Sunday, November 15, 2009

School feeding program

One of the big projects that I have been involved in over the past year has been the creation of a school feeding program in the village of Tagentassou. This is a village of mostly settled Touregs with approx 1000 people in it, surrounded by fields of another 1000 or so people who live in huts and follow their animals and the crop cycle, making the area population about 2000 people.

This program consists of giving 2 hot meals per day to every child attending school. It also has other hygiene and education components.

National education and nutrition figures show clear needs that can be addressed by a school linked intervention such as a school feeding program.  Our own baseline survey last year showed that only 40% of school aged children attended the local primary school in Tagentassou. Of this 40% who are attending (68 out of a possible 150 of school aged children). Very few of these students were girls, especially in the higher levels of primary school where there were only 2 girls and 14 boys. School attendance is sporadic by many of the children. Our baseline survey also showed that less than 30% of the respondents in this area felt they had enough to eat during the week.

So now that the paperwork and funds and everything is in place, we are so excited that the program has begun! We are still putting together some of the pieces, but feeding has begun! Woohoo! For those of you who are interested, we have applied for (and received) funding through the Canadian Food Grains Bank (http://www.foodgrainsbank.ca) that funds the cost of the food and all the bowls, dishes, cooks salaries, storage facility,etc. Other portions of the programs are out of the work specials of the Marineaus and McIvers.

So here is some pictures and thoughts from my visit there last week.

I went to help with the morning meal preparation for the the students one morning. That meant arriving at the school yard at 6:15 am. And I was greeted by the most beautiful sunrise glistening over the water of the nearby rain fed lake.

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The kitchen so far. A storage facility for all the tools, utensils, containers and grain is being built right now in the school grounds a hundred feet away.

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One of the cooks. Her name is Maimouna and she is one of the first women that we really connected with and started a friendship with when we first starting visiting the village over a year ago.

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This is Halimatou (another one of the cooks) and her young Daughter Zoowera. This little girl is 15 months old, but she is skin and bone and looks like she is only 6 months old.

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Stirring the fine millet powder with water to prep it for porridge.feedingprogram13web

Stirring the huge pot of millet porridge for the morning meal. This consists of finely ground up millet flour and grain, sugar, oil and water which forms a porridge like consistency when cooked for half an hour. feedingprogram03web

For those of you who don’t know what millet looks like, here is some pictures of some of the  millet in the school storage area. Millet is the main staple crop of Niger and makes up a large majority of the diet. It grows in stalks much like corn does.

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Setting out the bowls to be filled. There is one bowl full shared between two children.

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Filling it up and ready to serve!

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It was strangely emotional for me while I was there to see all our time and hard work translate into all these bowls of porridge and these kids getting food. So awesome to see a long term project start and be so successful already! Knowing that there is a feeding program at the school has already seen school inscription almost double, from 68 last year up to 120 currently! And many families have decided to send their girls this year as well as just their sons! We are so excited!feedingprogram02web

The kids pair up and sit down to enjoy their breakfast. There is usually enough for every child to eat their fill and even some left over so that at recess some kids who want to will come and grab another bowl full.

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I left before the lunch meal that day since we had the dental clinic in the village, but this whole process is repeated every day at lunch when the children get to share huge platters of rice and veggie sauces! I will post pictures of that one day too!

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Thank you for your support of our work here, and the various funds that allow us to work here. You are making a difference for these children!!

2 comments :

Steve & Kerri said...

Hey Chantelle,

It's amazing to see this all come together for these people. Julia will be so excited to hear about this and to see the pictures as the school feeding program was what she heard from when you and Paul shared at church. We will continue to pray for you and for this program.

Kerri

Anonymous said...

So amazing to 'see' the program in action. What beautiful children. Way to go, Chantelle!!

Joanne Beach