Rukmini Foundation’s motto is empowerment through education, but as we are expanding our programs to more remote areas, we are beginning to see that providing education is not always easy. After we conducted several home visits and school visits to some of the more remote areas, we are seeing that many students have to walk long distances, sometimes up to 2 or 3 hours to reach school. Often, many of these students are going to school without food, so by the time they reach school, they are already tired and hungry. This lack of food and energy makes them unable to concentrate, and sometimes some of them have even fainted in the class. We have seen malnutrition as a big issue for many children in these areas, as they do not get to eat good food and get the required amount of calories. Along with our motto though, we also provide mentoring and health and wellness programs, so we felt that there is a big need to provide food as well as nutrition education as part of our program so that the kids can be healthy enough to concentrate in school. We believe that if we are not able to fill their bellies, we cannot hope to fill their minds.
In our partner schools in the more remote villages, some students are coming to school hungry while others are eating snacks that are not very nutritious.
We know that this is a big problem and the solution requires a lot of planning and work, but to start creating awareness on the importance of nutrition for good health and wellbeing of the students, we conducted a program at school that we have not yet partnered with called, Kalidevi Lower Secondary School in Talku Village. The reason we conducted this program here was because of the great support we received from the Headmaster and teachers of the school.
School teachers were helping to serve food as part of this program.
We invited a special guest, Ms. Kabita Dangol, who is an expert Nutritionist from Nepal Cancer Hospital. She identified that one of the key issues was how most people of the village areas have an unbalanced diet, from which they suffer from many health problems. Part of the program was to provide awareness on nutrition and a balanced diet. The program was well attended by the teachers, students, parents, elected chairperson, Red Cross Society chairperson, and people from different local clubs and community members. The participants were given educational materials like pamphlets and posters on what a balanced diet looks like.
Ms. Kabita Dangol shared information with the community about the importance of a balanced diet.
Ms. Kabita Dangol explained what a balanced diet is by dividing five essential nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins & minerals and water. She brought food materials and demonstrated on the pyramid how they create a balanced diet. The big question for the community members, and even for us, was to understand how in areas with limited foods and variety of food, the community could have a balanced diet. Ms. Dangol talked about how locally grown items like beans and lentils can be a great source of protein, which is critical to physical growth. We aslo conducted a program to weigh and measure the height of children because we wanted to see if there was already a negative effect of malnutrition. We are conducting that analysis right now, but the initial records indicate that this area has a very serious problem.
Puja Didi teaching the young kids about nutrition using the materials that were provided.
Ms. Dangol provided many examples of how the community could provide a balanced diet for their families using products that can be found locally. However, our team knew that there are many families where even obtaining the basics is a challenge, so we are trying to think of ways to provide some nutritious foods for the children at school, even if they are not able to have a good meal in their homes. Ms. Dangol stressed the point that we should treat food as medicine and not medicine as food. She then encouraged everyone to ask questions on what is good food and what is junk food. Parents and teachers took part in this conversation.
It was great to get the kids involved in learning about healthy meals.
Dr. Sudip Sapkota, also from the Cancer Hospital gave a short awareness talk on Cancer, its causes, symptoms and treatment. He talked about the need to identify the symptoms early, so that it can be treated in its early stage. He also explained how eating healthy can reduce the chance of getting sick, and how eating unhealthy foods like junk food can cause various diseases, even cancer.
Dr. Sapkota educating the audience about the effects of a bad diet.
This event was very educational, but we also wanted to show an example of a healthy meal. After the awareness session, the school team served a prepared meal for all participants. To make this meal, they used all locally grown vegetables and ingredients like: rice, lentils, spinach and tomatoes. We were so happy to see how much the students enjoyed the meal.
Mothers and children enjoyed the healthy and delicious meal.
Seeing these smiles as they filled their bellies filled out hearts.
At the end of the program, we spoke with some of the parents, and it was great to hear them say that they feel assured that the school is caring for their physical wellbeing as well as their mental wellbeing.
Didi (Mentor), Rukmini Foundation
From my entire school team, thank you so much, Rukmini Foundation for choosing our school for this nutrition program. This program will help our students to be physically and mentally present in school.
This is really a nice program, and I am happy that this program started here in this community. I hope that this can be done in every school in Dakshinkali Municipality, and our local government is ready to help in any way we can.