This post has been simmering away in my head and heart for a long time now.
I’ve been saying I was going to put it together for the last three weeks – or, to be honest, the last YEAR, as the idea for a project like this first got me all excited and riled up long before this moment – but here I am at 4:32pm on my last possible day deadline and the studio is clean and our living room furniture has been re-arranged three times and I’m very caught up on Facebook and email – annnnd I have exactly zero words written down.
Pretty sure I am the personification of The Resistance right now.
The Resistance = the more important the work, the more vulnerable and core to our souls it is, the harder it is to actually sit down and do it.
Here’s the deal: today I’m asking you to step into uncharted Pinch of Yum territory with me. Today I’m taking you to a place that is one hundred million times more important to me than Lentil Curry and Spring Roll Bowls but its a place that has never really had a for-sure, real, tangible home here on Pinch of Yum.
This place is on a breathtakingly beautiful (and hot – SO SO HOT) island in the Philippines, up a bumpy gravel road nestled between the tropical mountains of Cebu, and it is and orphanage that is home to 80-some children. It’s called The Children’s Shelter of Cebu.
It is my deepest honor today to be taking you to this place. In taking you there, I’m also doing something that I hope will make my heart a little braver and will make you braver, too –> I’m showing up, doing work that I think matters, letting myself and what I care about be seen, and embracing the vulnerable reality of asking you to be a part of something LIFE SAVING and LIFE GIVING with me.
How It All Started
February 2012: Bjork and I were 24 years old, living in a suburb of Minneapolis, working jobs that we liked, and we had just booked two round-trip tickets to the Philippines.
*SEE AWKWARD FILTER SELFIE*
We thought it would be “fun” to take advantage of our summer break to go visit this precious place that my siblings called home for more than half of their lives before they were adopted seven years ago. Two week trip = booked.
March 2012: I was driving home after parent-teacher conferences. It was late, the road was dark and empty, and my cell phone rang. I picked up and Bjork said: “LINDS. THEY JUST ASKED US TO MOVE TO THE PHILIPPINES FOR A YEAR.”
June 2012: Cars: SOLD. Jobs: QUIT. Bjork and Lindsay: on a one-way flight to the Philippines.*
*fights, anxiety takeovers, cry fests, and generally OMG moments in between shall go unmentioned
I was working at the orphanage as a teacher, and Pinch of Yum was already in its early existence when we left, so we took it with us and did our best to keep it alive abroad. And strangely enough, it continued to grow even with limited access to familiar ingredients and fast internet, and it was during that year that I first even entertained the idea of doing the blog full time. Full circle, right?
We lived there for a year, worked at the orphanage, did our blog thing on the side, and came back home to Minnesota.
—> MANY OF YOU ALREADY KNOW THIS STORY.
Which leads me to the part you probably don’t know:
That year in the Philippines?
It was REALLY HARD.
Not hard in the emoji with a smile and a sweat bead on the forehead hard.
Hard in the “I don’t know if I’m going to make it through this in one piece because I’m in such a dark place” hard. For so many different reasons that don’t really matter now.
It was just a really low, hard time in my life.
I wanted it to work so badly, I did. I saw both Filipino and American people around me living out what they valued so vibrantly even amidst the chaos and challenge of poverty and life in a developing country, and I was so inspired. I wanted to be this kind of person. But I was brought down to size by the reality that I might not be cut out for this kind of work. What I thought I was good at? How I envisioned this all playing out? Maybe not so much.
You guys, these are the things that I’m still working through. I’m still struggling with the fact that we’ve come back, and I’m living this life doing this thing that I love that is a lot of work and superbusy and fast-paced… but is generally very comfortable. I love what we do and it energizes me and keeps me up at night with ideas and inspiration, and at the same time, I’m still (three years later) feeling this tug towards the Philippines and the orphanage and orphan care and everything that it all represents, even though, in so many ways, living there and working there felt like all kinds of wrong for us.
If you read those posts while we lived there and felt that negativity and wondered if this was really just such a difficult place, I owe you one hundred apologies.
Because even though I still haven’t worked it all out yet, all that hard stuff? It’s not the full story.
And I owe you the full story.
There was an infinitely sweet, rich, divine and life-changing side to the struggle. If I had to sum it all up into a most-important-thing sentence, I’d say this:
We saw work that was LITERALLY SAVING LIVES.
Not in the cutesy literal way. In the LITERALLY literal way of putting food in babies’ mouths who would have otherwise not had anything to eat. Literally as in taking kids to the hospital who would die without treatment. Literally as in offering hope and healing and counseling to children and teenagers who had been victims of abuse.
This place? The people who I know personally, who I have seen doing this work? This is the Children’s Shelter of Cebu.
The Children’s Shelter of Cebu is an orphanage where a small group of American staff work alongside Filipino house parents, aunties, security guards, drivers, counselors, teachers, and nurses to care for children who are without homes and without families.
They exist to ascribe unsurpassable worth to children who are otherwise malnourished, abused, and unwanted.
ASCRIBE UNSURPASSABLE WORTH.
So I’ll BRB my eyes have sweat water in them or something bc I cannot handle the weight, the power, the truth in that phrase: ascribe. unsurpassable. worth.
ASCRIBE UNSURPASSABLE WORTH looks like kids playing in an safe oasis of a yard, climbing on playgrounds and running in green grass and being reminded to wear shoes and helmets and hey! quit running around near the toddlers with a sharp stick, you little bugger! all inside the walls of a 24/7 guarded compound.
ASCRIBE UNSURPASSABLE WORTH sounds like crickets and the night breeze blowing through the windows as babies nestle into their cribs with blankets and kids stir in their beds and the aunties softly sing Cebuano lullabies to the kids when they wake up afraid and confused and crying.
ASCRIBE UNSURPASSABLE WORTH feels like grueling hours spent in a hot, hot, hot (think of the hottest possible place you can think of and then multiply it by 100 – this special feeling brought to you by the Philippines!) hot kitchen making nutritious, clean, nourishing food for those tiny hungry bellies.
Fast Forward To Today
March 2016: We’ve been home in Minnesota now for almost three years, but this month we had the honor of going back to the Philippines and doing some photo and video work for the Children’s Shelter of Cebu. Joy of joy of joys. I feel like I won the lottery to be able to step so intimately into an organization and basically use photos, videos, and now this weird little food blog to SHOW OFF the amazing things that these everyday heroes are doing. It was stirring and energizing and strangely peaceful and it felt like one good, deep, long, slow breath.
On the very last day that we were at the shelter – except not just the last day, it was literally the last 15 minutes of our time at the shelter (this 11th hour theme is going strong, right?), we heard Marlys, the founder of the orphanage, calling across the yard to us that there were two new babies about to arrive.
Babies. About to arrive. Because from this day on, until their forever family came to take them home, they would have a new soft place to land: in the arms of the aunties and house parents at the shelter.
I was immediately feeling everything about the whole situation. (<- hi my life as a Feeler.)
Truly, there can be no moment more surreal, more earth-shattering than literally watching the trajectory of a tiny human’s life change forever.
It feels on-level with what I imagine it’s like to watch a birth. It’s the most meaningful and impactful of any possible life moment playing in real time, happening right in front of your eyes, and there is such a clear BEFORE, and such a clear AFTER, and it all seems like it should be so straightforward and measurable, and yet you know so confidently in your core that you are watching something MORE than what’s straightforward and measurable. In those heavy seconds you are witnessing something that your eyes can’t literally see but your heart senses on a higher, almost spiritual level. It’s like watching the world split wide open.
Even in this moment after its all said and done, I still cannot fathom the weight, the gravity, the joy and heartbreak and hope all packed into those few quick blinks between the two phrases – WE’RE GETTING TWO NEW BABIES and THEY’RE HERE.
Bjork was in the middle of something when we heard the news called across the yard (middle of something = drowning in a crowd of 20-some kids in a piggy back marathon), so he motioned for me to try to get some video of the babies coming in for a video project we were working on.
I grabbed the camera, ran over to the driveway where the van would come in, set up off to the side with my camera, wiped the sweat off my palms / tried to stop shaking, and turned the camera on.
The van honked at the front like it always does, and the guards opened the gate. It pulled in, the van doors opened, and the world took a deep breath in and just hung there for a few seconds. And then, with a gentle exhale, it happened:
The first social worker stepped out with a wide-awake and chubby little boy nestled in her arms, cooing and smiling and looking around wide-eyed, and the second social worker stepped out with one arm holding a frail baby girl, and one arm wrapped tenderly around the girl’s mother — a 14-year-old girl who we learned was a victim of sexual assault. Precious lives of unsurpassable worth, altogether fracturing and healing and changing right in the middle of this driveway on a Tuesday afternoon as the other kids continued to play, birds continued to chirp, and the sun continued to beat down on all of us forever (God bless the people of the Philippines). Together all five of them slowly made their way up the walk to the medical wing at the shelter with a small posse of aunties, staff, nurses, and curious kids trailing at a respectful distance.
As they prepared to bathe and feed the babies before their medical evaluation, I stood there with the social workers inside the infirmary. I was totally out of place, awkwardly holding the video camera in the back corner and trying to maintain dry eyes as I watched the social workers care so tenderly for the babies and the mother. All in a day’s work. So really, what I mean by that is watching the manifestation of LOVE AT WORK and LIVES LITERALLY BEING CHANGED right in front of my eyes.
It was hope materialized in the form of gentle hugs and kisses, a bath, clean clothes, and an eagerly accepted bottle.
And here’s the thing: I’m maybe a little dramatic sometimes, but I know it for a fact because I lived here for a full year and I’m most definitely not being dramatic now: this is what its like here every single day. Life-changing love work is being done around the clock. 24/7/365. It was like this when I lived there, and it STILL is now.
So here’s what we’re going to do.
That story I just told you?
We’re going to make it happen 20 MORE TIMES.
We don’t know who these future 20 small souls are yet – they have yet to arrive at the gates of the shelter. Can’t you just picture them? Girls, boys, more babies, toddlers, school-aged kids, and even teenagers – we don’t know. But we know that we are going to hold space for that hope to be offered 20 more times – because that’s the number of new kid referrals that CSC expects to get between now and the end of the year, and because when all the recipes have been pinned, when all the comments have been left, and all the noodles have been slurped – THIS is what we are about. I just feel so strongly that I’m not alone in this. Are you with me?
So how do we this, exactly? We’re going to PAY FOR THE FOOD that will feed these 20 new kids.
In the village that it takes to care for these abandoned children, we have a role, and that role is FOOD-BRINGERS.
Although if it was up to me, I’d probably pick food other than little fishies with eyeballs still in them, but whatever. Details.
Between now and December 2016, an estimated 20 more kids will be welcomed into the shelter. The cost of the nutritious food for each of these kids per year is about $1,000.
20 kids x $1,000 of nutritious food = $20,000
In 5 days.
Can I just be really upfront with you for a second?
A) If you’re not in this with us, it doesn’t work. Just to state the obvious and scary. It really doesn’t work without you.
B) We (CSC, Bjork, and I) talked at great length about how we would be more likely to get better engagement with this post, with your giving, if we tackled a specific, above-and-beyond special project. Think: building a playground. adding on to the school. buying more beds.
We said: People want to be able to give to something that they can see completed. People like the sparkly projects.
But then we said: There is no sparkly project need right now. The greatest need is the most basic and humble and unsparkly.
And finally I said: Our people have Big Love Hearts and they don’t need sparkly things to feel like they matter in this story.
The buildings are already there.
The playground is in good condition.
The bunk beds and cribs are ready.
The aunties and house parents and counselors and social workers and nurses – everyone is standing ready, waiting with open arms, so prepared to ascribe unsurpassable worth to these new little ones that will come through the gates in 2016.
So what is it then?
It’s milk. It’s clean water. It’s fresh fruit and vegetables and fish for dinner, and spaghetti with fried chicken for birthday parties. It’s vitamin-enriched formula and special allergy-sensitive alternatives for the littles who need it.
So this is our moment: we’re going to feed the 20 new kids that come in to the shelter this year.
It’s less glamorous than the add-on to the school or the new beds for the houses, for sure. That would be a really awesome Someday Project, wouldn’t it? But at this moment in time, glamorous is not a need. I’m withholding my urge to use the nail painting emoji at this moment in time not appropriate not appropriate not appropriate.
This – good, nutritious, readily available food – this is the truest need. Starting RIGHT NOW, today.
- All donations go directly to The Children’s Shelter of Cebu, which is an official 501(c)3, so every penny of your donation is tax deductible.
- This is a partnership, and we recognize our role in the partnership. So when you show up, we – Bjork, me, Sage, Pinch of Yum – show up right there with you. We will match $1 for every $5 donated until the goal is met.
- Any size donation matters. We value the $10 donations as much as the $100 ones because it reflects TEAM AWESOMENESS. We can’t do it without you!
- We only support organizations with the highest standards of donation stewardship. The Children’s Shelter of Cebu is in the rare top 9% of organizations that have received the highest possible rating from Charity Navigator.
GOAL: $20,000 in 5 days
- Click here.
- Select a donation amount.
- Fill in your info.
- Envision the face of the future baby or teenager or toddler that you just opened your arms to with that meal. ♡ Envision their bright, loved and cherished future. You are a food-bringer and a beloved part of this team.
EXTRA CREDIT POINTS:
Share this post. Share share share share share. Share this post with the people you know who will care about it, because I know you know these kinds of people.
Facebook, email, text, other modern ways of communicating… I don’t know. You guys are probably a little savvier than me about these things.
But don’t snail mail, and don’t wait, because five days goes fast.
SUPER EXTRA CREDIT POINTS FOR THE OVERACHIEVERS (and I really hope you do this one):
- Think of someone who you consider a HERO. The person who has opened doors of hospitality for you and filled your plate (literally / figuratively) with good, nutritious food. The one who has shown you radical love when you needed it most. The one that saved your life. Or, maybe not so flashy. Maybe just the one who has been an everyday hero of generosity by sharing meals when you’ve gone through a hard time. The one who asks meaningful questions and sends you random encouraging calls and texts. Got that person in mind?
- Give your donation in honor of her. When you donate, leave a comment on CrowdRise when you donate with her name and a quick snippet explaining her awesomeness on your donation form, and we will come back to this post and add her shout-out to our Very Official Hero Roster at the end of this post.
- Send her the post to let her know that she’s a hero, because sometimes heroes don’t know they’re heroes and that kind of thing can be super encouraging to hear. Or share on Facebook and tag her so THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS. Mwahahaha! Can’t hide anymore, Hero Girl.
*I used a HER as my example, but it could also be a HIM! I am confident that our list will include both.
This gap between what is deeply meaningful to me and what I actually do with my online presence has been poking at me for a slow, long, restless time. Sometimes I feel a little aimless with what I’m doing – it’s one of the best possible jobs on the planet to write a blog, and especially a blog about food, and yet still sometimes it feels a little hollow. Chicken wild rice soup can only fill your soul up so far, you know?
With that, I have a big feeling that you feel the same yearning that I do – that we can do more with our lives than talk about Lentil Curry (LOVE IT) and Spring Roll Bowls (current obsession), even though those are also greatly delicious things that we shall never stray far from, forever and ever amen.
We can do more!
The world is hurting hard, and children of unsurpassable worth are longing for families and shelter and food, but good news: we are the food-bringers and we are SHOWING UP.
5 days. Here goes.
And while you’re all showing up like the food-bringing heroes that you are over the next five days, you can know that I will definitely be doing more productive things than just hitting refresh on the page (LIES).
20 new kids, and a year’s worth of food for each of them – our food-loving community can do this.
My heart is full of hope.
*the Hero Roster will be updated every 30 minutes with names in the order they were received
Mary Mork: For 30 years of meals for our family ♡ love you mom! – Lindsay
Grandpa Donn: For making me Sunday night malts and watching The Statler Brothers together. – Bjork
For my HERO Mary Younkin – Amanda Rettke
For my HERO Aimee Shugarman – Amanda Rettke
For my family. How am I so lucky to have you. – Becky Hardin
My HERO, John. You give from your heart always, no questions asked, just love. – Johnna
In Memory of my Mom, Joanne. – Sue
For My HERO Kristen. You *WoW* me with your work to fight hunger locally. – Johnna
Tribute to my sister, Rita, who is one of the most caring, helpful persons I know. – Laureen King
In honor of my hero, my mom, for keeping bellies happy, full, and nourished for decades and counting. – Mary Cressler
To my heroes, plural: Don and Leslie – no one has been there for me like them. Let’s strive to be a ‘hero’ to children all over the globe. – Trina Harris
For my mom: Thanks for eating mushrooms on our pizza all those years…even though you hated them and I loved them. You’re the best! – Leah Short
In memory of my parents, who had the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever known. – Kalyn Denny
To my parents for always giving me unconditional love and confidence. And for my son who makes the world a better place by being in it. – Gretchen
This is for my mom, who is always finding a way to reach out to people. – Anonymous
Isabelle Nicolet: For being my constant support, and source of love. – Jessica N.
For Valerie Mills Daly. In memory of her gentle, unyielding commitment to feed the world with food and love. – Anonymous
In memory of Edna Shaffer whose table was open to all and whose food was as memorable as her hugs and endless love. – Anonymous
For my Aunt M.E. and all the lives she touched as a missionary and for my mom who is an everyday hero to all who have the privilege of knowing her. – Mary Younkin
This is a tribute to Cathy Shaffer who has literally given the coat off of her back and the food from her table to people who she didn’t know more times than I can count. – Anonymous
This is a tribute to the life of service Jim Daly has given to people. He sees their needs even if they don’t and will do whatever he can for them. – Anonymous
For everyone who has ever stepped in on my behalf. – Libby
In memory of Alice. – Anonymous
In memory of my grandmother, Annie, whose kitchen welcomed and fed everyone. – Anonymous
For the selfless people who give themselves to help others everyday. – Tori
For my parents, Don & Dorothy, incredible and incredibly missed, because mom lives so far away and dad is in heaven. – Dee Tackmier
In memory of my dad “Polock” who was an amazing example of loving others. – Jill Grasley
For my mom, who is Filipino and dedicated her life to making me who I am. – Jasmine S.
For my gramma Patricia, who gave me shelter from the storm and filled my belly when no one else could. – Ashlee Aleshire-Ash
In memory of my stepfather, who also saved lives. – Karen Rose
On behalf of my mom, who has always ascribed unsurpassable worth to us during even the hardest of times. – Mellissa Sevigny
For the kids. – Cassandra
For my group of heroes – the Le and Frey family – Love you all!! – Bao Le
In memory of my wonderful parents who would have loved to contribute to this wonderful cause. – Merle
In memory of Dr. Mayes, who taught me to always fight the good fight, and lead with my heart. – Anonymous
For my mom, Lenora, who continues to amaze and give and give and give. – Anonymous
In honor of my mom and dad for always putting food in our stomachs and love in our hearts, paying it forward! Love you both. – Angela
Lindsay Ostrom: In honor of your bravery. You inspire me with every email! – Allison
For the Pinch of Yum family – such special souls – Anne
For my wonderful mom. – Anonymous
For my family, who nourishes me – heart, soul and tummy. – Tracy
To honor the 20 + year friendship of Amanda and all the food we have created together. – Angela
In honor of my healthy and happy grandchildren. – Cindy Jewell
In honor of our daughter and her work with the homeless. – Kate
For my beautiful children who have no idea how lucky they are! – Kim Lee
My mom Judy: For being the one to show me that food is a way to say I love you. – Katelyn
To my mom and dad who gave me a family, a hope and a life of unconditional love and support. – KD
For my parents, Byron & Linda, who kept me fed (literally and spiritually) growing up, and still feed me now from time to time. – Anonymous
For all of the men and women who strive to make a different in other’s lives. To use their own time and energy to unselfishly help others in need, you are the true heroes. – Alyss Bernier
In memory of my mom, Tiz. – Annette
Honoring my three children who were always blessed with food. – Anonymous
In honor and loving memory of my forever hero, Jannie Lim. – Anonymous
For my mama… whose food has brought us together time and time again! – Sally
In memory of my parents who practice kindness to others throughout their lives. – Lillian
For my grandmother, who taught me to love food & people. – Keisha
This is to you Lindsay and Bjork, you are our Hero Rosters – for finding real purpose in this world and having the strength to make a difference. – Melody & Parham Nasseri
For the children and for Pinch of Yum for taking the risk. – Diane
To my best friend Gina, who feeds my heart and soul. – Anonymous
For my hero Easton – who is the bravest person I know. – Deborah
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
We are going to make things happen and I love us for it.
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