with her friends, worrying a little too much about her appearance and working to develop self confidence. Seeing this vibrant young girl before me now makes her personal history even more difficult for me to imagine.

Beatriz wasn’t always the confident, motivated young girl I got to know while visiting Managua. Beatriz, like many other children of Managua, had a very tough childhood. Growing up in an impoverished and unstable home, she was often required to sleep outside with the family’s animals. When there wasn’t enough to eat, she was the first to go without. Conditions became so bad for Beatriz that she developed a scalp disease which made her hair fall out, a condition we see often in areas of food insecurity. By the time she was admitted to the orphanage she was a quiet girl, malnourished, too shy to speak and embarrassed of her appearance — like any little girl would be.

With the support of local Nicaraguan organizations at the orphanage, and meals provided by Rise Against Hunger, Beatriz began to gain weight, her hair began to grow back and she began to gain self confidence. Before, her largest concern was where her next meal would come from, but today, Beatriz has the room to be just be a young girl and to dream of the future. Meeting Beatriz forced me to recognize that my upbringing was a stroke of luck. Many of the world’s children grow up in conditions like Beatriz, and don’t have the opportunity to thrive. I could have been her; she could be my niece, my daughter, my sister.

As 2017 comes to a close, I reflect on the experience of meeting “Beautiful Beatriz” and how something as small as a daily meal can set the foundation for which a child can grow up with aspirations and hope. That meal provides the gateway to education and a future for kids all over the world.

The joy I witnessed in Beatriz and the children and young adults at the orphanage is a result of the hard work, love and ongoing support of people like you. People who believe in the mission of Rise Against Hunger and the real opportunity we have to end hunger by 2030. For Beatriz, Rise Against Hunger meals are recovery, self confidence and a vision of the future.

Shared in Blog, Nourishing Lives