October 04, 2017
Alex Frizzelle, Registered Dietitian at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, strives to make a difference in the world, one child at a time.
In his career, he’s combined a passion for nutrition and wellness with a love of pediatrics.
During the workweek he helps to nourish young patients at Joe DiMaggio’s PICU.
Then twice a year he “vacations” in Haiti, teaching communities how to maximize dietary benefits from the foods available. Through these efforts, Alex has improved – if not saved – the lives of countless children.
As a dietitian, Alex does far more than plan meals and fill little tummies. He designs food strategies to strengthen bodies ravaged by disease, harsh medical treatments and malnutrition. This is especially important for children who are still growing, whether they’re patients at Joe DiMaggio or members of a disadvantaged community.
Away from the hospital, Alex volunteers with the Renand Foundation, whose mission is to save Haiti’s underprivileged youth from sex trafficking and slavery.
In Haiti, more than 300,000 children are victims of domestic slavery. Many parents who live in poverty are unable to feed their children. So they give them away to more affluent families, hoping their child will live in better conditions and be able to get an education. But, with few exceptions, these children become slaves, working in the homes of their "masters" from early morning until late at night. These children are called restaveks. Eighty percent become sexual slaves.
Renand rescues these children and reunites them with their birth families. The foundation provides them with education, medical care, mentorship and nutrition. Though safe from servitude, they still suffer from nutritional deficiencies that hinder physical and mental development. This is where Alex’s skills come into play.
“Most of the kids eat once every two days or once a day. We ensure that they get fed twice a day, at least,” says Alex. “When I go there, I look at the children that we are supporting with regard to nutrition, see if they’re growing appropriately and what areas we can improve on, how we can help the families live on the foods they already have, how they can eat better. Most of the children have a lot of skin lesions, so we talk about vitamin C. Most of them are anemic, so we talk about how they can increase their iron intake.”
Not only does Alex help break the cycle of poverty, he also reverses the damage caused from years of deprivation. For instance, when a child’s hair goes from orange-tinged (a sign of malnutrition) one year to dark and healthy the next, he knows he’s done his job. Alex says the kids’ smiles and obvious progress inspire him to return time and again to the island nation.
“We give something little and it makes a huge difference in their lives,” Alex says. It’s so touching to me.”