25 Aug The Toronto Star: Former child soldier whips up smoothie to help Toronto and Africa.
Emmanuel Jal has gone back to his South Sudan roots to create Jal Gua with health experts at Niagara College
By: Gilbert Ngabo Metro News, Published on Thu Aug 20 2015
Known for his hip-hop songs and peace activism, Toronto’s Emmanuel Jal is set to unleash Jal Gua on the local food market next month.
Jal Gua is powder mixture made form sorghum and moringa, two natural, organic ingredients he imports from his home country of South Sudan.
“Most fast foods have no minerals in them,” Jal says as he mixed two spoonfuls of the powder with milk, two bananas and strawberries to make a smoothie. “This product not only gives you enough energy from its ingredients, it also prevents you from craving food.”
If Jal talks passionately about healthy eating, it’s because he knows a thing or two about it.
Born and raised in a war-torn country, Jal was only 7 years old when he was forced to become a solider. He didn’t understand the gravity of what he was going through, but food was scarce. One of his most dreadful memories is when he was tempted to eat one of his colleagues for survival.
“It was really awful, terribly awful. I think I am really lucky to be alive,” Jal said, remembering the long journey when he and more than 200 other child soldiers attempted to escape and rejoin their families.
Only 16 of them survived.
A British aid worked smuggled him to Kenya and that’s where Jal went to school.
Through his music themed on peace and forgiveness, his journey eventually brought him to Canada two years ago.
A speaker and performing artist for more than 10 years, Jal co-starred in the movie The Good Lie with Reese Witherspoon.
He’s also the founder of Gua Africa, an education charity operating in East Africa, which is sponsoring a campaign between October and December to use sales of the smoothies at local coffee shops, yoga studios, schools and gyms to raise money for education in Africa.
Jal Gua, which is available online and will hit the shelves of Sobeys grocery stores in October, was created out of necessity. Gua in Nuer, South Sudan’s local language, means peace of power.
A few years ago, Jal developed signs of diabetes and high blood pressure.
A student of the DIY movement, Jal started experimenting with various ingredients he knew from his early years.
Health experts at Niagara College tested the product’s nutritional values and, with their advice, he started working on properly producing and packaging it.
“I just wanted to go back to eating my traditional food,” he said about Jal Gua.
“I couldn’t remember anyone in my childhood collapsing from high blood pressure. When people are walking and get tired, they immediately think they need coffee or sugar but actually what they need is minerals.”