Ada Davis-Nouri is a 17- year-old who recently graduated from Manhattan , Kansas High School. She spent 5 weeks in the Philippines volunteering for the HELP Foundation. This is one of her stories.
As a HELP Foundation Volunteer in Talakag, Bukidnon, Philippines, one of my first jobs was working with the Mother’s Health Education Class. The program (taught by Thola Saliring, RN and Ernilou Amor Kesigon, RN) is based around teaching mothers in poverty, basic health education in order to be able to diagnose, prevent, and treat basic ailments for their children and other family members. Mothers would meet once each week to cover a new lesson topic. The basic lesson plan covered items such as treating coughs, diarrhea, asthma, pneumonia, fever, tuberculosis, and intestinal parasites among many other diseases. The classes also covered the basic food groups, vitamins, human anatomy, and making herbal medicine from native plants. Thirty-two women graduated the program and were awarded Certificates of Achievement. As an added incentive to attend the classes, there was also a feeding program for their children. The Feeding Program focused on children ages 0-6 years old who were are either underweight or malnourished. The program catered to 170 children, with 59 being recognized as malnourished. Three days a week, the mothers would meet and cook for the children. Each meal was a high calorie, extremely nutritious stew that was presented to the children in a large cup. The children also received daily vitamin supplements throughout the program. The children had their weight monitored on a monthly basis to track the progress of weight gain. Of the malnourished children (divided into the categories “severe” and “moderate”), nearly 64 percent of the moderate and 70 percent of the severely malnourished children showed an increase in body weight, with 20 previously malnourished children rising to a completely normal and healthy body weight. The program ran from the 1st of August 2012 to the 11th of March 2013 and has been a huge success for the children, mothers, and the program.
I got the chance to interview some of the mothers enrolled in the program to gain their insight on both the Health Education Class and the Feeding Program, as well as sharing their personal lives and stories. One of the first mothers I spoke to was Grace Balinado, a 19-year-old with a 15-month-old baby boy. She is unemployed, and her husband (a farm laborer) works odd jobs and has no regular income. She grew up in a shack with her grandparents, mother, siblings, and other relatives. Her father left when she was quite young, and she was forced by her grandmother to quit school after the 2nd grade because “there was nobody to help her wash the clothes.” During her childhood, she was sexually assaulted by her mother’s new partner.
Mother Grace Balinado with her child.
Grace’s child was born premature and was having trouble gaining weight. One day, a neighbor who is also participating in the health class, came over to borrow a cooking knife, which is how Grace learned about the programs. Since enrolling in the program, she told me she believed she’d learned lots of information that will be vital in helping her raise her first child. Prior to the program, her child didn’t have much of an appetite. However, since administering the vitamins provided by the program, his appetite has increased and he has begun to eat normally and is gaining weight.
Another mother I interviewed was Mona Magno, a 29-year-old mother with four children, ages 8, 7, 3, and 15 months. She was recruited by the Barangay Health Worker to join the Health Class and Feeding Program. All four of her children are underweight, but only two are enrolled. However, she brings food from the Feeding Program home for her two older children. Both she and her husband are unemployed. They survive on income from working odd jobs wherever they can find them. She told me the program has been a tremendous help as almost all of the health related knowledge was new to her. Her 7-year-old has many developmental challenges.
A grandmother and her two grandchildren participating in the program
She excitedly told me that since administering the vitamins and bringing home food, the child has begun to speak both words and phrases. The child also has frequent convulsions that she previously didn’t know how to handle. Since joining the Health Class, she’s learned the knowledge needed to deal with them. Her other children have also shown an improvement in weight and overall health since the program.
The final mother I interviewed was Juliana Butcon, a 39-year-old single widowed mother with two boys, age 15 and 4. She is from a family of 10, and was only allowed to reach the 5th grade before her mother pulled her out from lack of money. The schooling of her 15-year-old son Jason is sponsored through HELP Foundation by the Stansbury family from Smith Center, Kansas. She learned about the Health and Feeding classes from her son Jason. She is unemployed and living with her parents who are farm laborers. When she learned about the program, she enrolled herself and her 4-year-old son, Gerome. Gerome was born with multiple health problems.
Juliana Butcon and her youngest son Gerome.
She hopes that with the program’s help, she will be able to bring Gerome to a real hospital to get him a CT scan and surgery to drain the water from his brain. Despite his many ailments, she was happy to report Gerome has increased in weight and overall health and is hopeful that she will someday have the resources to get him the treatment he needs.
These are but a few of the stories from mothers in desperate need of assistance. I have learned that HELP Foundation reaches out to the “poorest of the poor” and through their many programs, they are improving the lives of these special people.