Author: Jessica Norman
Published: Friday, March 2 2012
For the past three weeks I had the opportunity to do my rotation at Casa de Salud. Not only was I thrilled to be able to “practicar mi Español”, but I was equally as excited to work directly with the Hispanic population in a community setting. My favorite experience of this rotation occurred during my first week. I did a nutrition education at Catholic charities for a group of about 30 Hispanic women.
Before I arrived, I prepared a lesson plan and spent a good deal of time on a colorful, detailed poster on “Como leer las etiquetas de nutrición” or “How to Read Food Labels”. I even picked up the box of food labels up from the department and was going to go over them. When I began my presentation, I introduced myself to the women and gave them an overview of what I was going to discuss that day. The room was dead silent, which only exacerbated my nervousness of talking in Spanish, a language I had not used extensively in some time. I began to talk about my first subject on my poster, which was “grasa” or fat. One woman raised her hand and asked me a question. From this point on, I never even looked at or mentioned my poster again. The questions started flooding at me from all directions, and the room turned into a center of conversation and laughter. The questions ranged anywhere from portion sizes to how many calories they should be eating to confusion over fats and sugars and whether or not they should be eating nuts like almonds and pistachios. They wanted to know what fiber was and why it was important. Many of the questions centered on their children’s nutrition. They were curious about milk, what were appropriate snacks and portion sizes for their kids, or what they should do if their child was iron-deficient. Mind you, this was all in Spanish. I had one woman asked me if it was okay if she gave her child “Quik”. My response was “¿Qué es el Quik?” The women spent at least five minutes trying to explain to me what it was, and I still had no idea. One woman made the joke, “ella no debe tener hijos” or “she must not have kids”, which aroused considerable laughter from the group, including myself. It wasn’t until one woman showed me a picture on her smartphone of the little yellow container with a bunny on it that I realized they were talking Nesquik, the term I associated with this product. Once past this minor struggle, the questions and the discussion continued for about an hour in total and only stopped because we ran out of time.
So “qué es el punto” or what is the point of this posting? Be open and flexible during nutrition educations and don’t feel you have to strictly adhere to what you have prepared. Pay attention to your audience, focus on their questions and concerns, and facilitate an open discussion. Remember that not only do we teach during our educations but we also learn from those that we interact with. This was a personally rewarding experience for me; even though these women and I came from two different backgrounds and had never met each other before, we were able to laugh and carry on a discussion for over an hour, and they were able to confide in me. Lastly, it is important to understand that different cultural groups have different needs. You MUST learn your culturally appropriate terms. You never know when someone is going to ask you about “Quik”!