Yesterday I visited the community of Kontomire to see first-hand how the QPM feeding program is progressing after one year of operation. The journey began early, with a 90 minute drive from the office to the rural village. The final 6 miles involved a lot of bumping and jostling as Benjamin, Self-Help’s country director in Ghana, deftly navigated around the gaping holes in the road that would have taken the truck out of commission for a day or more. He noted that this community was particularly grateful for Self-Help’s support, since few NGOs would be willing to work with such a remote community due to the challenges of transportation. As we turned on to that final stretch, Bridget climbed in with her infant son Fifi to join us for the rest of the journey. Bridget is a junior high school teacher, but due to lack of residential housing at the school, she commutes more than an hour to work each school day if she pays for a taxi, or longer if she goes by food on the treacherous road.
Upon our arrival in Kontomire, we met with the teachers, who shared that the program is “an immense benefit” because it helps them to relate to kids, and for that they are very grateful. The main challenge is that the program depends heavily on the willingness of the parents and community members to donate QPM. To address this challenge, the community secured a ½ acre plot to cultivate QPM, and harvested 1 ½ of the 5 bags of QPM needed for the school year. They are also working with the chief to secure an additional ½ acre plot along the edge of the school grounds for the teachers and junior high students to cultivate for an additional maize supply. They would like to extend the feeding program beyond the KG1, KG2, and class 1 up through the junior high school, but understand that the feasibility depends on a consistent supply of maize.
After the meeting, we spoke with the caterer, Auntie Nana, who prepares the QPM porridge each morning – called “koko” locally. She said that before the feeding programs were started, many children reported sick and went home. But now that they are eating daily, their “sicknesses” – more likely actually hunger pains – have subsided, allowing them to spend more time in the classroom and attentive. The enclosed kitchen where she prepares the porridge was built by the community with material contributions from Self-Help, and is well-maintained.
Then began the main event: an assembly of the entire community in which the chief, head teacher, country director and I all addressed the community, recognizing how much progress has been made in our partnership, and challenging the parents to continue to support the program. Despite some wonderfully drumming between talks and lots of joyous song and dance, the highlight for me was when Mavis, Victoria, Yaa Angel, and Serwaa, student beneficiaries, sang about koko (the local term for the QPM porridge):
Another student, Mariama gave a speech of appreciation to SHI for offering free QPM breakfast for the past year. Then a group of students enacted a play recounting the true story from a few months ago in which community members who didn't understand the QPM program went to the Headmaster with false accusations about the program, he clarified about the benefits of QPM and confirmed that the program really is free, and, once on the same page, everyone agreed that the program was in fact very worthwhile. Then the head teacher, Emmanuel, appealed to the community to provide the school with more chairs for students in class 1. The grade is more congested this year due to increased enrollment associated with the introduction of the feeding program last year – a very good problem to have.
Finally, the chief appealed to Self-Help for continued assistance in building a library and information communication technology (ICT) center in the coming year, since the community has recently gained electricity. This heightened interest in children’s education is new and an exciting sign of the community’s dedication to their children’s success. An appropriate building has already been identified, so Benjamin and I agreed that if the community continues to demonstrate support for the QPM feeding program by consistently donating the necessary maize, we would set about working to provide assistance in filling the ICT center/library with computers and books.
Your donations, which brought the feeding program to Kontomire in the first place, have made the difference in encouraging this community to better invest in their children. Thank you for your ongoing support!
It is a common practice for schools to have Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs). Such associations exist to meet and plan together with the school board. It is however uncommon for members of the association to come together and work with their hands. The feeding program in most participating communities is helping to change the trend. Parents now come together and farm to make sure there is a regular supply of maize to support the program. A member of the Kontomire PTA, John, tells Self-Help the school farm has helped to strengthen communal spirit; parents are getting to know each other much better. He hopes that it extends to the larger community to encourage implementation of community projects like construction of latrines and safe drinking water sources. Projects like these will help reduce the incidents of disease and illness.
John recounted the commitment with which the association rallied behind the idea of building a kitchen for the school. The kitchen is needed to make sure the cooking is done in a safe and hygienic environment, and without any disruption from rains. Construction is ongoing but they now have a roof and some protection from the rain.
The community tells SHI they have seen improvement in school enrollment, especially among Kindergarten 1 (KG1) and Kindergarten 2 (KG2), and Class 1. Enrollment increased from 139 in term two to 158 in term three representing a growth of 13 percent. More children now attend school. The challenge to provide breakfast for children before going to school is being addressed by the feeding program and relieves parents of worry.
In June 2014, SHI interviewed two KG1 children; Janet and Victoria, both six-years-old.
Janet eats breakfast before going to school but her friend Victoria goes to school each morning on an empty stomach. Both of them eat the QPM breakfast SHI provides. Janet says the food makes her strong while Victoria says she is able to concentrate on her studies much better. Victoria and children like her would not go to school without the feeding program. The feeding program has contributed to increased enrollment and attendance and helps less fortunate children like Victoria.
Increased enrollment, though positive has exposed another weakness in the school; infrastructure. The school does not have enough classrooms and furniture to cater for the growing number of children in the community who want to go to school. However, with the growing enthusiasm and spirit in the community, the possibility of the community coming together to build more classrooms could be a reality.
Your support has helped this community, and others like it, come together to provide food for their children. Thank you for your donation.
Kontomire is a farming community in rural Ghana, about 32km from Kumasi. There is a lack of electricity, and the village is lucky to have boreholes that supply good drinking water. The local school, which goes from kindergarten to junior high, has observed a decrease in attendance, especially among the younger children.
The parent-teacher association found that most children stay away from school because of hunger. A solution was formed in which each child from kindergarten to primary 1 would pay 50 pesewas ($0.25) to be fed lunch each day. Since then, the school has been serving lunch on a daily basis.
The idea of feeding kids to keep them in school has been a worthy cause, but it still faces several challenges. Children whose parents are unable to afford the 50 pesewas are left out of the solution. Also, when Self-Help International visited Kontomire in October 2013, they observed that the cooking was done in the open and in deplorable condition.
The quality of food was of low standard and cooking was delayed each time it rained. In compromise with SHI, the community provided lumber and labor for a new school kitchen while Self-Help provided aluminum sheets and nails. Although provision of a kitchen was part of the solution, there was still one more challenge.
SHI observed that all the children, including Kofi (6), carried their plates and bowls to school every morning. Some of the bowls were not properly handled and at times the kids used them as play objects. This too, was a health hazard that affected the quality of the food being served.
SHI responded by donating 76 plates to be kept at the school. Kontomire is very thankful for the support from SHI. In February 2014, Kontomire will partake fully in the Self-Help International Quality Protein Maize (QPM) Feeding program. The community has already acquired farmland to cultivate QPM. With the help SHI has given, the community of Kontomire will be able to serve children breakfast prepared from QPM every school day.
With your support, children like Kofi will be fed on a regular basis. Thanks to your generosity, Self-Help International is one step closer in alleviating hunger by helping people help themselves.
In 2012, Self-Help International came into contact with Kobby (5) who had lost both parents at the age of two. Since then, he has been under the care of his aging grandmother, Agartha. He was visibly malnourished at the time and was put on the SHI feeding program. After being given high quality protein maize and vitamins, Kobby’s conditions improved tremendously.
Agartha confessed that although she is a strong believer in God, there were times when she feared for her grandson’s life. Thanks to SHI, regular intake of quality protein maize and vitamins restored her hope for Kobby.
At the start of the 2013/2014 school year, Kobby enrolled in Kindergarten at the Worapong Basic School. Agartha tells SHI that the feeding program is what launched “Satellite Kobby” into orbit. Because of his improved health condition, Agartha believes Kobby will be able to experience many other places and things in his life. He has already promised to buy her a tractor for her farm when he is older.
Thanks to your generosity, Kobby and many other children in Ghana will be able to live a healthier life. With your help, we are able to work towards our mission “to alleviate hunger by helping people help themselves”. Thank you for your support.
Recently the Amanchia Roman Catholic Primary School held its first Open House since it was established in 1920.
Attendance was overwhelming. Chiefs, Educational Officers, parents, government representatives, political party representatives, NGOs, citizens of Amanchia and many people who had passed through the school were there to celebrate the occasion.
The event featured speeches, poetry recitals, drama and choreographed dances school children up to Grade Two. In his opening speech, the Headmaster of the School, Mr. Victor Owusu thanked Self-Help International for the support given to the school. He was particularly happy about the feeding program as it has helped to increase enrollment by 10 percent. More pre-school kids attend school since the introduction of the feeding program.
According to the staff of Self-Help International, all the children who participated in the Open House performances have one thing in common, they eat breakfast prepared from Quality Protein Maize. Protein plays a major role in the formation and development of their brain.
District Director of Education Cosmos Dzansi, also in attendance at the event, requested for deeper collaboration between Self-Help and the Ministry of Education so that more children in the district could benefit from the feeding program. He later presented a certificate of appreciation to Self-Help on behalf of the school.
Thank you for your generosity and support. Your donations have helped to improve the lives of children at Amanchia Roman Catholic Primary as well as in other Ghanaian communities.
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