Each school day, three to five mothers bring their own pots, pans and other cooking utensils to Keur Soce Primary School in central Senegal to help prepare a nutritious breakfast for the 360 students.
“It has completely changed the children. They have gained weight and are healthy,” says Aissatou Ndao, one of about 35 mothers who regularly show up to prepare a hot cereal made from ground beans, corn, rice, millet and peanuts — all grown locally. “Before, students sometimes came to school and did not talk much. But now, they participate more actively in class.”
While soils are fertile in this region of West Africa and most of Keur Soce’s 3,500 people rely on agriculture to survive, the area also is vulnerable to the harsh extremes of the wet and dry seasons. Poverty is high among families, and sometimes men must leave the area in search of work while their families stay home.
“Before the program, I had problems affording breakfast,” says 10-year-old Ibrahima Diagne. “But now, I don’t have them anymore.” Thanks to the breakfast program, Ibrahima says he attends school more regularly, which he likes. “School helps me to work and to succeed to help my parents.”
The Andando Foundation, an Oregon-based nonprofit agency that works mostly in Senegal to alleviate poverty through micro-development, started the Keur Soce Primary School’s nutrition program in 2013 with the help of a $75,000 one-year grant from Vibrant Village.
"We are pleased to help fund Keur Soce’s Primary School’s breakfast program,” says Georgina Bukenya Fields, Vibrant Village Foundation's International Programs director. Georgina points out how leading researchers on early childhood nutrition programs have found that schools can offer an enormous opportunity for promotion of health and nutrition for children.
Ndao adds that before Andando created the breakfast program, her own children occasionally would suffer from stomachaches and headaches. “Now they have no problems.”
Teacher Magatte Thiaw Mbaye agrees: “Previously, the students would be hungry by a certain time and unable to follow the lesson. Today, they are happy; they want to learn. They no longer fall asleep in class.”
Bineta Gueye, another teacher whose own daughter attends the school, considers the breakfast program a success on several levels. “It helps families save money. They used to have to send their students to school with 100 West African CFA Francs (about 20 cents) for breakfast.” She adds, “It has brought together the women of the village. And the students enjoy the breakfast a lot.”
After one year of operating Andando’s nutrition program and a number of infrastructure improvements, the school has seen a dramatic increase in test results from students taking the state-run elementary completion test. Over the past five years, the pass rate has averaged 45 percent, but in 2014, more than 65 percent of students passed the exam.
“The parents and school administration were very happy with the results, and we see this as a culmination of our efforts in providing better facilities, increased nutrition, more community involvement and improved attendance,” says Lewis Kiker, Andando’s executive director. “While there is still a long way to go, this is a great start and proof that things can change when attention and effort is put forth.”
Through the partnership between Andando and Keur Soce Primary School, students now receive breakfast or lunch five days a week. Lunches are prepared with fresh vegetables from the newly established school garden and rice from the World Food Program.
In addition to the breakfast program, Vibrant Village Foundation’s grant also funded the school garden, which supplies food for the nutrition program, and paid for several much-needed repairs to the school. Young men attending nearby Legacy International Vocational School rebuilt the desks, and many parents volunteered their time to help repair and paint the school.
“Vibrant Village Foundation is thrilled that Andando’s work in Keur Soce has generated exciting results and galvanized the community to lead efforts to improve the well-being of the children of Keur Soce,” Vibrant Village’s Fields says.
Andando’s Kiker adds, “The last year was a time of growth for Andando, and Vibrant Village Foundation was a huge part of that. We were able to grow the scope and reach of our programs and take steps to ensure their success and sustainability. Vibrant Village Foundation helped us guide these programs and reach a growing number of people in Keur Soce across many sectors as we walk together with the people of Senegal.”
This story is the last in a three part series from DESEA Peru, where Vibrant Village Foundation is supporting a community health program in the Andes mountains.
On a recent day in Kelloccocha, DESEA nurses, Mary Luz and Sandra, and qhali, Jeronima, encountered an eight-year-old girl, who had fallen 2.5 meters onto a rock, four days earlier. She was lying on her home’s dirt floor with a broken femur. The mother, with her husband out of community, was simply hoping the problem would go away, and did not have the resources or understanding of how to manage such an emergency. She was just doing what she could, keeping her daughter warm, fed, and as comfortable as possible with ibuprofen.
Mary Luz, Sandra, and Jeronima, quickly developed an evacuation plan for the young child. Using some light eucalyptus branches they stitched together a stretcher with one of the family blankets. Next, they had to package the child for transport. Using an old foamie, a piece of cardboard, and thick woven Andean belts, they were able to stabilize the child’s leg for transport, ensuring no further movement would occur during the long bumpy ride to the hospital.
With the child stabilized they switched their focus to her mother, helping to secure her property, animals and potatoes for her absence from the community, and finding someone to watch over her meager belongings. They told the mother to take what money she had as she would need this in the city. Her total savings amounted to 40 soles ($14).
Mary Luz, Sandra and Jeronima carried the child down one hill, over the creek and up another for more than 30 minutes, until they reached the truck. Transporting her in the back of the open pick-up, we reached the hospital five hours after we first encountered this young patient.
Our fingers are crossed that everything will be okay for this young girl with her whole life ahead of her, but a fractured femur, left untreated for four days, will likely not be easily treated and may result in long-term problems. Had the qhali been notified earlier, when the accident first occurred, the treatment would have been much more routine; however, the mother had been managing alone in her adobe home and was overwhelmed by the situation and simply shut down.
One positive outcome of this incident is that DESEA will be able to use it as an example of the need for community plans to deal with emergencies. As well, the community will see how a qhali can be used to provide immediate care and to summon outside assistance when needed.
This story is the second in a series from DESEA Peru, where Vibrant Village Foundation is supporting a community health program in the Andes mountains.
Eighteen-year-old Hilda Apucusi Perez has eczema. In North America, eczema is easily managed with hydrocortisone skin cream; however, in her remote community in the Peruvian Andes, this condition has isolated Hilda from other children, barred her from school, and precluded a normal childhood.
Eczema, exacerbated by the woolen clothing used in the high Andes, had caused Hilda to scratch at her arms and legs. When she first attended kindergarten her skin had open sores. Children made fun of her and the teacher, not understanding her condition, told her she could not return to school until she was cured. Her family, unable to access medical attention - a proper diagnosis and over-the-counter medication - resigned themselves to the situation and Hilda never returned to school. She has spent her entire childhood at their isolated homestead, tending to sheep and alpacas in the fields, and removed from other children. (Photo) Dr. Violet Shadd, Hilda and NP Nicole Entz
When DESEA encountered Hilda we asked her to come to a medical campaign which was then underway; however, Hilda didn’t feel this was possible, in the presence of community members who had shunned her. Instead she met us on the side of the road, and showed us her skin condition. It wasn’t just her sadness that moved our team to tears, but the knowledge that this was so avoidable. Hilda was given a supply of hydrocortisone cream and treatment instructions.
Back in the community the following week we were delighted when she came to the clinic, surrounded by community members, to show us how well the cream had worked. DESEA nurses continue to dispense cream and to provide guidance to Hilda and, months later, she is all smiles. Her mother has told us that she is much happier, more comfortable, and willing to go out to social events. A simple solution - including use of hydrocortisone cream, cotton clothing, and teaching and support - has changed Hilda’s life forever.