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Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala

As the world responds to the many changes that COVID-19 has brought, each community is adapting to its own new realities. In Guatemala, the first cases appeared in mid-March; the national government quickly established measures like closing schools, prohibiting public bus transportation, shutting the borders, limiting businesses and shops, and establishing a curfew. To ensure the safety and well-being of Pueblo a Pueblo staff and the people we serve, we postponed all face-to-face meetings and trainings and started working remotely. 

All of these measures have helped reduce the spread of cases, but have also significantly impacted the   daily life and economic stability of many Guatemalans. In the communities we serve, many individuals are part of the informal economy, and rely directly and indirectly on tourism to support their families. The restrictions in place to help combat COVID-19 have also led to widespread food insecurity among our community members. 

Although schools have shifted to remote classes and school buildings remain closed, we continue to support the students that are receiving sponsorships. We have also been in touch with school principals and teachers to remain aware of the current challenges as well as the upcoming needs of students and their families. Our School Nutrition project has been greatly impacted by these school closures, as families traditionally participate in onsite nutrition trainings. However, we have conducted some online trainings as well as created some short videos to raise awareness on topics that are important in the communities we work in.

Pueblo a Pueblo analyzed both the short and long term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the communities we serve, and identified the most immediate problems to be heightened food insecurity and loss of family income. These challenges will, in the long run, impact the quality of education, health and nutrition amongst our community members. To reduce immediate food insecurity we set up donation drives, with help of some matching grants, to collect funds and distribute food baskets to prioritized families. Many of our sponsored students, youth leaders, and local project support workers have benefitted from these food baskets!

Amidst these challenging times, Pueblo a Pueblo is committed to adapting our plans to meet the changing needs of our communities. As always, our priority is working with communities to ensure positive, lasting impact, and as we continue to adapt, we will provide food baskets to families in the communities we serve. 

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Sandy at nutrition training in 2019
Sandy at nutrition training in 2019

Like many of our supporters around the world, you are probably participating in widespread social distancing efforts to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19—the Coronavirus—in your community. As the virus spreads throughout Guatemala, Pueblo a Pueblo is doing the same.

Just a few weeks ago, Nutrition Educator Sandy Mendoza was gearing up to lead her first round of healthy cooking classes in our partner schools. She had prepared a new curriculum and designed a new set of recipes featuring nutritious whole food ingredients to share with students and their parents.

However, in mid-March Pueblo a Pueblo made the difficult decision to suspend all in-person meetings and educational sessions to minimize the risk of exposing our beneficiaries and team to the virus.

At Pueblo a Pueblo, we recognize our ability to protect our most vulnerable friends, neighbors, and family members by practicing social distancing. By limiting our contact with others, especially in large group settings, we can ease the burden this virus is likely to place on our rural Guatemalan partner communities. Our staff will work remotely until further notice.

We look forward to the day that Sandy can bring her new curriculum to our partner schools. We continue to be invested in the health and wellness of our neighbors here on Lake Atitlán—and for now, the best way we can protect others is to stay at home.

This pandemic is already affecting our ability both to achieve our project goals and to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff and beneficiaries. As we work to execute a swift and effective response, please consider making a donation to this project today.

Thank you in advance for your generosity—the future of our work here on Lake Atitlán depends on it.

Participants during an August 2019 training
Participants during an August 2019 training

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During Sandy’s last visit to La Cumbre Primary School, there was a lot to see. First, she stopped by the school library, established by Pueblo a Pueblo’s Pathways to Literacy project in 2015. Then, she walked through the organic school garden, also built with Pueblo a Pueblo’s support back in 2011.

Outside the garden, she greeted Principal Ricardo Sitan and asked about his plans for the corn, lettuce, and greens she saw growing there. “Same as always,” he said. “The harvest goes right into the kitchen to become part of the students’ lunch.”

Next, Sandy headed straight for that same kitchen. As she unpacked her ingredients, pairs of mothers and students began to arrive for their last healthy cooking class of the year. Sandy began the session by introducing the day’s topic: mindful eating.

“It’s easy to overeat, or eat the wrong foods, when we aren’t paying attention,” she said. Sandy then shared some tips with the group. “It’s best to eat more, smaller meals,” she explained. Her recommendation? Eat three meals a day plus a late-morning snack.

Sandy also cautioned against distractions at the dinner table. “Many of us have phones, computers, a TV in the kitchen,” she said. “Try to put them aside while you’re eating.” It's important to pay attention to when our bodies are hungry, satisfied, or overfull.

Sandy then introduced participants to the day’s key ingredients: broccoli and lentils. “Broccoli is a common food here, but most people just serve it in eggs,” Sandy explains. “Today we’ll be trying a new way of preparing it.”

Lentils are less common, Sandy said, but they are an affordable and fast-cooking alternative to black beans and full of protein and fiber. She passed around a bag of dry lentils so the group could get familiar with the new food.

Next, everyone set to work making a delicious meal of broccoli fritters and lentil salad under Sandy’s instruction. Once the food was ready, the mothers transferred it into their own pots and Tupperware containers to bring home to their families for lunch.

Over 500 family members enjoyed these healthy meals in 2019. Sandy teaches students and mothers how to cook and eat healthier. Then they share their knowledge at home, multiplying the impact of Sandy's trainings. Thank you for believing in the importance of nutrition to a healthy life. Your support makes this project possible!

Sandy presents on the topic of mindful eating
Sandy presents on the topic of mindful eating
Participants listen to Sandy's presentation
Participants listen to Sandy's presentation
Checking out the lentils
Checking out the lentils
Chopping veggies for the lentil salad
Chopping veggies for the lentil salad
Sandy serves the meal
Sandy serves the meal

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Sandy teaches in the organic school garden
Sandy teaches in the organic school garden

When we teach nutrition, it’s not always in the kitchen. Last week, Sandy visited Patzilin Abaj Primary School to lead a nutrition workshop for teachers—in the school’s organic garden!

“Healthy cooking is just one facet of nutrition,” says Sandy. “We also need to know where our food comes from in order to understand how to prepare and eat healthy food.” The Patzilin Abaj school garden—established by local teens through Pueblo a Pueblo’s Youth Leadership project—is a valuable teaching tool that gives students hands-on experience with the process of growing organic vegetables from seed to harvest.

Sandy also hopes to encourage teachers to use the garden as an outdoor classroom. “Being outdoors gets students excited to learn,” she says, “so teachers have a lot to gain from incorporating the garden into their lesson plans no matter what subject they teach.”

During the workshop, Sandy led a game to model a fun way teachers can engage students in nutrition education. She assigned each teacher an element of the food system to wear on their forehead and challenged them to guess their “identity” by asking their fellow teachers questions. Some, like tomatoes and spinach, were easier to guess. But others forced the teachers to think outside the box. “Yes,” said Sandy as she laughed along with the others, “water and soil are important parts of our food system, too!” She also modeled an activity based on the "olla familiar": the Guatemalan equivalent of the food pyramid.

This kind of nutrition education addresses all three of Pueblo a Pueblo’s focus areas—health, education, and food security—which are deeply intertwined in the lives of our project partners. We seek not only to spread the word about eating healthy food but also to teach families how to grow that food in their own backyard. Thank you for believing in the power of education to build healthier communities! Your support fuels our success.

Teachers participate in a game
Teachers participate in a game
"Parts of our food system" game
"Parts of our food system" game
The "olla familiar" activity
The "olla familiar" activity

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Sandy prepares for her next round of workshops
Sandy prepares for her next round of workshops

When Sandy leads nutrition trainings in schools, she often focuses on childhood nutrition: what kids need to eat to grow up healthy and strong. But she is also invested in helping students’ parents and grandparents stay healthy. That’s why the second workshop she developed for the summer 2019 project cycle focuses on nutrition tips for adults of all ages. Sandy will lead this lesson for participating students and their mothers, who will bring their new knowledge home to share with adult loved ones.

“The human body is vulnerable in different ways at different times in our lives,” Sandy explains. “We can protect our bodies and keep healthy by eating nutritious foods.” Sandy’s next workshop will provide nutrition recommendations for adults of three distinct age groups: 20-40 years old, 40-50 years old, and older than 50.

When it comes to adults under 40, Sandy says, there is something of a divide in today’s Santiago Atitlán. Some younger adults continue to do the daily physical labor that their families have done for centuries, like cutting firewood and harvesting crops. However, today’s younger adults are doing more and more sedentary work.

Sandy wants to impart that for those who do hard physical labor, it is important to provide the body with consistent energy and hydration. She recommends eating five times throughout the day and snacking on fruits—their high water content is a great way to stay hydrated! For those who spend a lot of the day sitting down, she recommends getting some exercise a few times a week and avoiding highly processed foods. “Exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym,” she says, “but even walking is good for your body, and it’s important that your children learn this healthy habit, too.”

What about middle-aged adults? When we reach our 40s, Sandy says, we need to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes that provide consistent energy and promote good digestive health. Middle-aged adults also need plenty of calcium to strengthen their bones and should keep on exercising and drinking plenty of water.

Older adults should steer clear of fried and processed foods to avoid large amounts of fat and cholesterol, which can cause heart problems, Sandy says. They should also continue to—you guessed it!—continue to exercise and hydrate often.

The bottom line? Sandy wants to teach the importance of learning and sustaining healthy habits from childhood through adulthood. “All of us need exercise, water, and a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and few processed foods,” she says. “There are important things to remember at each phase of life, but the most important lessons stay the same.”

This month, Sandy will lead this workshop in each of our five partner schools, where her nutrition lesson will be followed by a hands-on cooking class. The dish she plans to make with participants? Lentil burgers! The dish is both high in fiber and a big hit with eaters of all ages.

Your donation equips our Guatemalan project partners—young and old—with the tools they need to live healthier. Thank you for believing in the power of education to improve lives. Your support fuels our success!

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Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Pueblo_a_Pueblo
Project Leader:
Ana Cabrera
Neenah, WI United States
$29,060 raised of $40,000 goal
 
653 donations
$10,940 to go
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