During my recent visit to Nicaragua I visited the children’s feeding centers to see firsthand nutritional improvements among the children. Several U.S. sixth graders decorated recycled tennis balls that we distributed to the children. I was pleased to observe that the children were more alert, had more energy and had greatly improved hand-eye coordination. It was wonderful seeing how thrilled the kids were these presents. However, one little girl, Celine, quickly went about gathering balls, and hoarding them in her little arms. She was very reserved, shy, and compelled to keep all of them. I quickly learned that Celine had come to the center through her aunt who was now taking care of her. Unfortunately, her mother had given up her four children because she was unable to take care of them.
At 3 and one-half years, Celine arrived at the feeding center only able to speak two words. She had never known such a thing as three meals a day, but rather if there was any food to be eaten. Now, at four years she is becoming more assured that she will get at least one good meal each day. The staff continues to work closely with her to increase her vocabulary, and to establish trust so that Celine can develop into the beautiful child that is within. I am confident that during my fall trip Celine will have developed by leaps and bounds, physically, mentally, and socially. Because of your gifts, Celine has a new beginning, as do hundreds of other children. Thank you for being a part our of Self-Help’s efforts to alleviate malnutrition among youngsters.
The villages of Amanchia and Worapong, Ghana are sites where nearly 250 children ages 6 mos. to 6 years gather to attend preschools. As part of Self-Help’s children’s feeding program, each day the youngsters receive a serving of Quality Protein Maize (QPM) porridge with vitamins and minerals. This QPM porridge has greatly improved the health and well-being of these youngsters. Many children initially come to the school malnourished, with underweight bodies and dull minds. Within a few months the transformation is remarkable, and moving to observe.
And now there is a new twist in the program that is both exciting and commendable. Junior high students from both of these villages have taken upon themselves to learn good cultivation practices by growing their own QPM. But it doesn’t stop there! The students have also decided to contribute a portion of their harvest to Self-Help’s feeding program! We are thrilled by their generosity and concern for others.
Self-reliance, teaching the young to contribute to society, and improving youngsters’ lives makes us proud to be involved in these communities!
December has been a very exciting month for the children at the daycare and pre-schools. All 13 schools celebrated the holidays with games and piñatas. 30 de Mayo, the newest school, had their first pre-school graduation for children starting elementary school. Self-Help has been feeding children Quality Protein Maize porridge with vitamins at this center the past 11 months. This is the first healthy group of kids to graduate.
All of the schools continue to show big improvements in the children's health due to the meals we are providing them daily. They are gaining weight, growing taller and are more energetic. Volunteer mothers prepare the porridge five days a week. Each month a Ministry of Health nurse and the Self-Help staff measure the height and weight of each child to track their progress. Self-Help is pleased to see steady progress among the children.
Self-Help extends its gratitude to its supporters who are helping us alleviate malnutrition among the youngest generation of Nicaragua.
Our recently added vitamin and mineral packets have already shown such a huge change in the children in our feeding centers. Because the additons are so new we don't have numbers to give yet on the actual change in health however, based on the results of our previous centers who have added the packets, we are more than encouraged. From a general look of lethargy when the program first started to children running around and gianing weight, we are thirlled with the progress being seen.
Executive Director Merry Fredrick returned from a 2-week trip to our programs in Nicaragua on October 1st. Her first visit was to be at the inauguration of a brand new feeding center in 30 de Mayo, located outisde of San Carlos, Nicaragua. This is a very poor village that was using a family's home two times a week to provide meals and education for younger children. However, after generous donations and grants these mothers will be able to provide better education and meals FIVE days a week. For such a poor village this is a big improvement which will lead to healthier children and give mothers the time they need to work on farms and trade work. Being able to add vitamins and minerals to this village's feeding center will make such an impact. Such a small price to make such a big difference! We are excited to acquire more funds to continue and expand all of our feeding centers' reach.
Today was our site visit with Self-Help International. Our wonderful host Rita and her father drove us to the main road where we met Benjamin, the Project Coordinator at Self-Help. First we went to the main office which is in a building owned by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture which Self-Help partners with at times for training and micro-finance operations. We met with Wilberforce, the country director, to discuss the administrative side of Self-Help Ghana. Then Benjamin and 2 of his colleague whisked us off to visit beneficiaries.
We first stopped at a pottery co-op that was using a loan from Self-Help to purchase clay to make high-quality pots for farmers and other locals. It was amazing the work that went into each bowl that would be sold at the market for less than $1. Then we went to a poultry project Self Help worked with the government to set up with its borrowers. This was an example of taking a problem and being creative to develop a solution that made everyone benefit. The farmers were having problems with low maize prices during the harvest time because there was a large supply from all the farmers. So, instead, they introduced poultry farms to these farmers and gave them small storage silos to keep the maize in for 5-6 months to feed to the poultry. This allowed them to decrease the supply on the market, thereby raising the prices, and create another revenue stream from selling eggs in their community. The additional high-quality maize stored in the silo could be fed to the chickens and would not spoil before the next harvest. Self-Help was able to finance the special seeds and other materials needed for this production so the farmers would be able to start the new program immediately and not have to wait until they saved enough money to afford the additional resources.
After we visited with the poultry farmers, we visited another of Self-Help’s local community programs to feed nutritious breakfasts to about 300 children 6 years old and below at the local school. This program allowed local farmers, which were also micro-credit borrowers to provide the school with the cornmeal necessary to make the porridge daily. When speaking with the headmaster of the school, he said that in the 2 terms that the program was in existence, they were able to see a big difference in the performance of the students. Then, we were able to get a little testimony of that ourselves as we went outside to see the classrooms and as soon as we were ready to take some pictures, about 200 excited children came running out to be included in the photo shoot. We decided that the porridge must really work and we wanted some so we could be that energetic too.
The visit was completed with a discussion with a group of the poultry program beneficiaries, where they expressed their happiness with the organization and its program and the things it has allowed them to accomplish, like sending their children to school. The only ways they said the Self-Help program could improve was to be able to lend larger loan amounts, which is a common issue for micro-credit programs that are so successful in helping their borrowers develop good businesses that they need larger loans to expand their profitable businesses, but the micro-credit program is limited in the amount of money they have available to lend to their customers. Overall, we were very impressed with Self-Help’s projects and felt that with more funding, they would be able to expand their beneficial programs to assist more communities in Ghana.
Sarah and four other In-the-Field Travelers are currently in Ghana before they are making their way to Mali and Burkina Faso. They'll be visiting more than 30 GlobalGiving projects in the next month. Follow their adventures at http://itfwa.wordpress.com/.
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