A nutrition programme in Madagascar

I am going to share with you the ’bread from home’ at the nutrition programme in Madagascar. My name is Louisette (a Little Sister in temporary vows). I have been responsible for this programme since September 2010. I had previously spent a year with an NGO that looks after the children of families that are deprived and at a distance from schools, with particular attention to the whole aspect of schooling for these children. My function was to evaluate that project.

With regard to our own programme – for over 10 years, thanks to the collaboration between LSA, laypeople and benefactors, we can attend to 15 children aged from 6 months to 3 years from the nearby neighbourhoods here in Sahalava in the town of Fianarantsoa (Madagascar). Jesus addresses this Word to us: ’Give them something to eat’, and also He says to the children ’come and drink and eat without paying’.
 
These two phrases echo and resonate with us in our life as Christians, disciples and apostles as we follow Jesus Christ, Servant and Saviour, with the undernourished children of the area where we are. Before beginning ’our bread’ I would like to give the recipe and the shape by some questions and answers that will help you to understand this better. 
 
What does our bread look like? 
Our bread has different shapes according to the moulds we have: the proposals are made according to the situation of the family, their needs etc. 
 
And our recipe ?
The recipe does not change much because it is the good mixture of the LSA, the laypeople and the families of the area who are in difficulties. 
 
And the flavouring for this bread?
The flavouring is our very being: what we are and what we have, just as we are. 
 
Who benefits from the bread ?
The families with difficulties and especially their undernourished children who like to eat this bread. 
 
When do the children come to be nourished with the bread? 
Every day, from Monday to Saturday, all these children come to the centre, at our house, which is called AKANY FIVOARANA (that is, development nest), to drink some milk with ’ananambo’ vitamins (made from some very nourishing local plants). Twice a week they have a full meal (minced meat, or fish, or eggs with vegetables, rice and fruit). 
 
What criterion is used to say that children are undernourished and need to come to us? 
Initially, we weigh each child and if the curve on the weight/height ratio of the special form we use is in the red zone (severe malnutrition) we accept the child immediately. 
 
Often these children do not have a normal weight when they are weaned and the nutritional follow-up is begun at that point until they attain their recommended weight – as measured by the height/weight ratio of the form. 
 
For how long are these children nourished by this bread?
Often these children do not have a normal weight when they are weaned and the nutritional follow-up is begun at that point until they attain their recommended weight – as measured by the height/weight ratio of the form. 
This can last one or two years depending on their develop¬ment which in turn often depends on the financial and social situation of their family. 
 
Generally, who are these children? These parents? 
They are children who are undernourished because of the difficult situations they are in; abandoned children, children whose mother has died, a mother who has a mental illness, parents who are unemployed, parents who are separated. 
 
And who is in the team that kneads the dough?
From the beginning there has been Mme Pauline and Mme Jacqueline, two local women; they know the families well and are anxious that they make a go of things. 
Each year the postulants and aspirants from the Ampopoka commu¬nity come for a time. At the moment Brigitte (postulant) and Arlette (aspirant) are with us. I am the coordinator and am helped by Marie Françoise (LSA). Once a month a volunteer doctor comes to monitor the children’s development. 
 
Does the nutrition programme include only the food for the children?
Of course not! There is also information on hygiene, health (prevention and treatment) and on balanced diet. This training is done using videos or information sheets, and with an effort to have the mothers participate in it. 
We do not forget the celebrations: Christmas, and this year, at their request, there was a time of dancing and music for the new year. There is also a weekly visit to each family so as to strengthen the links with them and to see their situation on the spot. 
 
In what other way do the mothers participate?
Each mother comes to prepare the meal with Mme Pauline and, at the end, sees that everything is clean and tidied away. They are also asked to give a small financial contribution towards the two meals. Also, in the face of a double need: on our part the upkeep of the rooms for the means, and for the mothers the possibility of earning a little money, each week they take turns, in twos, to do the housework in the rooms and so put aside a little nest egg for emergencies. 
 
 
With our Founder I can say: ’I see the misery of my people (and of the families)…’ With Christ, Servant and Saviour, I am learning to come to grips with their difficulties so that they may discover his greatness and that he is truly ’the Love of the Living God, the God who walks with us’. 
 
I offer my heart, I offer my hands and I try to stand at their side so that I can serve them. That gives me joy, with the support of the community. It makes me grow and mature in faith, hope and love today in the mission so as to build with the families a life in better conditions up to that of the daughters and sons of God. 
 
Sister Louisette
Sahalava Community (Madagascar)
 
09/05/2011
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