Remember Home Economics at School?
Visiting Cambodia recently with international aid agency Samaritan’s Purse, I found out a lot of information which is incredibly disheartening (you can read more about the whys and wherefores of my trip HERE). One of the disconcerting things was to learn that many mothers do not have the knowledge to provide adequate health and nutrition for their children.
For us in the West this seems almost too hard to believe. How could a mother not know to feed her children properly? However, if you consider the traumatic upbringing these mothers had during the Pol Pot regime – and how many of them were forcibly abandoned by their own mothers – you start to understand the complexity of the problem. Because if you never caught health and nutrition from your mother, or had home economics classes at high school, how is it possible to give good nutrition it to your offspring?
The Importance of the Early Years of Childhood
In a previous blog, I wrote about the critical nature of the first 1000 days of your life – from conception to a little before your third birthday. During this time you were fed, cared for and nurtured. The quality of care and love during this period set you up for the rest of your life, physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually . . . you name it.
Love and care are not in short supply in Cambodia. Just like our families, children are precious, and are treasured by their parents. However, understanding the importance of good nutritional food IS in short supply. Often people assume that if bellies are full of rice, this is good enough. So the health and nutrition projects Samaritan’s Purse oversees are an eye-opener for many mothers.
Lack of nutrition doesn’t just stunt growth, and make it more difficult to recover from illness. It also hinders brain development, and therefore impacts intelligence. Imagine learning that your child’s brain and body can develop better, simply by eating the right food! And that to give them the best opportunity to reach their full potential, all you have to do is to feed them a good variety.
It’s the simple solutions that are often the best.
Health and Nutrition – A Life-Changing Program
The possibility of breaking the poverty cycle by feeding your child well in the early days is life-changing for Cambodian families. Because no one living in poverty wants to see their children grow up with the same lack of opportunity they had. It is a revelation to know your child will be more intelligent. Therefore he or she will do better at school, and have greater employment opportunities, .
This is the starting point for each health and nutrition program Samaritan’s Purse initiates in many countries. Their workers approach each village, and encourage them to begin health and nutrition classes. To start with, they train a “lead mother” who in turn passes on the information to the other mothers. The lead mother continues to give input and encouragement to women in her area. Eventually, she helps them implement ways of food preparation that are cheap, wholesome and nutritious.
What We Saw, and What We Did
During the trip, we visited one village where our hard-working Year 10-12 students were divided into four teams and each given a task. Under the watchful eyes of about 20 women, the four teams messed around with food. One team mashed pumpkin. Another cut up some greens. Others shelled and mashed boiled eggs. And yet another de-boned some cooked fish, and flaked it.
However they had no idea what the end product would be. Were they making breakfast? Soup? Salad?
Eventually, the students only worked it out when their four large bowls of ingredients were tipped into a stockpot half-filled with boiling rice.
Voila! It was a huge pot of baby food – for the whole village!
Cambodian mothers are amazing. I applaud their bravery and willingness to do the best for their children under difficult circumstances. They missed out on critical information from their mothers. Which means they must humbly learn to give their kids the best chance at life. It was not caught, so they must be taught!
The next key to growing healthy families in Cambodia is something we Aussies don’t even think about. It’s coming up in my blog next week.