San Juan Nutrition Project: Update #1

When I first started out working for this nutrition project, I honestly didn’t really have any idea of what I was getting myself into.  I knew I would be working on a feeding project and helping to prepare the meals, but that was really most of the direction I got before I left.

When I got here, I was told I would be buying and preparing the meals for the children, and then serving them during lunchtime with the help of the other nanays.  After a few days of this, I realized a pattern of inconsistency as some of the children wouldn’t come to receive their free food, and weren’t going to school either.  This struck me very hard, as I would get easily frustrated when the kids wouldn’t show up, because it seemed like the parents didn’t care that their children were still starving and we were providing free food.  On top of that, many of the parents didn’t strongly push their kids to attend school, even when it is a 5 minute walk from their house.  My partner and I have attempted to come up with some types of solutions to help solve these problems, even though we were told it wasn’t our job.  We would vent a little about it after each day, because we wouldn’t take this as a definite answer.

While it was true that we couldn’t really do anything about forcing them to go to school, we decided that walking them to school after their snack time and lunch time helped a bit.  So now they come and play with us during break, and eat their lunch with us, and after they are done we are their personal escorts back to class.

As for the attendance every day at lunch, we are trying a few tactics.  First, we just implemented a sticker attendance sheet, where every time a kid finishes a meal, they get to put a sticker next to their name.  If you have never seen a kid get a sticker, let me tell you, they LOVE stickers, literally like it’s Christmas or something.  Next, we moved the time of the feeding to be at lunch instead of breakfast, which is good for many reasons.  First, after I eat breakfast I get to go back to sleep for an hour, because we don’t have to leave until 8:30!!  Second, all of the kids that are in school have lunch at 11:30, and the kids that are too young eat at 11, so the times are spread out.  So far it has been pretty successful, and we are happy to finally have a lot less absences.

On top of this, Cam and I still haven’t felt completely satisfied with our work, so we have decided to try to enact more measures to make the program more self-sustainable.  Because right now we are merely feeding the kids, and not really helping them and their families succeed when they are out of the program.  THerefore, we have talked to the Barangay Captain about implementing a community garden that we can use for the project, as well as a fresh water fishery.  He loved the program ideas, and so now we are just waiting to get the price back from the engineers to see if it is manageable with our budget.  We are also planning a Nutrition Education class series for the nanays of the community that will start next week, and the Captain said he would love to attend that as well.  We are keeping ourselves very busy here to say the least, but it’s totally worth it to see these kids gain weight and get more comfortabe around you.  Here are some pictures of the kids we serve: Image

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2 thoughts on “San Juan Nutrition Project: Update #1

  1. I’m not sure how to send a reply, Lauren, but I’ll try it this way and hope you get it! Happy belated birthday! I was in Southern California for my 50th high school reunion on your birthday and I’m glad that I went. I thought about you when I looked at the brilliant full moon we had at that time–I knew you were seeing it, too! Charlie and I have enjoyed reading about your experiences and accomplishments and are so proud of you! I told my classmates about what you’re doing and how impressed I am that you can pack up and travel on your own half way around the world and be completely at ease….and do great things for those little kids. Wow! Is the native language Spanish there? Do you speak Spanish? Have you had any problems with understanding the local lingo? Take care. Love you lots, Susie and Charlie

    • Thanks so much! They speak a local dialect here called Waray Waray, which is similar to Spanish, but it’s easier to just speak in English. I’ve leaned a few phrases in the language, but it’s hard to catch on. Hopefully by the end I’ll be a lot better…Love you too!

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