Monday, February 24, 2014

Learning Heart Health with HEAL Students

This morning ARISE academy's enrichment class of 5th and 6th graders learned about heart health. Being that February is American Heart Month we invited Dr. Daphne Ferdinand, Executive Director of Healthy Heart Community Prevention Project, to teach children how the heart really works.

She began the "How to be Heart Smart" class by introducing students to the heart as an organ. Students held up their fists to gauge how large the heart is, they placed a hand on their chest to feel their hearts beat, and repeated heart terminology such as "cardiovascular". Dr. Ferdinand wanted the children to become familiar with and recognize words that are frequently used to describe the heart. She went on to explain arteries, veins, chambers, and valves. Diagrams of the heart enabled the children to see just what the vital organ looks like and the path in which blood flows.

After describing cardiovascular disease (ie. heart disease), Dr. Ferdinand prompted the students to think about how this disease could affect each one of them. She asked them to recall someone in their family with the disease. Many of them could. She also asked what they thought it felt like to have a heart attack. Responses included, "It's really hard to breathe", "There's a really bad pain in your heart", and "You could almost die."A drawing of a plaque- filled artery was presented to illustrate why a heart attack occurs. One student commented, "It looks like something's stuck in there." She was exactly right. As plaque builds up, less and less blood (and oxygen) can pass through the arteries. When the artery becomes completely blocked off, part of the muscle dies and a heart attack occurs.

Some great questions were posed by the students. Alexis asked how heartburn was related to the topic being discussed. Dr. Ferdinand explained that heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart, but rather a re-flux of food/gastric juice from the stomach into the esophagus. It's called heartburn because the sensation is generally felt near the heart.

The "lecture" portion of the class ended with an explanation of risk factors and means of prevention. Un-modifiable risk factors, such as age, gender, and family history, are just some of the factors to be aware of. Thankfully, modifiable risk factors are plentiful and are things that we have the ability to change. These risk factors include: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, being overweight or obese, diabetes, and being inactive. Consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains was emphasized as means of prevention. There was also a large focus on exercise and drinking more water instead of sugary beverages.

The more interactive portion of the class involved students dividing into groups and listening to each others' heartbeats using stethoscopes.


The heart health message will continue this afternoon in the HEAL club, as the students create a heart- healthy fruit smoothie!

6 Fun Facts About the Heart:

1. The word coronary means "crown", hence the coronary arteries crown over the heart.

2. Aerobic exercise (aka. cardio) is a form of exercise that increases heart rate, therefore working the heart muscle.
3. "Heartburn" has nothing to do with the heart, rather the digestive system.

4. The heart beats on average 100,000 times per day.

5. Each year almost 1 million people have heart attacks in the United States alone.

6. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of Americans each year.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sankofa HEAL Project Receives Award by AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation!

Last week Sankofa staff, Astrazeneca HealthCare Foundation chairman Dr. James Blaseto, respected members of the community, several members of the press, and numerous HEAL club members packed into classroom 317 of ARISE Academy. The reason we hosted this gathering was for us to show the local community just what we do at Sankofa Community Development Corporation. In addition to sharing our efforts and progress with the community, we also celebrated our relationship with AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation. This is the third consecutive year we have received an award from the HealthCare Foundation. Our acceptance of this generous gift can be seen above.

Zedekiyan Morrison, HEAL participant, who is pictured below, shared her experiences as a project participant.

We were honored to have other speakers such as Dr. Daphne Ferdinand Executive Director of Healthy Heart Community Prevention Project, Dr. Denese Shervington President of Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, and Pam Broom Board Member from The Reconciliation Institute also speak on our behalf. 

The room was filled with posters and photos of Sankofa's current and past work in the community.

Our nutrition educator, Kelly Bond, planned out the refreshment table, and with the help of HEAL club students and Sankofa staff the delicious treats became a reality. 

We offered citrus infused water to drink, which was thoroughly enjoyed by attendees. We used Meyer lemons from Rashida's lemon tree and cucumbers to give the water a unique taste.


Since it was a rather chilly and rainy morning, we had hot tea as well. We decided to utilize the large rosemary bush flourishing in the school's garden. 

Sprigs of the herb were added to hot water, along with hibiscus and orange tea bags (giving the drink that gorgeous color you can see below). We offered slices of lemon and local honey to top off the soothing tea. 

Because rosemary is quite healthy, Miss Kelly put together a small flyer describing the herb and explaining its health benefits to guests. 

Just as the enrichment students had enjoyed fruit kebabs during class time, we also had them for guests to enjoy at the press conference. Instead of using strawberries, this time we used local Louisiana oranges. The HEAL club kids placed the orange slices on toothpicks the day prior to the event. Very helpful!

The HEAL club also prepared the guacamole needed for the cucumber sandwiches. Since they came out so well, we've decided to share the recipe with you below! Enjoy!

Refreshing Cucumber and Guacamole Sandwiches 
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 4 ripe Haas avocados
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbl cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • First you want to prepare the guacamole, as it should sit in the refrigerator for about an hour after preparation. To begin, mash the avocados in a large bowl and squeeze the lime juice over them. Toss to coat. 
  • Mash the salt and cumin into the avocado mixture. Fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. 
  • Cover the guacamole tightly with plastic wrap to prevent it from browning and place the bowl in the refrigerator for one hour. 
  • Slice up the cucumbers. Spread a small amount of the chilled guacamole between two slices of cucumber to create your sandwiches. Be careful not to place too much guacamole in the sandwich, if you do you'll wind up with a mess! You can stick toothpicks in the sandwiches to keep them together.
  • You'll likely have some leftover guacamole, just tightly cover it with plastic wrap and stick it back in the refrigerator until you use it. Baking your own pita chips is a great way to use up any leftover guacamole!

Monday, February 10, 2014

What's in a Recipe?

This morning during ARISE academy's enrichment class, the kids learned about recipes. Miss Kelly was the guest speaker, presenting on why we use recipes, what recipes consist of, and reviewed the specific recipes we would create during the HEAL after school club.

The children were excited to see pictures of how certain fruits and vegetables grow, while Miss Kelly explained the health benefits of eating each one. We talked about vitamin K in cucumbers, healthy fats in avocados, lycopene in tomatoes, potassium in bananas, and vitamin C in oranges to name a few. It was thrilling to see how many students could recognize produce in the early stages of growth.

Due to the large volume of questions the kids had, we reserved a Q&A period at the end of class time. Each student asked Miss Kelly a question (or two), and received two fruit kebabs to sample. 

The kebabs had sliced strawberries and bananas on them. They were thoroughly enjoyed by the students and raised several more questions. Where are the seeds in a banana? Why does a strawberry have its seeds on the outside? What is the purpose of seeds? There seemed to be a huge curiosity about seeds in various fruit.

Banana and Strawberry Fruit Kebabs
In the afternoon, students in the HEAL club had the opportunity to create food for the press conference we are hosting tomorrow morning.

For the conference we'll be serving citrus infused water, rosemary lemon tea, guacamole filled cucumber sandwiches, and fruit kebabs. At the HEAL club meeting the kids prepared homemade guacamole to fill the cucumber sandwiches. They also placed all the orange slices on the kebabs (because the bananas would brown, those will have to wait until tomorrow to go on).

The finished guacamole ready for sampling :)
Our day of food preparation was a success. Attendees of the HEAL club tasted and enjoyed the guac filled cucumber sandwiches. Stay tuned for the recipe!

We continue to beautify the garden in preparation for tomorrow morning's press conference. Now if only the rain would hold off!


Welcome to Sankofa Speaks Blog

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."  - Harriet Tubman.  Sankofa Speaks, the new Sankofa blog space will include diverse community perspectives on health and provide a platform for Sankofa HEAL students to share the work they are doing with the Mobile Market and Learning Gardens. This blog will be a space for HEAL students to both learn and share information, and speak on issues that are important to their development and self-empowerment as leaders in our community. Additionally, the blog will promote health and wellness by sharing healthy cooking recipes, link to information on nutrition and health, and provide current updates on the Sankofa Mobile Market. Please join us at Sankofa Speaks to work with us to positively impact our lives and work with us to bring our dreams to reality as the creators of our future. 

Rashida Ferdinand
Founder and Executive Director
Sankofa Community Development Corporation