By Sarah Schrock

The low clouds, soggy skies and short days might be keeping you inside, away from the sun. And if so, you’r e probably not getting enough vitamin D, which can be bad for your health. Vitamin D’s healthful claims are many, and proven. Bone health, immune health and chronic disease prevention to name a few. But perhaps the reason I am such a fan: It wards off depression.

The dark days of November followed, by winter months, are a tough time on the psyche — even for fans of winter it can be rough. About three years ago, I increased my dosage of vitamin D, and after about two months into the winter, I started seeing a substantial improvement in my winter moody blues. I am a believer — vitamin D is a savior.

Now, I’m no Gene Kelly kicking up my heels in the rain, but another secret to feeling better during these days is to go outside — no matter the conditions. The fresh air contains negative ions that boost positive feelings by increasing serotonin, a mood enhancer in our brains. Also, the negative ions fight off viruses and bacteria, so the old adage “if you go outside, you might catch a cold” couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it might help you stay healthier.

At Methow Valley Elementary School, during cold mornings, wet days and extreme cold, recess is ushered indoors. I understand that in extreme conditions, protection from the elements in warranted — however, when it’s wet, “send them out,” I say.

When I lived in the African bush as a Peace Corps volunteer in my 20s, I avoided the afternoon rains. A Kenyan friend of mine used to mock me: “What, are you made of, sugar?” I wasn’t, and though our kids are sweet, they too won’t melt away in the rain. The wet, fresh air will enhance them, not hurt them. I am pretty sure that on the west side of the state, kids play in the rain. I can’t remember staying in from recess once as a kid. I do remember being soaking wet in class. I survived.

Photo courtesy of Wayne and Linda Mendro
The Mendros discovered that in South Africa, “twisp” is a brand of e-cigarette.

Now, surviving the African rains was a minor inconvenience for a privileged American like me. But for countless vulnerable, orphaned children in the war-ravaged Congo living in makeshift slums with tarpaulin roofs that leak while open sewers flood the streets during the rains, the Peniel House offers a safe, dry place for them. This is wholly made possible by our own local lovables: Linda and Wayne Mendro.

Linda and Wayne made a final visit to the Peniel House in September and shared their journey at the Community Center on Sunday (Nov. 12).

The Peniel House, in the outskirts of Lubumbashi, Congo, was promoted by Linda about 10 years ago after initial visits to the Congo with the Methodist Church. These children would otherwise be living a life on the streets or with family members who cannot afford to care for them, subject to unmentionable abuses and exploitation. Upon this final visit, they identified at least 14 young people who need sponsorship. If you are interested in supporting this effort, it’s an annual pledge of $200 — and all money goes directly to the kids’ needs.

Additionally, the Mendros have established a medical and scholarship fund. The medical funds go to assist any child or staff of the Peniel House that needs medical care. In the Congo, health care is limited and what is there is on a fee-for-care basis. There’s no free or subsidized clinics, no health insurance. It’s not like here where regardless of coverage or wealth, if you show up at the ER, they will care for you. If you can’t pay, you don’t get care. As Wayne lamented in the presentation, “if you are someone who doesn’t like Big Government, the Congo is the place for you. They do not get involved in your private lives, at all.”

The accomplishments of the Mendros are remarkable, but what’s truly admirable is their unbreakable spirit. Negotiating language barriers and cultural norms, dealing with the chaos of African life and simply witnessing destitute poverty can break a person — none of that has deterred them. Despite their perseverance, their energy is waning and trips to the Congo are no longer physically possible for them. They are seeking acolytes who might feel compelled to get take this mission on, to continue this generous effort. If you feel so compelled, or simply want to help with sponsorship, contact Linda or Wayne at 997-6070.

On their way home from the Congo, the Mendros took the opportunity to go on safari and see the wildlife, a first time for Wayne. Congratulations to them for celebrating their work and treating themselves to some luxury. Upon departure at the airport in Johannesburg, they came across a large display case with the word “twisp” lit up in electric green and silver. They found out a “twisp” is a premier South African brand of e-cigarettes!

Yikes, let’s hope a branding war won’t be in our future, but can we risk the world associating Twisp with e-cigarettes? Let’s hope they go bankrupt!


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