Idaho Documentarian Profiles Harvard Students Saving Lives in Uganda

Mar 14, 2014

Uganda children enrolled in the Initiative to End Child Malnutrition
Credit Karen Day

Idaho filmmaker Karen Day has a new documentary, featuring college students making a difference in the world. 

In 2010, college students at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital decided they would end childhood malnutrition in Uganda. In the four years of the project, the Initiative to End Childhood Nutrition has saved thousands of lives. That project is documented in Day's new film called “From the Ground Up."

The documentary focuses on kids from Harvard traveling to Rukungiri in Uganda. “They couldn’t figure out why within this District of 300,000 people, one in three kids were dying of malnutrition,” says Day. Turns out, there was one cash crop, corn, and for the first six months of their lives, babies were eating only corn mush.

Harvard students went on the ground in Uganda to find out what was wrong, and how to fix it.

“We have to teach people what to grow. We have to teach them how to cook it. We need to teach them about a balanced diet,” says Day. “They set up a barter system, a 20 percent harvesting coop in several villages so that in the lean times there’s always food available that is not just corn.”

Harvard student weighing in undernourished Ugandan Child
Credit Karen Day

Day says the project worked. “There are 300,000 in the District of Rukungiri and right now they have eliminated child nutrition 98 percent within that province.”

The project was also designed to be repeatable, in other places around the globe. “These kids worked on this project for five years and produced a database that makes is completely replicable at any University.”

Day says that as a humanitarian filmmaker, she hopes “From the Ground Up” tells a powerful message. “To me, what I want people to take away from all of my work is I can make a difference. One person can make a difference.  The power of one.”

“From the Ground Up” will be shown Sunday at Boise State University and at the Sun Valley Film Festival.

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