In my earliest memories, I&#039;m eating sticky rice cakes and coconuts cut fresh from the tree in the Philippines. Layer that with tangy German sauerkraut at Christmas dinner with family in Wisconsin. Sprinkle some Persian rose water and cardamom, with a side of spicy-sweet Senegalese peanut stew and Moroccan mint tea from my travels.
All of this is the menu of my life.
I studied Peace and Conflict Resolution as an undergraduate, in addition to degrees in Political Science, International Relations, and African Studies. I conducted fieldwork in Senegal and worked with a program that facilitates the reinsertion of ex-combatants into villages scarred by war. I also volunteered with an interfaith dialogue and reconciliation program in Israel/Palestine, facilitating cross-cultural understanding of trauma. As a Fulbright Scholar in Morocco, I examined the implementation of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations for the victims of human rights abuses and interned at a Medical Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture. I then relocated to Washington DC where I worked in policy and development and learned about the underbelly of politics. I am currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland as a George Mitchell Scholar, where my fieldwork focuses on translating trauma survivors’ healing needs into actionable policy in post-conflict environments.
Beyond my academic career, I use my passion for holistic nutrition and cooking as a useful tool for those who have experienced the unthinkable. I seek to create safe spaces for survivors of trauma and conflict (and really, we are all survivors of something, aren’t we?) to nourish ourselves and to share a table with support network of like-minded individuals.
To that end, I started a program in 2011 called PeaceMeals, which gathers groups of trauma survivors for non-clinical group therapy in the kitchen and around the dinner table. There is a twist, however: each meal is nutritionally tailored to address certain post-trauma symptoms. With light guidance, groups lead conversations according to their needs and grow organic and authentic support networks.
Sustainable healing happens from the inside out. I believe this can begin at the dinner table, and does not end as the dishes are washed up.
When I&#039;m not cooking up a storm in the kitchen or communing at the table, I also enjoy trail running, traveling, yoga, and nerding out over holistic nutrition, maps, and pilgrimages.