Dear friends and supporters,
The rains signaling the beginning of the planting season have brought us auspicious news; our initial goal of serving 300 families has nearly been reached! We are currently serving 291 families across three health clinics in one district of Rwanda--this sucess is, in part, due to your investment. Through our unique partnership with health clinics, our program has “prescribed” a diverse array of seeds, small livestock like rabbits and chickens, agricultural training and nutrition education—to families with children diagnosed with malnutrition. Our agricultural agents, on the frontlines of malnutrition, have helped families improve their existing farms and establish new home gardens. Demand for our program is growing; we write this update with both a sense of excitement, but also urgency.
The increasing weights and decreasing signs of malnutrition among enrolled children are exciting indicators of change. But so, too, are the improving knowledge test scores among the enrolled mothers who complete our training. We know that not only one season will bring positive impact, but that families we serve are gaining the skills to sustain improvements in agriculture and health.
A recent graduation ceremony at one of our health clinics highlighted this change. Delphine, a graduate pictured here, noted: ”We consider you as a tree for life (Igiti cy’ubuzima) where we harvest skills to help us to become healthy” Another graduate, Cecile noted, “I know that after this training, I will never need to bring my child in with malnutrition again. I know how to make sure he remains healthy."
Your support has been critical for us to reach this goal, but our goals for this year are much, much bigger than 300 families. We need to serve hundreds, and thousands, more. Recent national data released cites that 44% of children under five have chronic malnutrition--the numbers have not improved much since 2005. In turn, the Government of Rwanda has launched a campaign to eliminate malnutrition by the end of 2012 and have cited us a critical partner in this fight. The interest in our model is exciting; not only do we hope to fight malnutrition, but we hope to help permanently ensure that all patients who escape malnutrition can, and will, stay healthy.
Take the case of Francine, pictured here with her three children near their field. We met Francine and her children when her three year old was diagnosed with malnutrition and was brought into one of our health clinic partners for treatment. After enrolling in the Gardens for Health program following a prescription from the health clinic nutritionist, Francine received seeds, seedlings and two chickens, technical assistance from agricultural agents, and an opportunity to participate in education sessions on the medical causes and social determinants to malnutrition.
Now, Francine's chickens have now multiplied into ten and continue to give eggs to her children. She is growing papaya, carrots, peanuts, orange sweet potatoes and spinach. Further, the education sessions and cooking demonstrations have given Francine the skills to feed her children balanced meals. In the last six months, her three year old has gained over six pounds, and no longer carries the tell tale signs of malnutrition--like oedema and an extended belly. Francine is proving to us all that lasting change is indeed home-grown.
Your continued investment will help ensure that we can surpass our goal of partnering with 300 families like that of Francine and Delphine, and then invest in hundreds, and thousands more.
Here’s to cultivating better health and working ourselves out of a job!
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