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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mbo fuddi ligge makko, seeda seeda...

Hello internet.  It's been awhile.  I guess I haven't written much lately because I've been somewhat busy. I usually have something work-related to do every day now, which feels really nice.  My village has been proud of me for finally being a productive volunteer - the title to this post, "Mbo fuddi ligge makko, seeda seeda!" is a boast I overheard my brother make from his seat at a breakfast stand when I was walking to the community garden a few days ago.  "She's starting her work, little by little!"

The big project I've had going on lately was a supplementary feeding program with mothers of malnourished children in Biaro, a village 2k from Teyel.  The last baby weighing showed that there were seven "babies" (kids under the age of two) who were underweight.  Each mother agreed to pay 300 CFA (about $0.60, but that's a lot of money in village) and to provide millet, corn, or rice flour when it was her turn to cook.  Every day at 10am, we'd meet as a group, and whoever was cooking that day made a normal weaning porridge (just grain and water) then we put in healthy additives to make the porridges more nutritious - like peanut butter and banana, or tomato and bean, or crushed peanut and moringa, and we talked about the Complet Model of Nutrition.  The kids would not only eat at the program, but would take home some more porridge for a healthy afternoon snack.

I didn’t expect everything to go perfectly smoothly – Peace Corps training taught me to expect the unexpected, to be flexible and enjoy the ride and try to avoid getting frustrated by inevitable setbacks.  I thought I went in to the project with that mindset, but there was still a lot of stuff that didn’t go as planned and I still got stressed and irritated in spite of myself.  

The first day of the program, I had my ASC (community health worker) come in and explain in his fluent Pulaar why I was doing the program and what the Complet Model of Nutrition means.  

We did an activity where the women placed laminated cards of foods onto the part of the complet where they belonged – fruits/veggies on the headscarf, proteins on the shirt, and grains on the skirt. 
All the women agreed to meet at the first woman (Sadio)’s house the next morning (Sunday) at 10 to start the program.

The next morning, Sadio informed me that she was not feeling well and would not be cooking that day. I tried to convince her that babies still needed to eat regardless of whether their moms were well or not, but it was no use.  She told me she had already told all the women the start date of the program would be postponed one day, so I wished her a speedy recovery and went home.

The next morning, Monday, I went to Sadio’s house, and she told me none of the women could come, since Mondays are market days and they would not have time.  I went around to a few compounds and saw that she was right – only three of the seven women were at home.  I was irritated, but still trying to flexible and understanding.  This was literally a program meant to give free food to hungry kids and I was amazed that it was so difficult for me to do it.

Tuesday morning I went back.  Sadio was not at home, and her neighbor told me she had gone to the nearby health post because she still wasn’t feeling better.  I was visibly upset, since I had had such high hopes for the program, so the neighbor, Booyah, who’s as awesome as her name is, said she would cook the porridge that day.  

All the women (except one, who was still MIA) came over, and as the babies ate we discussed the nutrition in the day’s meal.


Wednesday and Thursday went well, too.  Except the one missing woman (who I learned had fled to her parents’ village because of a fight with her husband), everyone attended and the babies had big appetites.  The mothers grew more confident in explaining low-cost and high-energy food additives to help kids gain weight, and though it might have been my imagination, the kids seemed to have more energy.

Friday, three of the seven women were absent, and by Sunday, there was only one left.  The women said the program was good, but that they didn’t have time to do it for that long.  I'm trying to see the program as a success - even if they only went a day or two, at least it didn't hurt anything, but it was not the intensive weight-gain boot camp I had planned.  

While that was going on, I also did a Senegal map mural in Dinguera, the same school with the same awesome work counterpart where I did the handwashing project.  My neighbor Lauren has an artistic streak and was glad to help me.  It ended up looking pretty great, though it's not quite finished yet in these pictures.  The paint didn't dry enough to label the regions yet.




Another day, my PCV friend Liz came over and did a training for a local womens' group on soapmaking.

 


I also spent a morning helping to seed an onion nursery and prepare garden beds in one of the women's gardens.



So, that's about it.  I know that doesn't seem like a lot, considering it's my whole month's work, but it's something.  It's hard to believe it's so late in the year already...to answer that annoying 1980s song, no, they DON'T know it's Christmas, and they don't care, because they're muslim.  Every day continues to be exactly the same as the one before it, but it's nice and I'm still enjoying it.

Catch up with you all later!  Thanks for reading!