Happy Earth Day!
Malnutrition screening in Cameroon
At the community center Mita Rory, a place that supports 180 families giving homework help, family support, and regular beneficial presentations, a group of 12 women work together to help run the community center and to improve their community. One of their projects is a soup kitchen that provides lunch three times a week to approximately 400 children of the community. The women work together voluntarily using local government donations in order to cook and provide meals to these hungry children. Every three months, the community center is provided with food donations, which are supposed to last them until the supplies are replenished. Unfortunately, due to the poor conditions of the kitchen, food donations are always spoiled or ruined, preventing the soup kitchen to provide meals to children.
The kitchen at Mita Rory was, essentially, a rotting wooden shack that constantly leaked from rain and became home to dozens of rats. Due to water damage and hungry rodents, the food would become unusable, and the lunch program would be suspended until new fresh food was supplied again, leaving hundreds of hungry children that depend on this program. The women cooked what usable food they had inside this shack by burning wood or carbon, causing a cloud of smoke in the room affecting their health as smoke filled their lungs and stung their eyes. It became clear to the 12 women in charge that rat traps and patching holes in the roof was not the solution and that, if they wanted to continue the soup kitchen, they needed to improve their infrastructure.
Every week, the women met to devise a plan as to how to gain the funds to improve their kitchen. For months they tried soliciting help from the local government, but were denied. Eventually hope came from a local NGO donation, which provided the community center with new kitchen equipment. The community center now had pots, pans, plates, cups, and tables but where still left with the wooden shack. With a little more insistence from the women, the community center was provided with a new refrigerator and a large oven that would eventually be used in cooking/confectionary courses for community members, in order to provide new work skills and generate income. Still, the women were left with their wooden shack, and were in fear of installing their new equipment for it would surely be destroyed from the leaks (maybe even the rats). Exhausting all resources, it was finally time to take advantage of outside resources and apply for a Small Project Assistance (SPA) grant through Peace Corps-Paraguay.
The community center was awarded with approximately $2,600 to be used for construction and was put to use right away. Community members came together to tear down the old shack piece by piece, saving any materials that could be used again. The women worked together to help monitor expenditures and evaluate the construction’s progress as they proudly witnessed their dream slowly coming true. As they realized that more money would be needed to finish the building, they set up their new oven and began cooking for a bake sale in order to gain the extra funds needed.
Soon enough, the building was put together and the tables were placed in order to serve its first lunch on “Día del Niño” or Children’s Day. Here, 500 people were able to come together in the newly built room, to have their first sit down lunch as they appropriately celebrated Children’s Day, marking the first of many lunches in the building.
In honor of Peace Corps Week, check out 5 ways Peace Corps Volunteers help Feed the Future!
This photo was taken in May 2013 in Madagascar. It shows Germaine, a member of the local women’s gardening association with her basket of produce. SPA funds were used to support the project which included purchasing tools and seeds, as well as an eight-week class on improved agricultural techniques. Germaine was so successful she not only had enough for her family but enough left over to sell too!
- Peace Corps Agriculture Volunteer Kara Leavitt
Today our Youth in Development team took advantage of a special opportunity to work with PC Guate’s Food Security Coordinator. With her guidance, we helped students from Segundo and Tercero Básico classes (7th & 8th grade) to make tire gardens in the afternoon.
As you can see above, we used a seriously sharp knife to cut handles into the tire and then flipped it inside-out to fill it with sticks, a piece of tarp, and a mix of soil, sand, and compost. Students chose organic seeds from a variety of native vegetables (i.e. guicoy, amaranth, onion, chipilín, chia, spinach). One example garden was made with a tire while the rest were prepared in containers the students already had at school. We were able to cut and flip eight tires for future use.
The activity was truly fun for everyone! Our group had lots of laughs while trying to flip the tire and I believe the message was powerful for the students. By up-cycling old tires and repurposing compressed dirt from containers behind the school, they could engage in more environmentally conscious behaviors and practices. As Trainees, we are now excited to see how an activity like this - that only takes a couple hours to do - can be a great way to facilitate a segue into other topics such as teamwork, responsibility, and sustainability.
Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal joyfully shake hands with President Obama during his trip to Africa