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.
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!
Howard University alumna Christina Titus is a Peace Corps Community Economic Development Volunteer in Rwanda where she works alongside village-based community health workers to educate her community about malaria and HIV prevention, as well as address hygiene and nutrition. In an effort to engage youth in her community, Christina is also working on developing a youth center to empower them as they tackle health issues and bring about sustainable change.
The photograph shows the mothers and children cheering with the fresh glasses of soy milk we just made. Malnutrition is a tremendous problem among the people here, most of whom are of Lencan descent, one of the indigenous populations of Honduras. My coordinating NGO, World Vision (counterpart at far left of photograph) and I work with the women to find local and nutritious foods they can make for themselves and their families. Soy, one of these local products, only costs 10 Lempiras ($.53) a pound, and is therefore more cost effective than other products, mainly meats, with the same protein content. We begin every class with a charla (presentation) over the importance of nutrition and different nutritional elements available in local foods and then cook a few different types of food from local ingredients, soy milk and soy chorizo being examples.
Peace Corps Volunteers Katy Todd and Melissa Bernard are working with local Togolese community members to promote women’s empowerment by organizing the third annual national women’s wellness and empowerment conference. Throughout the five-day conference, 30 women will participate in seminars and activities to enhance their personal development and entrepreneurial skills. Seminar topics will include family planning, maternal health, nutrition, food security, social entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
"The conference helps women realize their potential to become leaders and role models, and to have a positive impact on those around them,” said Bernard. “Participants leave equipped not only with valuable information, but with confidence in themselves and a belief that they can make a difference.”
The photo was taken in South Africa at a school where Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterparts had their permagarden training. People were encouraged to design plots in different shapes to get young people interested in gardening and to use as a teaching aid.
In this one in particular, a message about HIV/AIDS is communicated, that we need vegetables to feed HIV/AIDS infected and affected.
Neem cream demonstrations!! I’ve done five trainings so far at the baby weighings held monthly in different areas of Sirigu. So far, over 150 women have learned how to make it and took some home with them from the demonstration.
They scared me, they were planted a month ago and then nothing… but sure enough, tiny green life!
—This is a little project I’m working on with my friend Zoë, I gave about a teaspoon of Quinoa seeds to 8 families in my village and asked them to try growing them. The real goal is that people would be willing to eat this as a part of their regular diet, because its chocked full of protein and nutrients that aren’t a part of their regular diets. I’ll let you know how it turns out in about 5 months.
The Children’s Garden is an essential project as it will provide children with the opportunity to learn about nutrition while encouraging them to grow their own crops of which they can take home to their families.
Many children and adults currently do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables within the village. Therefore, a significant portion of the population tends to be undernourished due to the lack of diversity and essential nutrients in their diets.
Peace Corps Community Development Volunteer Christina Alexander
"I think these photos sum up the Peace Corps Aquaculture Program, in that by teaching people how to raise fish they are able to provide themselves with a sustainable protein source that can increase health."
Peace Corps Agriculture Volunteer Chris Kelly, who served in Zambia from 2001-2003, helped his community build these fish ponds to help introduce more protein into their diets. The child holding the fish is most likely suffering from Kwashiorkor Syndrome, which is a severe protein malnutrition that affects children.
Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer Keisha Herbert recently trained more than 30 girls in Guatemala to create vegetable gardens out of recycled car and truck tires, and held a cooking and nutrition class with the food they generated from the gardens. The project not only helped raise environmental awareness, but it also improved local families’ access to food.