Today was hard. We went to our second school to fill in our questionnaires about the porridge and githeri recipes. We're getting a lot better at asking the right questions and finding the right people to talk to and using the right jargon and swahili words when asking questions so the actual work went a lot faster and more efficiently today then yesterday. After lunch at the school, we went for a walk to some neighboring farms. These farms are also associated with Farmers Helping Farmers but are part of a different women's group that has not had FHF support for as long and are not as well established.
The first farm we went to was heart breaking, and was a mood killer for the rest of the day. We saw a tiny kitten laying in the grass barely alive, several kids that appeared to have severe protein energy malnutrition (visible signs of Kwashiorkor), and a baby goat who was also so sick and unhealthy that it was just waiting to die on the farm. The hardest part of the day was visiting the second farm. It was run by an old women who could not have weighed more than 90 lbs soaking wet. She was caring for her grandchildren, working the farm, and working as a laborer digging up tree trunks to make enough money to feed herself and the kids. By the looks of it, she was still falling short. She had been given a water tank by FHF but since the rainy season was long ago, it was nearly empty. While we were leaving, the went into her house and brought us out 4 eggs from her chickens. Obviously we didn't want to accept them, she clearly needed them more than we did, but it's incredibly rude to refuse gifts so we walked away with the eggs in our hands. She might as well have ripped the heart right out of her chest and handed it to us.
It's hard to be here, see all these malnourished kids and people who can barely feed themselves, with their farm animals and pets dying in their yards, and feel like there is no possible way you can make it stop. The sunglasses on my head alone were probably worth more than her entire farm, house and possessions. I felt like a giant pile of crap after that.
I have to keep remembering that the work I am doing here will help and will make a difference in the lives of these children and women. We're working to improve the school lunch programs and make the meals served more nutrient dense. If I can help improve the nutritional content of the meals these children are receiving at school, then I can help hundreds of kids get the nutrients and calories they may not be getting at home. We will be working with the mothers to teach proper weaning practices and infant nutrition which may help children develop properly and as a result impact their future health. I may not be able to help that one women, or the goat or the kitten or the children I saw today, but hopefully I can leave here in September confident that I have made an impact on the health of many many students and infants.
On a happier note, the school children think its hilarious to see mzungu's (white people) doing chores, so I got to cheer up my day by washing dishes with the cook at the school after lunch and having all the kids laugh at me. I also got to go for a run on the treadmill which was really needed after doing very little physical activity and eating nothing but carbs for the past week. My body is still trying to get used to such as drastic change in diet and it's not really a fan of the new diet. Being able to exercise at least gives me back some normalcy into my daily routines, and makes me tired enough to get over the jet lag!