Feeding Bodies, Minds and Futures… in the Philippines

It’s August, and families here in the United States are preparing for children to go back to school. Parents across the country will spend August wandering store aisles while clutching school supply lists, or pawing through the bin of kids’ sneakers looking for the right size, or maybe ordering school uniforms online. And while we may grumble about the prices, many of us will be able to provide these items for our children without too much difficulty.

But imagine what it’s like not to be able to purchase the items kids need to be successful in school. That’s the reality for too many families, not only here, but around the world.

Meet Veronica and Ana, two teenagers who live in a large city in the Philippines. Both live in a poor area, with too much crime, drug use and violence. But both have stable homes and families, and their parents work hard to make ends meet. Veronica’s parents wake up early each and every day to cook food and package it for sale in their neighborhood. Ana’s father also works in the food industry, as a fish vendor. He doesn’t have much income left over after paying their bills, not to mention debts they owe to neighbors who loaned them money for their kids’ educational expenses.

Neither of these families has the luxury of extra income for school supplies. Veronica helps her parents with the food sales, but the allowance she receives never goes for fun things a sixteen-year-old might enjoy. Instead she spends the money—when she has some—on basic necessities for school.

Veronica and Ana are both outstanding students who deserve to have their dreams nurtured. Veronica doesn’t have a lot of books herself, but devours the ones she can access for free online. She hopes to take up business management if given the chance to go to college. She dreams of buying a restaurant for her parents to help their food preparation business thrive.

For her part, Ana is deemed “a brilliant child” by those who know her. As an honor student, she has received numerous awards and medals through her academic work. She likes art and music and enjoys writing poems.

Ana
Ana

Both of these young women deserve a good education, free from worry. That’s why Feed the Children helps provide nutritious meals, supplies, backpacks, shoes, and educational workshops to Veronica and Ana and so many young people just like them.

Before, Veronica and Ana’s parents could never get ahead in terms of saving income—every penny went to the basics. Now, with assistance from Feed the Children, and made possible through countless partners and donors, they can start to get ahead. Both of these girls will be looking at college soon.

“Feed the Children has been helpful to us,” says Veronica. “Because of them I am more motivated in going to school, and I am more focused on my studies in order to maintain my scholarship.”

“Feed the Children has done so much to help me,” Ana agrees. “I am so thankful that there is Feed the Children! Because of the support that I have gotten, I have learned to value my studies even more than before, and to work harder and to be even better in my studies.”

This work is only possible because of support from people like you. Help children build bodies, minds and futures. Learn more about our educational initiatives and give what you can today.

 

Helping Babies Thrive

At Feed the Children, we know that parents, particularly mothers, are the critical link to helping kids be healthy and well nourished, especially in the early months and years of life.

That’s why this week, Feed the Children’s office in Kenya joins the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Dietetic Unit and other partners to mark World Breastfeeding Week.

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually from August 1 to 7 to promote exclusive breastfeeding for newborns during the first six months of life. Experts say that exclusive breastfeeding yields tremendous health benefits, providing critical nutrients to children, helping protect from disease, and fostering growth and development.

“Breastfeeding is the single most important indicator for reducing the child mortality rate up to 80%,” says Clementina Ngina, Feed the Children’s Food & Nutrition Pillar Manager. “It is also one of the five indicators set during the World Health Assembly which countries likes ours are working hard to improve. Feed the Children is promoting exclusive breastfeeding as part of this effort.”

Feed the Children has long been involved in advocating breastfeeding of newborns and infants. Through our Care Group model, our staff is able to train a large number of volunteers who then work within communities to promote healthy nutrition for children, including breastfeeding.

Food stuffs classified according to their nutritional groups during the launch of Feed the Children International’s new logo in Lilongwe March 26, 2015. PHOTO FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA
Food classified according to their nutritional groups.

Our work is based on studies showing how critical the first 1000 days of a child’s life can be. We know that giving attention to a child’s health and nutritional needs during that period will help create a lasting impact in their lives. Our Care Group volunteers teach best practices to new mothers and expectant women to help them raise healthy and well-nourished children.

Through these Care Group forums, Feed the Children emphasizes the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Mothers and mothers-to-be are taught that breastmilk has the right proportion of nutrients to help babies develop well.

To commemorate World Breastfeeding Week, Feed the Children Kenya has worked with the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Dietetic Unit in partnership with members of the Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) technical working group. Feed the Children is a member of this working group.

During this week’s event, two educational materials are being launched, the National MIYCN counseling cards and the Baby-Friendly Community Initiative. Feed the Children actively participated in the development of both of these documents, and they will be a vital tool as our Care Groups continue to create a world in which babies can not just survive, but thrive.

Day of the African Child 2016 – Protecting all children’s rights

June 16 marks Day of the African Child (DAC). A day to recall the 1976 uprisings in Soweto, when a protest by black school children in South Africa took to the streets.

The children protested the inferior quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down by security forces. 

To honor the memory of those killed, and the courage of all those who marched, DAC presents an opportunity to focus on the work of those committed to the rights of children on the continent, to consolidate their efforts in addressing the obstacles for realizing these rights.

DSC_0283The theme for this year’s DAC is “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights.” This theme honors the efforts to elevate child protection in conflict areas in Africa as well as the protection and preservation of life and well-being of African children.

 

Children for Life (C4L)

To further celebrate DAC, more than 1,000 children came together for a graduation ceremony at a primary school in Nairobi. The children, drawn from 30 schools located in the urban slums of Nairobi, have been trained on life skills as a critical response to the challenges facing young people today.

Each of the 30 schools recruits 20 – 50 students between the ages of 10 – 14 years old. They form a C4L club with two teachers who guide them during meetings.

Feed the Children holds hourly training sessions with these pupils twice in a month.  The club members, after undergoing the life skills sessions, become peer educators and disseminate the same messages to their peers. The children are helped to be assertive, good communicators and generally build strong characters that can say no to the vices that affect their access to education. These activities are meant to address the challenges of early marriages, early pregnancies, sexual violations, drugs and substance abuse amongst others.

All the pupils are then encouraged to use and share the same information with their neighbor children and practice what they have learned at home, at school and in their surrounding communities.ClDwcViVYAIb4Pu

Some of the topics taught include: Healthy behaviors, body changes, common illness and mapping health services, HIV & AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, stigma and discrimination, care and support, understanding mixed messages and peer pressure, planning for your future, career, refusing drugs & alcohol, etc.

Since the inception of C4L, our team has seen an increase in knowledge among the peer educators, improved decision making and behavior change.

Education for a Better Life in Nicaragua

Here in the United States, children everywhere are getting ready for the end of school and the upcoming summer vacation. In Nicaragua, however, the school year runs from February to November, which means school is in full swing. And Feed the Children is there to support and encourage these young people and help ensure their success.

Eleven-year-old Aslin is one of these students. She lives in a rural community with just a hundred other families. The village is so remote it’s only accessible by a bus that runs once a day. Most people walk where they need to go.

There’s very little economic opportunity in Aslin’s community. As a result, some one in five adults immigrate to other countries, such as Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and as far away as Spain, looking for work. Aslin lives with her maternal grandparents while her parents earn money in Costa Rica that they send home to support her. Aslin’s mother works in housekeeping and her father works in maintenance. Since moving to Costa Rica, they have since had another daughter, which means Aslin is separated from a sister as well as her parents. “I feel sad because my parents are not with me,” Aslin says.

It’s a hard situation. Aslin misses her mom and dad. Her grandparents do the best they can, but there’s very little money. Her grandfather works in agriculture for meager wages. Aslin’s house is humble; it is made of adobe and pieces of corrugated steel sheets, with a tiled roof and dirt floor. They are fortunate to have electricity and potable water in the house.

The family’s diet is humble. Breakfast may consist of tortillas, beans, coffee, and eggs (if available). Lunch is rice, beans, cheese or eggs, and on rare occasions, chicken with tortilla. Dinner may be fried rice and beans (called gallopinto) with tortilla, cheese, and coffee. Sometimes the family just has beans with tortillas and cheese.

*12-2015 NI0015- AslinAslin is a sweet and happy girl. She helps at home by cleaning the house, washing the dishes, cooking, and watering the plants. When she was little, she suffered several common illnesses. But today she is very healthy, thanks in part to the support she’s received through Feed the Children’s the child sponsorship program. For the past several years, she’s received nourishing meals, a bookbag brimming with school supplies, and TOMS shoes twice a year through their giveaway program. She even receives a beloved toy every Christmas.

Aslin’s grandmother is grateful: “Feed the Children has provided so much to my granddaughter. She receives food that we lack sometimes. The school supplies are a great help, too—not just for her, but for everyone in the community who go through a tough situation.”

Aslin’s favorite subject is natural science. She would like to be a medical doctor when she grows up so she can help others children.

This is how the cycle of poverty is broken—through supporting children so they can grow into productive adults. With a little help and a little luck, Aslin can see her dreams become a reality.

You can be a hero to a child and his or her community. Make a difference through child sponsorship today.

A special thanks to Abdiel Navarrete for providing the content for today’s story.

Working Together Behind the Scenes: Meet the Malawi Warehouse Team

Feed the Children in Malawi is widely known for its feeding programs that take place across the country in more 840 community-based care centers and orphanages, as well as pediatric wards in targeted clinics.

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Every month, with support from Nu Skin–a longtime partner of Feed the Children–the organization receives a donation of at least 83,000 packets (2kg) of VitaMeal porridge to distribute to children in various communities across Malawi. In addition, Feed the Children also receives packets of water purifier each month, and pairs of TOMs shoes every six months.

These vital supplies need to be distributed to a variety of sites, which is where the warehouse team comes in.

These dedicated individuals are responsible for storing the supplies at the Feed the Children office in Malawi, then packing and loading them for delivery throughout the central and northern regions of the country. The five-member team consists of four men who are responsible for loading, and a woman who serves as warehouse supervisor and team leader.

The team works tirelessly to make sure they beat their monthly targets, thus ensuring that the needs of the children are met time and again.

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Edith Kafuwa, the warehouse supervisor, joined Feed the Children in 2009. She was there for the initial set up of the warehouse at Feed the Children in Malawi. Kafuwa is passionate about her work and is inspired by the fact that what she does has a bearing on the wellbeing of more than 80,000 children.

“Every single working day I wake up at home and travel for about 35 kilometers to get to my work place,” she says. “[I do it] for the single reason of contributing towards creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.”

When asked what it was like to work as the only female in a group of men, Kafuwa says she has learned to build a good working relationship with her team. She says teamwork is the key–when everyone is clear about their roles, they’re able to deliver results.

We’re thankful Kafuwa and the rest of her team work so diligently each and every day to make sure children have the food and nutrition they need. It takes all of us working together to lend a hand to people without life’s essentials. To give the gift of VitaMeal, check out our gift catalog.

Education Breaks the Cycle of Poverty

Today we take you to a mountain region in the Philippines, where many of the people make ends meet through a combination of menial jobs and loans.

Eleven-year-old Cherry lives there with her family: four brothers; a father who does construction and drives a motorcycle for hire; and a mother who earns money by doing stone crushing, a grueling job but one that’s common for that region. The family lives in a small house with a simple roof and bamboo walls and flooring. They have electricity, but no running water, which means they need to buy bottled water—another expense. They have a latrine and a small vegetable garden.

8As the only girl, Cherry can’t use her brothers’ hand-me-down uniforms for school—she needs her own. Her resourceful mother alters the uniform to make it fit a growing girl for an entire year. And as hard as things are sometimes, Cherry’s mother is proud that she’s able to feed her kids each day. Meals are simple though: rice, vegetables and fish.

There are times when Cherry and her brothers have all had to share a single pencil for their schoolwork, often sharpened down to the nub. They do their work on the back of old papers and other scraps they can find.

But today, Cherry is a Feed the Children scholar at her school. That means she receives supplies, shoes, and encouragement to learn. And she’s a bright girl and diligent student. With a tear in her eye, she says she plans to graduate with honors and become a teacher so her mother never has to crush stones in the river again.

But Feed the Children provides more than just direct aid. We help train and empower parents to save money wisely so they can have a better future.

Like many families in this region who struggle to make ends meet, Cherry’s parents often took out shady loans from local loan sharks. The terms of these loans can often lead to an endless cycle of dependency and debt.

But Feed the Children has been working to end this cycle by creating local savings and loan programs, whereby members of a community come together to pool and save money and create loans that have lower interest rates.

Community people and parents are learning that you don’t have to have a bank book in order to have savings. They have the capacity to save, given the right guidance in managing financial resources. Many are realizing that they can secure their family’s future if they save.

You can be a part of this important work through your gift. To learn more about our work in the Philippines, click here.

A special thanks to Healey Jo S. Rosell for providing the content for today’s story.

 

 

In Recognition of Autism Awareness Month

If you happen to walk through the Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) compound on any given day, you will bump into the many children who are residents of DCC. Some of the kids might hug you, and others may shake your hand with a big smile… while others might cautiously hold your hand and sniff it several times before walking away.

Some guests at DCC are taken aback by this unusual behavior; others may wonder if the children are being rude. What they may not know is that these children have autism, and that is their way of greeting and familiarizing themselves with new people.

The DCC hosts several kids with a variety of disabilities including autism, a mental condition that is characterized by difficulty communicating, forming relationships with other people, and understanding abstract concepts. The condition is present from early childhood.

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to educate others about autism so as to promote inclusion and acceptance in the community. DCC’s Rehabilitation Coordinator, Stephen Muga, recently met with parents who had visited the DCC seeking therapy sessions for their children to talk more about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“We share information with parents, staff and community members, because most people do not know about autism,” Muga said during the meeting.“We serve a population that is vulnerable, so they do not have first-hand information about autism.”

On a daily basis, the rehabilitation unit at DCC works with autistic kids and provides occupational therapy services by guiding kids through the activities of daily living, as well as speech communication and social skills training. The team works with children on sensory integration, having them experience various sensory stimulants to help them have an adaptive response in relation to their environment.

On a monthly basis, the rehabilitation team serves about 27 kids with autism. Muga says that kids with autism have difficulty in expressive communication, social skills, and everyday activities like brushing teeth or putting on clothes. Others have problems with fine motor skills such as writing. Some cannot write but are able to speak. The rehabilitation team uses each child’s areas of strength to build upon their life skills.

Apuka (2)He adds that there are high-functioning people with autism, such as Mandela, one of the autistic kids at DCC. “Mandela is incredibly smart and his autism is not always obvious to the untrained eye,” says Muga. While Mandela does not have developmental problems and he clearly articulates himself, he rarely looks at people in the eye and he will always sniff someone’s hand when greeted.

Muga emphasizes that children with autism are very different from one another. Some kids have extreme developmental delays, while others may be extremely intelligent in academics but may avoid eye contact or grow upset to changes in routine and lack social skills.

His message to all for this month’s autism awareness is the importance of understanding that each child or person with autism needs to be treated with an understanding of who they are.

Muga’s work at the DCC are possible only through support through people like you. Donate here.

Cooking Up Hope: Meet the DCC Catering Team

Feed the Children brings together caring individuals to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. We address childhood hunger by empowering children and communities to achieve self-sufficiency around the four pillars: Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods. Today we salute our staff who work tirelessly to ensure that children with different needs at the organization’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) in Kenya are well fed.

The DCC has been caring for babies who have been abandoned and providing professional services and care for children with special needs since 1993. The 8-member team based at the DCC works to ensure that the children living at the center (as well as staff who take care of the young ones) do not go hungry and are well nourished.

Each team member specializes in a specific skill, which when combined, form a well-oiled machine that churns out delicious nutritious meals. Some children require special diets to address their nutritional needs, especially those who were brought in malnourished. Our team makes sure these special children have what they need as well.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 6.58.06 AMThe team is composed of a nutritionist, a specialist baker, and experienced cooks. They prepare balanced meals for resident children, staff and guests–about 150 people on a daily basis. They also prepare special meals on an as-needed basis, such as when there are events or special occasions.

Some of the staples of the DCC menu include ugali (solid mixture of water and corn flour), rice, beans, vegetables, beef, fish, and cake–and on special occasions they prepare chicken, sausage, and other items.

Redemptor Agagi, who has worked with Feed the Children for over 14 years, leads the team. She is proud of her team, which she says has never let her down. She says that, like any other system, there are minor challenges, “but nothing that stands out that we haven’t been able to take care of, and I thank the management for always supporting us.”

The team members say they enjoy working at the kitchen and that it’s been a great experience. “When someone gets hungry, that person cannot be productive. Preparing meals that they enjoy and that helps them work well gives me satisfaction,” says Florence Mwangi.

Making a Difference, Step by Step

At Feed the Children, we’re passionate about the community development work we do around the world. It’s gratifying to partner with leaders within a community, identifying the areas of greatest need and working together to implement solutions.

It’s also tremendously challenging. Helping lift a community out of poverty takes years, and it takes a variety of approaches. It’s a series of small steps.

Take Abdallah, a fourteen year old living in a remote area of Tanzania. We’ve made great progress there since getting involved in 2013—but there’s lots more to do. And with your help, we’re committed to partnering with his village for the long haul.

Abdallah lives with his mother, three siblings, and two cousins in the coastal region of Tanzania. The air is humid, but the sun is scorching hot. The road leading to his home is dusty and lined with long grass as well as coconut and mango trees.

Abdallah’s family lives in a small house, with a roof made of dried coconut tree leaves and walls of locally-made red bricks. There’s no electricity or running water, which is typical for the town. The family has access to a pit latrine not far from the house.

The community depends on subsistence farming for their food, buying household items like sugar and tea in the local shops. Most people in the community are not employed—they do casual jobs like home construction.

Sofia, Abdallah’s mother, was only able to attend school through the second grade. She is now a peasant farmer who grows cassava, vegetable, and peas for the family’s use, and makes money by tilling other people’s farms. She earns about $2.30 US each day.

Sofia is proud that she’s been able to feed the family at least one meal a day, but feels sad that it’s often not more than that. The family meal is typically at night and consists of Ugali (a solid mixture of corn flour & water) with vegetables or beans. Occasionally the harvest is good enough that the family enjoys three meals—but that’s a rare luxury.

Feed the Children’s first entry point to the community was in 2013. We began providing mid-morning porridge to every child in school. The porridge is formulated to be filling and full of vitamins to ensure that kids receive essential nutrients. For children like Abdallah, this may be the first meal they eat that day.

We’ve also helped outfit the kids in the village with shoes provided by TOMS, with school supplies and textbooks, and with a rainwater harvesting system. Before construction of the system, kids like Abdallah would carry a 5-liter container of water to school every day for their use.

According to the head of the school, the transformation has been remarkable. The children now have increased motivation to attend school regularly, and they are concentrating in class, completing school, and moving on to high school.

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Abdallah is growing well and it looks like he will be a very tall boy, according to his mother. He likes to study and his favorite subject is science. He also adores football and dreams of becoming a professional football player. “The porridge Abdala gets in school is important,” his mother says, “because I think when he is in class, he can listen to what the teacher is saying. He is also happy and active and plays his football without worrying about hunger.”

Abdallah’s on his way to a better life. But the work isn’t done.

For example, the textbooks we’ve provided are a good start, but there aren’t enough for the kids to take home and study on their own. The rainwater system helps, but the tank only holds 15,000 liters—good for about two months unless the rains are abundant.

Teachers have begun dreaming about a safe, fenced area for the kids to play, and have asked Feed the Children for help with balls, goals and other sports equipment.

We are committed to Abdallah’s community, and want to make those dreams a reality. With your support, we can do just that. Learn more about our work in Tanzania, and make a gift to support children like Abdallah.

 

Helping Kids Thrive: A Story from Guatemala

Many of us are accustomed to taking out loans for big expenses:
A home.
A car.
College tuition.

But imagine having to take out a loan for your child’s school supplies.

That’s the economic reality for many people around the world.

Juana is a four year old in Guatemala. She’s too young for school, but her three older siblings all attend.

What’s even more significant is that the parents are going into debt in order to educate their two daughters, in a culture in which many families don’t allow their girls to go to school. It’s seen as an unnecessary expense in a culture in which girls are raised to get married and keep the home. Juana’s parents want their girls to have opportunity and self-sufficiency.

Juana’s village is a picture of contrasts. It’s a beautiful site near a lake in the middle of a dormant volcano. The ancient Maya settlements make it a popular tourist destination. Luxury hotels and fancy amenities clash with local living conditions; the indigenous communities around the lake struggle to maintain their quality of life in a region with few public services and poor infrastructure.

The economy in the village is centered around coffee and fishing, with the women creating beaded jewelry for the tourism industry. It’s a meager and unstable economic situation for the residents there. Juana’s father is 30 and never attended school. He works as a day laborer; depending on the month, he works picking coffee, avocados, or local fruit on land owned by wealthier families. During months when work is scarce, he supplements his income doing handicrafts or odd jobs for his neighbors. Juana’s mother has a first-grade education but had to drop out to help her family around the house.

Juana’s parents do their best to put food on the table for their growing children, but meals are usually lacking in variety and nutrients. The most common meal is black beans, tortillas and wild greens that they find growing in the coffee plantation. “My children are used to this life,” Juana’s mother says, “but I feel bad when they want to eat a second helping of food and I have no more to give them.”

Because the family has so little extra income, the children are used to wearing the same clothes throughout the week. The children use cheap plastic sandals bought at the market, which break quickly. Juana is underweight and gets sick often with diarrhea, stomachaches and vomiting. Still, Juana is a calm and easy-going child, and she likes to play with stuffed animals and dolls. She can entertain herself in the shade of the coffee trees near her house.

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Juana deserves a chance to thrive. It’s what her parents want for her, and what we want for her as well.

Feed the Children has been supporting children through child sponsorship in the village since October of 2012. These children receive a backpack with school supplies every year, which many families would not be able to afford otherwise. These are the supplies that used to put the family into debt each year—it used to take months to pay off the loan. Now the kids have what they need, and the parents can set aside money for other necessities.

Feed the Children also supports a feeding program in the community, in which every registered child comes to eat lunch at mid-day. Not only is the food more filling and nutritious than what Juana would eat at home, it allows families to save a little money and use more of their income to provide healthier meals at breakfast and dinner. “My children are always excited to go to the feeding program for lunch,” Juana’s mother says. “The food is more complete there and healthier. They are happy to be part of this program.”

Sponsored children also receive two pairs of TOMS shoes every year, which represents a large savings for the parents as they don’t have to replace their children’s shoes as often, and means that the children’s feet are protected every day.

Finally, Feed the Children in partnership with Vitamin Angels has begun to support the community with deworming pills, Vitamin A supplementation and multivitamins every six months. Children like Juana often drink contaminated water and lack good hygiene practices like hand washing with soap. As a result they can suffer endemic parasitic infections, which don’t allow their bodies to absorb important nutrients. The medication provided by Vitamin Angels helps break this cycle and helps reduce malnutrition and stunting.

Juana’s community still needs a lot of support. Family or community gardens could be a source of extra income as well as provide needed nutrients to the limited diet; and targeted village loan programs could help families start other production projects to grow their income as well. The community urgently needs water and sanitation infrastructure improvements to reduce the incidence of water-borne diarrheal illness; and hygiene education to support healthy habits.

However, the support that Feed the Children has provided so far has been a strong start and has shown the families here what they can achieve if they work together. The work continues.

Thank you to everyone who makes our work possible. To learn more about our work in Guatemala, click here.