Who hasn’t heard of the Mango Project yet? If you haven’t, you are definitely missing out on a lot! Founded by none other than our very own alum, Micah Hughes, this project aims to combat malnutrition in Africa. Having always been an avid believer in being a part of something bigger, and in contributing to humanity, Micah had always been eager to learn about ways in which he can help people around the world, especially in the less fortunate areas.
When asked what factors influenced his decision about going to Uganda, Micah explained; “My time in Egypt was very international, and I was looking for an emerging experience, in a context where I’m totally learning from another culture. So I spent 6 months in Northern Uganda”.
Realizing that malnutrition is just as severe as major diseases or epidemics was a complete shock to Micah at first. He could clearly see that in some of the most beautiful and lush areas in Uganda, where mangos are known to grow in abundance, children were dying to severe lack of major nutrients because of the type of food they were eating. Micah explained, “I felt this very deep need to make a change, and what is the biggest cure? Prevention.” He learned that the main problem was that while there were huge amounts of mangos grown in a specific season, this was not the case for the rest of the year. It was one of the main contributors of children deaths in Uganda. This was when the idea first came to Micah. The Mango Project, which is certainly not only about mangoes, is based on the concept of putting ripe mangoes in vacuum jars, and being able to sell them throughout the year. This could become a source of annual income for growers and therefore nutrition to all the people who are involved, as they can then sell them and end up with a monthly income to buy other food.
It was a turning point for Micah when he realized that this was the path he needed to take in his life. “I started teaching at a bigger university and would take time off to go to Uganda and work on the project,” says Micah. In 2012 the Dean of the college had been watching and hearing about the Mango Project. He suggested that we create a global health program where students could join, and from there it just grew. Another impact that the Mango Project had on the local community was bringing together Muslims and Christians to work on the project with us. “Everyone was working on something bigger than all of us,” Micah adds.
“While we know that mangoes can never cure malnutrition on their own, we know that the real way to start to reduce malnutrition is to empower communities, to reduce poverty and more importantly to promote health education. The mango is just the hook that brings people in,” he explains.
Being at CAC had a massive influence on where Micah is today. Having been raised in a very international and diverse community, Micah understood that no matter where people are from or how different they may seem, they will always have more in common than differences. “ Growing up as a middle schooler in CAC we were learning how to communicate together and really do it well. We were champions here over other schools, because of our diversity.” This passion and love for being in a diverse community and for learning from different cultures and embracing them, rather than hoping to impose his own culture on others, is one of the main pillars that helped shape him into becoming who they are today.
Micah had actually been back to Egypt 10 years ago and had visited CAC briefly then. This time, however, it was quite different for him. Returning as guest speaker, knowing that he was here to talk to students and to inspire them, was a sign of the success that the Mango Project has had. Micah sought to give a helpful piece of advice for CAC students; ” You’re taught to think about the future, and the focus is always on the future so much. My advice is to focus on the present. Be in the present, it is equally as important.”