Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

East African Women’s Exercise & Nutrition Program

As an intern for CIC this year, one of my assignments has been to help the Woman’s Exercise and Nutrition Initiative. As a former student athlete this is close to my heart and something I wanted to help successfully start, and to participate in as well. The initiative began with an idea that Mastora Bakhiet, founder of the Darfur Woman’s Network, had to help her community. She knew of many immigrant and refugee women who don’t know how to exercise or eat healthy in America. The majority of the women cannot work out at a gym because of modesty concerns and need an all-woman area to work out. Mastora came to the Center for Interfaith Cooperation with an idea to start this workout and nutrition group and our office quickly jumped on board to figure out how to make this idea work.

Things quickly began to fall into place. The Interchurch Center has an all but forgotten fitness room, so they had a place to work out when the program began. About a month ago, the women started coming two times a week (Mondays and Wednesdays). The only major roadblock was in the nutrition part of the program. Mastora and her team wanted a kitchen so they could practice cooking healthy, but the Interchurch Center does not have a full kitchen. When the program began they were able to work around the lack of kitchen by simply talking about healthy foods and ways to change their diets … but there was still a need for a kitchen.

In Fairview Presbyterian kitchen

In Fairview Presbyterian kitchen

I began looking for areas nearby that had kitchens that may be willing to let the women come there to cook once a week. I contacted Fairview Presbyterian and met with one of the pastors at the church. They were excited about the program, showed me the kitchen, and told me the options and the process of getting the program started there. They began to get the ball rolling on their end and I got in touch with everyone on my end. After getting it approved on both sides, Mastora, her team, and my boss Charlie Wiles, went over to look at the kitchen and hash out the final details. The meeting went really well and not only do the women cook there on Mondays; they will also use another room to do workouts on Mondays. Wednesdays they will continue coming to the Interchurch Center and focus on the exercise part of the program.

renee and friend

Personal trainer Renee McCord leads exercises

I love that I have been given the opportunity to work with and help these women. I now workout with them on Wednesdays and it is very rewarding. It is fun. We push each other and help each other. Coming from a team atmosphere of college sports, I recognize the importance of working out as a group. It gives you not only someone who holds you accountable, but also a friend who shares in your post workout soreness or even your pre workout hesitance on those days you are less than motivated. I am very happy that I had the chance to help this group start up recognizing that a healthy lifestyle will not just help these women but will also benefit their families.


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