Thursday, October 11, 2007



You may have already seen the pictures of our nutrition project at the health post last week, but I thought I should write up a summary of my first real collaborative project with other PCVs.

Last Thursday at the weekly vaccination day at the health post, two other PCVs, Ashley and Christine, came into my town for a nutrition/education causerie (health talk). It was a great first attempt at a big group causerie. There were probably about 20 women present with babies aged 0-1. We measured about 14 children’s arms to see which weight zone they were in. We only had two or three in the red zone, several in the yellow, and the others in the green.

When we arrived one of the midwives started yelling at us that what we were doing wasn’t the “right” way to go about teaching women how to cook etc. She was mostly just blowing smoke and trying to assert her authority. But it made for nervous beginning and put me on edge.

Eventually she left and went back to work and left us to our own devices. One of the other women who works at the “desk” absolutely saved the day though. She spent the whole morning with us, helping to translate and re-explain what we were saying to the women and made sure that they understood the recipe of the baby food we were cooking.

We talked to the mothers about weaning foods, and the importance of breast feeding ONLY until 6 months and the importance of feeding their babies food from all the food groups and why. We measured the arms and explained to the moms whose children were malnourished that they needed to be supplementing their diets with more than just rice.

The porridge we cooked was a big hit and it was rewarding to see the babies eating it up. And refreshing to see them eating something nutritious—not just oily rice and white bread.

Who knows if they will actually go back and make the food for their children. There is really no way to know. But at least the knowledge is there and hopefully the message got across.

Since then I have had several people ask me to hold another talk in our neighborhood so that the women from the compounds around me can come and learn how to make the porridge. I am feeling very positive about the response and looking forward to having another one in a space where I am more comfortable and don’t have other people breathing down my neck and criticizing my every move.

The whole thing felt so good. Granted it’s never as organized or well-attended as you imagine it could be, but I felt so at home talking individually to these women about their babies and their enthusiasm was real and encouraging. Also, it was the first time that I realized that my Pulaar is in fact good enough to start seriously working in.

Ramadan is over this weekend. I have bright orange feet and hands from my henna’ing for the huge end of Ramadan celebration. My work is starting to pick up. School opens next week and I have a meeting with one of the headmasters about teaching health classes. The weather is cooling off slightly. I have a new niece, great projects coming up, and the outlook is good.

I am incredibly proud of myself for making it through probably the toughest part of my service without any major breakdowns. And I am SO ready to start my work!

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