Christmas Cheer in Honduras

Throughout the world, we champion children. We work with teachers, principals, mayors and religious leaders to help children thrive in their schools, homes and communities.

But did you know that we run two full-time residential centers in Kenya and Honduras for boys and girls who are abandoned or whose parents are unable to care for them?

When it is possible, we seek to reunite children with their families. But many of the kids continue to be under our supervision until they turn 18. What a great responsibility it is to care for them; for they are ours!

DSC_0526For this reason, our President and CEO, Kevin Hagan feels it is important for him to celebrate Christmas at these two centers every December. He wants the kids to know the joy of Christmas like all kids should!

Recently, we told you about Kevin’s visit to Kenya, but today we want to share more about the Christmas celebrations at Casa del Nino in La Ceiba, Honduras.

At Casa del Nino, Feed the Children Honduras cares for 35 boys from age 7-17 every day of the year. Some of these boys have come to us through Honduran social services. Others have come through referrals in communities where we work. But together they have formed a family.

IMG_2194And one of the year’s highlights for the boys of Casa del Nino is the annual Christmas celebration.

On Wednesday, December 17, the boys and staff,  Regional Director for Latin American operations Francisco Torres and Kevin and his wife, Elizabeth Hagan gathered around tables in the courtyard of Casa del Nino for gift giving, music and a Christmas feast.

Each boy asked for just one present. They were elated to receive their single gift –simply new shoes to play soccer or a remote control car.

Before dinner, the boys shared prayers, songs and even a skit with the group. They expressed their appreciation to all the Feed the Children donors for giving them a safe place to call home over the last year.

Christmas dinner was extra special because it was prepared by some of the older boys themselves. These boys are interested in becoming chefs when they grow up, and we’ve enrolled them in culinary classes for the last five months.

So, with some assistance from their teachers, the boys prepared a traditional Honduran Christmas meal: tamales, chicken and pork, yellow rice, potatoes, tomato, pepper and cucumber salad and rolls.

After dinner, each boy and staff member received a glow stick necklace and bracelet! As you can see the boys posed proudly for pictures with them on.

Even though it soon started raining, joy at Casa del Nino was uncontainable. They played with their new toys. They laughed and laughed with the staff members. And they gave Kevin Hagan lots of hugs. Even one boy said, “Thanks for remembering us at Christmas. It feels good that we aren’t forgotten.”

IMG_1736 2A DJ later played some traditional Honduran Christmas songs and the group danced and danced and danced. Some of the boys had their faces painted. The staff joined in with the children as well. One staff member later remarked, “This is what Christmas is really all about!”

Their faces overflowed with gratitude for such a fun Christmas celebration. Thank you Feed the Children donors and child sponsors for making moments like this possible.IMG_9014

Typhoon Hagupit hits the Philippines

Another potentially devastating Typhoon has landed in the Central Philippines where thousands of families were displaced by Super Typhoon Haiyan last November.

Typhoon Hagupit (locally known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ruby) has slowed as it moves over land, which can create major flooding from the heavy rainfall, in addition to potentially damaging strong winds. Communication lines and electricity have been damanged and roads are impassable around the affected areas of Dolores and Cataingan. The extent of the typhoon’s impact remains unclear.

Before the typhoon made landfall, some 717,000 people were pre-emptively evacuated. An estimated 133,000 families are staying in 1,758 evacuation centers across the affected regions.

Our staff will be regularly checking with community leaders in the local communities we serve. Mobile kitchens will be established in affected areas, providing hot food fortified with VitaMeal. Bags of rice and bottled water will also be provided to children and families.

The Feed the Children team in the Philippines is planning to initially establish disaster response feeding stations in two provinces (Bohol and Cebu) to prepare hot, nutritious meals using VitaMeal, mixed with rice, milk, chocolate powder and sugar.

We’re working closely with local leaders, parents in the communities affected as well as groups trained and formed by Feed the Children Philippines, along with local government units and public schools. It’s expected that up to 30,000 persons will need 150,000 meals as a direct response.

In other areas that may be severely impacted by Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby – namely in the provinces of Masbate, Leyte and Samar) Feed the Children will mobilize to establish additional disaster response feeding stations. It’s forecasted the worst hit areas of the Samar provinces will need 107 feeding stations. A total of ten partner organizations are expected to assist us with those efforts.

Information on additional disaster response plans will be updated into next week once an assessment of the situation is completed.

If you would like to support our organization as we provide relief after this storm, please visit www.feedthechildren.org/hagupit.

Typhoon Hagupit puts Feed the Children Philippines on alert

Another potentially devastating Typhoon has landed in the Central Philippines where thousands of families were displaced by Super Typhoon Haiyan last November.

Typhoon Hagupit (locally known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ruby) has slowed as it moves over land, which can create major flooding from the heavy rainfall, in addition to potentially damaging strong winds.

Feed the Children is preparing for a potential worst case scenario. Here are some important pieces of information about how we will respond.

Our staff will be regularly checking with community leaders in the local communities we serve. Mobile kitchens will be established in affected areas, providing hot food fortified with VitaMeal. Bags of rice and bottled water will also be provided to children and families.

The Feed the Children team in the Philippines is planning to initially establish disaster response feeding stations in two provinces (Bohol and Cebu) to prepare hot, nutritious meals using VitaMeal, mixed with rice, milk, chocolate powder and sugar.

We’re working closely with local leaders, parents in the communities affected as well as groups trained and formed by Feed the Children Philippines, along with local government units and public schools. It’s expected that up to 30,000 persons will need 150,000 meals as a direct response.

In other areas that may be severely impacted by Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby – namely in the provinces of Leyte and Samar) Feed the Children will mobilize to establish additional disaster response feeding stations. It’s forecasted the worst hit areas of the Samar provinces will need 107 feeding stations. A total of ten partner organizations are expected to assist us with those efforts.

Information on additional disaster response plans will be updated into next week once an assessment of the situation is completed.

If you would like to support our organization as we provide relief after this storm, please visit www.feedthechildren.org/hagupit.

 

Feed the Children CEO Cooks Thanksgiving Dinner at Kenyan Orphanage

Yesterday, in Nairobi, Kenya the kids of the Dagoretti Children Center gathered for their first ever American Thanksgiving dinner.

It was an especially celebratory occasion because Kevin Hagan, President and CEO of Feed the Children helped to cook the meal along with his wife Elizabeth.

Kevin and Elizabeth spent the days leading up to the big dinner carefully planning the meal with the kitchen staff of the Center. Then, yesterday morning they worked tirelessly with the kitchen team to prepare the feast, side by side. Wearing special Feed the Children aprons and hats; they cooked and cooked and cooked.

When asked, Kevin said he wanted spend the holidays in Kenya because, “The kids at the Center are so very important to me. They’re the heart of our mission. I need them to know that their Feed the Children family loves them.”

Over 50 children and staff gathered around adjoined tables for this great feast.

IMG_3812The menu consisted of the traditional fare –turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing along with a few other side dishes more familiar to the Kenyan children likecooked carrots, garden peas and leeks. The children liked the sweet potatoes and turkey the best.

For dessert, the children enjoyed cupcakes with ice cream, a rare treat, while the adults savored on apple crumble and peach cobbler.

Before dinner began, Elizabeth offered a thanksgiving prayer and many of the children shared what they were thankful for –“Life!” “Feed the Children!,” and “Our visitors to Kenya!”

IMG_2418Kevin carved the turkey and explained the history of American Thanksgiving and why it is important to give thanks.

After dinner, the staff choir shared several songs with the group, which included “Count Your Many Blessings” and some traditional Swahili songs about giving thanks as well.

Several of the older children performed a skit about thankfulness, inviting the audience to join in.

IMG_8366Seintje Veldhuis, Regional Director of African programs, who also helped to organize the event said, “This was a very happy day for the children and the staff. We gave thanks to all be together.”

The Thanksgiving festivities concluded with a song in Swahili about how “Goodness had come to Dagoretti” on this very special day. The staff, children and choir danced their way out of the Dining hall. Each leaving the dinner with a smile on their face!

IMG_0223If you would like to know more about how to support programs like this one in Kenya, check out our gift catalog.

Choose handwashing, choose health — Global Handwashing Day 2014

Today marks Global Handwashing Day. Begun in 2008 by The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) with support from the United Nations, today over 200 million people in 100 different countries will commemorate the day with educational celebrations. Their goals are to:

  • Foster and support a global culture of handwashing with soap
  • Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in every country
  • Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap

Kenya - girls washing hands

Every year, 1.7 million children do not live to celebrate their 5th birthday because of the devastating affects of diarrhea and pneumonia.  Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia.  This simple behavior can save lives, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost one-half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.

Feed the Children is happy to join in these celebrations throughout the world so that even more kids can reach their 5th birthday and beyond!

These are some of our plans for celebration in Africa.

Kenya

In Kajiado County, Feed the Children will partner with teachers and school administrators at Kajiado Township Primary School in Kajiado County to talk to the children about the use of soap.

Children get handwashing lessons in the Dagoretti Center, Kenya

Children get handwashing lessons in the Dagoretti Center, Kenya

In Turkana County, Feed the Children will join partner at Lorugum sub-county headquarters to mark the day with handwashing demonstrations while in Nairobi County, personnel from government ministries and our staff will visit six schools under the school meals program to provide similar lessons on handwashing.

Our staff that serves at the Dagoretti Children Centre (DCC) in Nairobi will hear a presentation from our on-site nurses. The nurses will share tips with the childcare workers, not only for handwashing, but also how to prevent the Ebola virus.

If you would like to invest in educating more people about preventing Ebola, learn more here.

Malawi

In the Rumphi district in the northern region of Malawi, the district Council and other partners will join Feed the Children to commemorate the day through a Global Sanitation FUND project. Feed the Children is also contributing financial resources toward the events.

An outdoor handwashing station in Uganda

The Global Sanitation FUND project in Malawi is one of many that teaches children and families about the benefits of handwashing all year, not just on one day. In every one of the 847 communities we support in this country, we have installed handwashing stations and toilets. We are teaching the value of cleanliness and have installed handwashing facilities outside each of the toilets so that children learn from a young age the value of washing their hands.

Eliya washes his hands after using the toilet at his parents’ home in Central Malawi. Image Credit FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA, October 9, 2014
Eliya washes his hands after using the toilet at his parents’ home in Central Malawi. Image Credit FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA, October 9, 2014

Another way we make sure everyone learns how to wash their hands properly is through our Care Groups, a model originally developed in Mozambique by another organization and pioneered by our Chief Program Officer and others. Through Care Groups, the average improvement in handwashing behavior increases twice as fast as it does with any other approach.

The Care Groups model helps communities take on some of the responsibility for lifting themselves out of poverty, empowering people to contribute their own time and resources to the work. In this model, we work with communities to form a “Neighbor Circle” of 12 households, each of which selects a member to be their “Care Group Volunteer.” All of the Care Group Volunteers meet regularly for training from Feed the Children, and then in turn pass along the training to other households in their Neighbor Circle. In a Care Group program that one of our staff members supported, malnutrition dropped by 38% in less than two years and child deaths dropped 29%!

Kenya - boy shows clean hands after washing

Through these Care Groups we have educated communities on the importance of hand washing with soap at all critical times, including before and after eating or serving food, after changing a baby’s diaper, and after handling food.

We have seen an improvement in handwashing behavior in most of the communities we are working with. Handwashing with soap is still a challenge in some communities, but with repetitive teaching, we are making great progress and fewer kids are getting sick.

Happy Global Handwashing Day, everyone!

 

Beginnings: Exploring Work North Korea Part 2

Recently, we shared an interview with you about a trip that Corey Gordon, our Chief Marketing Officer took to North Korea. He traveled to this place that few Americans ever visit. He explored the possibility of feeding hungry children in this country. In July, Corey traveled again to North Korea to meet with more government leaders and see the results of our first shipment of food into the country. We thought you would like to hear this update on his trip and the work we are doing.

Feed the Children: What did you do on this trip to North Korea?
CG: I traveled to North Korea to validate with my own eyes, the Vitameal distribution. My guides took me to 9 different orphanages. One day I also visited a children’s hospital and a physical rehabilitation center.

I also had several meetings with higher-level officials, including those with the Korea Education Fund (KEF), an internationally recognized NGO established by their leader, Kim Jung Un. KEF’s mission is to ensure the feeding, education and health of the childen in North Korea. Here, I was able to meet with and have a really productive conversation with their president and their senior program manager. We discussed partnering together, and how best to work in conjunction with the governmental agency that oversees Feed the Children’s involvement in the North Korea.

Feed the Children: What did the North Koreans think of the shipment of Vitameal?IMG_0053

CG: We couldn’t have picked a better product to send than Vitameal. Everyone I met with, the orphange directors, the doctors at the larger orphanges, the government officials, the team from KEF, were all very supportive and saw the value of the protein and nutrients in the Vitameal for the kids.

We knew this would be far more nutritious than just sending rice, with the added vitamins and minerals necessary for the healthy development of the kids. However, what we didn’t know at the time was the cultural good we were also doing.

Rice is cliché in Asian cuisine – everybody eats rice. But if you go to a nice restaurant and ask for rice, they don’t just give you plain white rice. You get something else mixed into it – other grains or beans, which is a sign of higher level in society. Vitameal is a combination of lentils, barley, and rice, and they mixed it into the rice they already had. So this made the children’s meal more like a special treat or occasion. Needless to say, they are very eager to receive more. They also told me countless times how thankful they were that Feed the Children followed through on its promise. It added greatly to our credibility that we made good on our commitment, before going back there.IMG_0022

Feed the Children: Did you see anything else interesting on your trip?

CG: My guides wanted me to see more of their country, to learn more about their history and culture, things that made them proud of their country.

I visited Kaesong, the cultural historical birthplace of Korea, the home of the Koryo dynasty. I love history, so it was fascinating to see things that were 1000-1200 years old. I was also given a tour of the birthplace of Kim Il Sun, which holds as much honor to them as we would view Mount Vernon.

I traveled to Panmunjom, which is the actual border between north and south (not the demilitarized zone). DPRK soldiers escorted me right up to the border itself. And I saw the building where the UN and Allied troops met with the DPRK leaders and where they signed the armistice. Everything was there just as if the meeting took place yesterday! I even sat in the chair where the UN negotiators sat to work out the deal.

Feed the Children: What were some aspects of your time in North Korea that surprised you this time?

CG: Even after visiting once, I didn’t realize how many preconceived notions I had about North Korea. I was very humbled by that, as I had considered myself to be fairly balanced and open-minded.

Probably what surprised me the most was the level of criticism directed towards American NGOs. I had expected there would be such towards the U.S. goverment, but it’s pretty evident that they don’t think much of the arrogance and tactics of American NGOs and visitors.

IMG_0123Unfortunately, the perception of the “Ugly American” is still very much alive internationally, with our seeming belief that we have all the answers and can solve all the world’s problems. Yet they can just as clearly see that we have our own issues and sins as well. I reiterated over and over that we would not be there to be critical and judgmental, we would always be respectful guests and partners.

Feed the Children: What are your hopes for Feed the Children’s relationship with North Korea in the future?

CG: Working in North Korea is very much a step-by-step process, as we continue to work hard to establish credibility and trust, both ways. Kim Jung Un recently visited an orphanage himself, and was quoted as saying, “Children are the king of this country.” That statement clearly highlights that the North Korean leaders really do want to help their children, but just need help to do so. Our response – a second shipment of Vitameal arrives into North Korea this week, with the next container to be shipped at the end of the month. These shipments cost us $5,000 per container, so if you look at it from a per serving basis, that’s less than 3 cents per meal. It’s such a small cost for making a huge impact on the future of so many children!IMG_0134

Beyond providing food, the North Korean officials have already authorized us to begin bringing into the country deworming medicines and Vitamin A, as we look to expand our work to focus on the health of the children. As funding continues to be available, we are looking forward to a long-term relationship with our North Korean partners, expanding the type of products we can send to help more kids.

To help futher this work, I will be traveling to South Korea this week, where I will be meeting with a number of potential board members and supporters and moving forward with the launch of Feed the Children Korea. Our office in Seoul will direct our programmatic work in South Korea, as well as help support the work in North Korea. Our goal is to have our office up and running by the end of the year, and I hope to return to North Korea in December.

It All Starts with a Chicken

In order to help kids be kids and not worry about where their next meal comes, we must build sustainable solutions to the root causes of poverty.

We can’t simply feed children. We must teach children how to feed themselves.

To do this, caregivers must learn new skills in how to invest in their children’s future. At Feed the Children this is why our efforts to create new livelihoods in communities where we serve is so important. Sometimes this means teaching better agricultural practices. Sometimes this means offering training in an activity like sewing or bee keeping. Other times it means providing livestock to communities with education on how the products obtained can better kids lives.

Consider Loresho Primary School located in the Westlands Constituency of Nairobi, Kenya.  Located in the heart of the city, this is a school that Feed the Children has a longstanding partnership with. For several years, (thanks to our government advocates and donors) we’ve provided a hot meal for each student every school day. Often times this is the only meal that these children receive all day.

But, more needed to be done. Recently we delivered 500 chicks to the school. Out of the number delivered, 100 were a contribution from parents of the school with the means to do so.

Prior to the delivery, several planning meetings were held between Feed the Children in Kenya and Loresho Primary School Management Committee (SMC) where a memorandum of understanding was signed on each party’s responsibility about the chicken project. Investment in the project was very important from teachers, parents, children, as well as Feed the Children.

image 4Upon delivery, Feed the Children staff placed the chicks in a specially constructed poultry house that is well fitted with infrared lamps in the brooder area to provide a convenient heat source for them.   The brooder area is an enclosure that will serve as the chicks’ home to provide them with a warm environment until they mature.

To ensure the success of the project for the most number of children, the school committed to breed the chicks watching their progress closely. For example, the chickens will receive clean water, proper ventilation, and regularly cleanings by the children.

Looking ahead, it is expected that the chicks will mature and start laying eggs in the next six months.  Feed the Children staff will monitor and support the school until they start laying eggs. Going forward the school will accept responsibility for the the project.

Once the chicks mature and start hatching, the produce will be sold to parents of the school and surrounding community.  Children in the school will also have eggs as part of their school diet.  Proceeds from sales will be used to supplement the purchase of food for the school-feeding program.

This chicken project ensures that the children at Leresho Primary School both have more protein in their diet as well as income for the most nutritious of foods in the future! And other schools in the area are excited about participating!

It’s truly a big win for all the children: one chick at a time.

Hoodies That Change the World

A Guest Post by James Williams

Who says a person is too young to make a difference? James Williams came to partner with us several months ago after a life-changing trip to Kenya while a college student. Afterwards he started his own company called udu. We asked him to share with our readers his story with hopes that it might inspire you to support his work and/or put feet to your dreams of changing the world!

The idea for udu began when a college friend brought me a gift from Kenya several years ago – a hoodie. It peaked my interest. Not only did the crazy colors and patterns make it a great product, but it was a piece of clothing that created a connection between me and the craft maker on the other side of the world.

A couple months later, I met Dr. Tony Ahlstrom of Feed the Children. Dr. Ahlstrom told me about all of the incredible work being done around the world and specifically about the impact they were having in Kenya.

I thought carefully about the connection between these two experiences.

After digging a little deeper, I discovered a widespread entrepreneurial spirit among the Kenyan people. The hooded shirt my friend had brought me served as an example, but the fact that no one else could buy one, no matter how desirable it was, served as a testament to the economic limitations those self-starters faced.

Eager to test my schooling in a real world setting, I set out to start a company centered on the mission to alleviate those limitations.

While studying abroad in Spain the next summer, I continued to develop my plan for how I would actually do this. This was my plan:

Step one: I bought a plane ticket to Nairobi without knowing a soul there and having no real plan of what to do once I got there. I would have four days in Kenya to figure out how to get this thing rolling.

Step two: I emailed Dr. Ahlstrom telling him I would be visiting Kenya and asking if he would put me in touch with the Feed the Children staff there. He graciously entertained my request and introduced me to Seintje, the regional director of African programs.

Step Three: I traveled to Kenya to begin work!

When I arrived, my first meeting was with Jude, a friend of a friend who lived in Nairobi. Jude showed me all around Nairobi and helped me begin looking for tailors like the one who had made my hoodie. We also checked out fabrics and talked business with some local dealers. Then we visited Jude’s neighborhood, Dandora. Here we found a plethora of local tailors and fashion entrepreneurs.

Eventually we came upon George. George has lost the use of his legs and lives and works from his shop in Dandora. He was excited by the opportunity I presented and agreed to make samples of the hoodie for me to take back to the US. With my samples now in progress, Jude and I made our way to Feed the Children to share what I’d already learned.

I showed the Feed the Children staff in Nairobi my hoodie and asked if any of the women who are a part of their tailoring program might be able to make something like it. They said yes, and I told them I would buy all the hoodies the women made. The next day I headed home with 14 sample hoodies and a partner in Feed the Children that would prove to be invaluable.

1239038_724565524240463_438334915_nAfter the trip and a few months of product development over weekly Skype meetings with Feed the Children staff back in Nairobi, I created a company called udu, named for the traditional African drum because I have learned that with any experience like this, you don’t always know exactly where you are headed and that’s ok- you just learn to keep following the beat.

Today, things are going great with udu. In addition to George, we employ four tailors who are Feed the Children beneficiaries and have recently joined forces with some other Kenyan entrepreneurs to explore new products and opportunities.

Thanks James, for showing us all that we can be the change we want to see in the world!  Want to learn more about udu? Connect with them on Facebook

Finding Hope Together: In Celebration of World Autism Day

How many of us are raising or know a child with autism? Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a brain disorder that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control that 1 out of every 68 children worldwide is affected.

Though the diagnostic numbers of this condition with a wide spectrum of effects are on the rise, parents who have a child with autism in the United States often face a difficult and lonely parenting journey. These parents are overwhelmed long before the diagnosis, but learning that a child has autism only adds to that feeling. Many parents describe themselves as depressed, frustrated, and worn out to the point of having nothing left by their child’s patterns of unpredictable behavior.

For parents of autistic children in Africa, the challenges are even greater. In African nations like Kenya, raising a child with any special needs brings a huge stigma with it. Many people in this part of the world believe that parents did something wrong or are some how cursed if their child’s physical or emotional state is anything less than perfect.

This means that parents with autistic children, just like parents of children with other disabilities, quickly become outcasts—with few resources offered by their community leaders to help raise their child or children. They have few places to turn to for life-giving support.

Feed the Children–Kenya loves children with disabilities. We adamantly oppose such prejudice and want parents of children, no matter their child’s challenges, to have the resources they need to parent well.

In celebration of World Autism Day on April 2, Feed the Children’s Dagoretti Children Centre (DCC) hosted an event in Nairobi for parents and caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

More than twenty parents who have autistic children traveled from the surrounding communities to attend the event facilitated by Feed the Children staff and by Stephen Muga, the rehabilitation coordinator.  Parents came with their autistic children and shared with one another the challenges they were facing.

“These mothers and fathers are not only parents, but they are therapists, psychologists, mentors,” Stephen said. “Their work never ends!”

DSCN2544Feed the Children–Kenya hoped that the workshop would help break down barriers and improve both acceptance and awareness of the disorder by educating and empowering parents to work with their children. The workshop presented parents and caregivers with valuable strategies to help them create a calmer and more conducive home environment for their children.

Some of the parents confessed to being confused on how to handle their child.

“What do I do when my child does not respond to my directions?” one mother asked.

Stephen took the parents through the signs that indicate a child has autism and at the end of the day, parents and caregivers had learned to identify triggers of unwanted behavior, structure situations to prevent avoidable behavioral problems, communicate clearly, encourage cooperation through the child’s interest and choose the right diet for the child.

Parents had the opportunity to interact closely with their children through different activities such as arranging letters to form words, arranging shapes (most of the children were drawn to circular objects), and inserting string through beads to make traditional necklaces.

The message of the workshop was simple: what autistic children need most are parents who accept their children, create a support group, and cultivate an autism-friendly environment at home. With these factors, the child will thrive.

DSCN2583By the end of the activity-packed day, all of the parents had decided to form ongoing support groups to share their experiences and encourage other parents who were skeptical of talking about their autistic children. The group chose the mission statement, “Together we are strong!

Feed the Children–Kenya was so happy to facilitate this workshop!

Just Two Goats: An International Women’s Day Success Story

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a day that calls our attention to what it means to advance women’s rights in the workforce, politics, and society. Through our work around the world, we meet strong women every day that inspire us. Women are seeking not only to feed their children but also give these children a better life than they knew. But we also are painfully aware that many women, no matter how hard they work, can never get ahead without a little assistance from their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Here’s one such story:

Matilda and goat

Matilda Nyasulu is 32 years old and mother of three daughters. She hails from a village in the Rumphi district in Malawi. Matilda has been married twice to men who did not financially support her family. She is currently single and caring for her two elderly parents as well as her daughters.

Matilda is dependent on her farming and piece work (a type of employment in which a worker is paid a fixed piece rate for each unit produced or action performed regardless of time) to make ends meet for her children. Her parents are unable to work.

Four years ago, her situation was dire. Matilda said, “I really struggled to take care of my children and my parents. It was very difficult to find food and clothes for them. At one point, my oldest daughter did not go to school because I could not provide her with writing materials. It was also very difficult for me to find money to buy fertilizer as I was always experiencing food shortages.”

Matilda said she also finds it difficult to find money for transport to a nearest health center 20 kilometers (about 12 1/2 miles) away from her home.

In 2010, her children’s school, the Betere Community Based Child Care Centre (CBCC), identified Matilda’s as one of the households that could benefit from what they call the “Pass-On Goat Initiative.” Feed the Children gave her two female goats. After a few months, each of the goats birthed two goats. The project required that Matilda take two goats and pass them on to another family, which she did.

After some time, the goats multiplied to six. In 2012, Matilda sold one goat for around $75. With the money, she bought school uniforms, a pair of shoes, and writing materials for her two school-aged children. She used the remaining amount to pay the school fees for both children. Without the proceeds of the goat sale, her daughters would have lacked the clothes and supplies required to attend school.

“Selling the goat helped me to send my children to school,’’ she said.

Matilda in maize garden

In 2013, she slaughtered another goat and sold part of the meat for around $94 . Matilda kept part of it, to feed her children and family for a few days. She exchanged the remaining portion for fertilizer for her two acres of maize garden. She is also using goat droppings as manure in her maize garden.  This is a huge accomplishment and will assist her to feed her family on her own.

“This year I expect to harvest more maize than in the previous years, because for the first time I have applied enough fertilizer in my maize garden!’’ Matilda said.

Matilda is a strong mom. She is so glad to be independent, no longer burdened by the weight of supporting her children’s education. Furthermore, Matilda believes that the people in her community respect her because of the goats she is raising.

When we look at hunger and poverty around the world, it can look too big to solve. But stories like Matilda’s show us how simple it is when you focus on one family at a time. After all, her story transformed with just two goats!