“Food is medicine and I want to heal the people,” says Ala’a Eideh, a long time FMM Nutrition Mentor and educator who is helping people make positive change so they are better fed. Ala’a recently joined the staff as Facilitation Co-ordinator.
Ala’a first became involved with Food Matters Manitoba when the Immigrant Centre, an organization in partnership with FMM, requested the Newcomer Nutrition Program be taught in Arabic to support Syrian refugees. In taking up this challenge, FMM widened our program reach to meet an important community need. Ala’a was perfect for the job with fluency in Arabic and with her plentiful experience in facilitating nutrition programs.
In 2007, while working on her Masters in Jordan, where she is from, she started a Community Nutrition Program for displaced Iraqis. Now in Canada as an international student and a PhD candidate in Nutrition, she continues with her work at the community level. Ala’a is able to translate more than just the recipes and knowledge of where to find ingredients in Canada. She is able to connect with people through her own experience and share her wide knowledge in culturally appropriate ways so that participants are better positioned to make positive choices. “I can help people to adjust well in a really short time and that is very satisfying.”
The FMM curriculum includes instruction about preparing the familiar foods from back home with ingredients that are available in Canada as well as teaching about Canadian foods. “People want to be able to fit in here, and it is important. They had enough adventure to come to Canada, they are willing to try new things.”
“One of the big differences I have found in Canada,” Ala’a explains, “is the interest to meet the needs of diverse cultural groups.” The support she gets from FMM staff has been an important resource as she has integrated this into her teaching. “People at Food Matters are friendly, they really know how to deal with people from outside the country,” she adds. Ala’a found a friendly, warm welcome from FMM, and sees this is consistent for program participants too, which she knows is not always the case for newcomers. Learning is more effective for people when they know that they are respected and affirmed and this contributes to the success of FMM programs. Ala’a is herself ‘good medicine’ for the people she works with.