All pregnant women feel a mixed amount of emotions when they first discover the news. They’re excited for the new life they are bringing into the world. They’re nervous about properly preparing for the new arrival. Some new mothers even send hours each day reading advice books or baby name books.
However, in Malawi, expectant mothers are enduring a different emotion...fear.
In Malawi, much of the materials needed to prepare for the birth of a child is in scarce supply. This has led to a lack of food security causing malnutrition in mothers and children. With fears like this, it’s difficult to for a mother to envision a healthy future for her child and easy for her to lose hope.
However, hope is not lost.
Sr. Hellen Matchado, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (the Sacramentines), is an alumna of ASEC's Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program. She saw that lack of food security was plaguing the mothers and pregnant women in her community and knew that her new skills could solve some of their most pressing issues. So, she began to mobilize resources in order to support her congregation-ran health center in Lilongwe (Ulongwe).
Using a multi-pronged approach, her project focused on reducing the number of malnourished children, pregnant women and lactating mothers through:
- Income-generating activities such as rearing goats, farming and a "kitchen" garden. Plans to build a bakery are in progress.
- Continuous collaboration with local media to promote the program and increase exposure.
- Training of 95 caregivers to be "Ambassadors" for improved food security in the community.
- Formation and strengthening of nutrition education through ten cooking clubs and cooking demonstrations to teach parents how to prepare nutritious meals for themselves and their children.
- Positive parenting classes to ensure that at-risk children receive proper care during critical ages (0-2) of growth and development.
- Purchase and distribution of food and nutritious porridge to pregnant women, lactating mothers and their children.
- Sensitization of 35 local leaders to the food security issues in Lilongwe.
- Coordination with stakeholders to ensure sustainability of the food security program.
- Monitoring and evaluation in order to improve program outcomes over time.
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Through ASEC's SLDI program, Sr. Hellen learned a variety of skills from grant writing to management that helped her with this impressive project. With the support of project coordinator Sr. Maria Mtepeka and her SLDI education, Sr. Hellen confidently implemented the project from start to finish. She raised funds, organized the project, engaged stakeholders and monitored and evaluated her results. She also educating the community through nutrition and parenting classes.Through her project, Sr. Hellen is helping women understand and process their new roles as mothers.
Because of this project, pregnant women, lactating mothers and their children now have access to healthy food and educational resources. A total of 504 children 26 pregnant women and 178 lactating mothers received supplemental nutrition. Malnutrition in Lilongwe Health Center area has reduced from 10% to 6% in children under five years old.
By improving food security, she's empowering the community to not fear the future, but to embrace it.
However, the Sacramentine nuns are not stopping there. They have plans to bring hope to more women and children struggling with food security in Malawi. Their goal is to provide healthy food to 70 more children, 40 more pregnant women and 50 more lactating mothers.
We have a hunch they're going to do just that.