“No parent or grandparent can dig gardens, carry children or walk long distances without food and water. No child can do well in school with a chronically empty stomach.”
To thrive during a day of physical labour like digging in a garden, cleaning your home or moving a friend (especially those with extensive book collections), you know you need to eat more than a cup of rice to have the proper energy. While you and I have many choices in our access to proper nutrition, hunger and chronic hunger are the norm for children and adults in many parts of the world. To combat this, one of ERDO’s main activities is assisting people with their access to food; not just any food, but foods that have the right balance of nutrients and are not complicated to prepare or eat.
To fight malnutrition, increase learning abilities, and promote increased nutrition for children, ERDO launched a campaign last year called “Cookies for Kids.” This campaign, which is still underway, is aimed at increasing the nutrition of pre-primary school children aged four to seven in Bangladesh. Participating churches and individuals helped to fund the high-energy biscuits which the children receive twice a day—once when they arrive at school at 7:30 a.m., and again before noon.
Almost all of the children in this program are from families where there aren’t enough resources to give the children breakfast before school. In most cases if there is lunch when they get home, it is only tea and possibly a small portion of leftover rice. Eleven nutritious little biscuits during the course of a morning can make a big difference. Followup research shows that these preschool children have improved their performance on tests by 14 per cent and, because they are healthier, have increased their attendance at school by 23 per cent. Both parents and teachers alike have noticed positive changes in children and are so grateful for the support.
Monisha, a mother of twin girls named Dighi and Durba, told us what the program meant for her family. “I take my daughters to school every morning because I want them to learn to read and to have a better life. My husband agrees,” said Monisha, who, like her husband, is illiterate. “They could be better off than we are today.”
“If my husband did not sell milk in the morning, there would be no tea or rice for the midday meal for the children. We had to wait and see if my husband came home with money in the evening from milk sales. Dighi was often sick, and Durba was too tired to play with other children. I was ashamed to send them to school because they would fall asleep in class.”
When the high-energy biscuit program arrived at the local school, Monisha was eager for her children to take part, although she was skeptical at first over whether or not it would make a difference.
“I didn’t think such a small thing would help my daughters, but it does,” she says. “Dighi has missed only three days of school, and Durba is no longer falling asleep in school. My family is thankful for this help because the biscuits are given as soon as they arrive at school. Even if my husband does not sell milk in the morning, Dighi and her sister will not be hungry when I pick them up.”
Canadians who raised support by participating in “Cookies for Kids” amazed us with the creative ways they generated funds: Vacation Bible School children collected coins from family members and neighbours; teens held whipped cream pie-throwing contests; university students raked leaves; and one church brought food trucks onto their site after Sunday service and donated revenue from their food sales. Some churches reported that “Cookies for Kids” also drew in support from their non-church communities and opened up conversations about their church’s heart for missions.
Through the collective creativity of churches and individuals, over $100,000 has been raised so far. The Canadian government is providing $4 for each dollar raised, so $500,000 worth of food is now feeding hungry children.
While the situation for malnourished children in Bangladesh is improving because people are caring and sharing, in February 2017, ERDO began working to save the lives of children and families in Kenya and Somalia through a major emergency food program. After two years of extreme drought, families in the Horn of Africa faced extreme malnutrition and death. With the failure of rains and the outlook for the survival of humans and animals decreasing, the president of Kenya declared the drought a national disaster on February 10, 2017.
The personal stories of once self-sufficient families are tragic. They’ve seen their livelihood through animals slip away with each death. Jimco Ibrahim is one of those who has been severely affected by the drought. She and her five grandchildren live in a temporary home at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Somaliland. Before the drought she had 20 camels, 200 sheep and goats, and 10 donkeys, but all of them have died of starvation. She came to the IDP camp to be close to a water source. “The condition here is so bad ... we hope to God rain will come,” says Jimco.
No parent or grandparent can dig gardens, carry children or walk long distances without food and water. No child can do well in school with a chronically empty stomach.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do in the name of Jesus to bring food to those who are hungry.
For more information on Cookies for Kids, visit: www.erdo.ca/cookies. For details on the Horn of Africa food emergency, visit www.erdo.ca/horn-of-africa.
ERDO (Emergency Relief & Development Overseas) is the humanitarian agency of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ERDO is involved in four key areas: crisis response, food assistance, ChildCARE Plus (child sponsorship), and community development. Visit our website at www.erdo.ca. Carol Froom is ERDO’s director of resource development.
Image ©istockphoto.com. This article appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.