In Bolivia, Samaritan’s Purse is training mothers to teach other mothers how to facilitate their children’s good health: body, mind, and soul.
Cristana, a mother of three, listens carefully as Samaritan’s Purse staff member Leticia Loza points to lines on a measuring cup that indicate healthy food serving sizes for children.
In addition to putting that knowledge to practice with her own little ones—ages 5, 2, and 6 months— Cristana is preparing to teach this information to other mothers about to arrive for a children’s growth checkup in Chuma, Bolivia.
Here, in an underserved mountain area, Samaritan’s Purse is training women in health and nutrition. We then help them conduct growth monitoring for children up to 5 years old, including charting weight and height measurements. Staff also advise expectant mothers on prenatal care.
Integrated into our team’s counsel about healthy living is an emphasis on spiritual health, which allows for sharing about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In this remote part of western Bolivia, a steady supply of different types of food can be hard to come by. A lot of families are dependent upon what they can grow on their land. Some can supplement that with periodic visits to village convenience stores, but choices can be limited and sometimes more than they can afford on a regular basis.
“A lot of mothers don’t know what food is nutritious—they would feed their children junk food, a diet of cookies and popcorn,” Leticia said. “Now, they value good food that is full of vitamins.”
Leticia explains this to the women using two side-by-side posters—one depicts light bulbs within a child’s brain that have burned out because of a lack of energy. The other poster features words circulating in a child’s brain—doctor, engineer, musician—examples of professions that the child can pursue, fueled by a healthy intake of nutritious food.
“I now know how to feed my children well,” Cristana said. “They’ve gotten better. They grow well.”
Samaritan’s Purse gives the women supplementary food, such as lentils, powdered milk, and oil, to enhance their family’s nutrition. Our staff offer the women guidance on how to prepare nutritious meals, as well as maintaining hygienic hand-washing practices. Toward that end, Samaritan’s Purse has installed sinks in several of the women’s homes, so that the water supply is collected instead of puddling on the ground.
Cooking More Safely
We also have been able to install ventilated ovens in some homes.
Felipa was skeptical of the need to change from typical open fire ovens, but once she saw that the ventilated oven doesn’t produce as much smoke and funnels it out of the room, she was won over.
“At first, we didn’t want to change the way we had been cooking,” Felipa said of the Chuma women’s group. “But once we saw that the new ovens functioned so much better, we all wanted them.”
The newer ovens are higher off the floor, making them easier to reach. Counters are typically installed alongside the ovens, providing a space to place scalding pots at the same level as the cooking surfaces.
For some of the women, this is the first oven they have had.
“Now, we can make soup on the stovetop at the same time as we have chicken in the oven—this makes meals faster and easier to make,” Felipa said.
The ventilated ovens have enabled the women to expand the types of food they can prepare for their families, including baking meats, breads, and cakes. The Samaritan’s Purse training meetings provide a forum for them to learn and share recipes.
“Thank you for all the hearts of those who brought us help,” said Marcela, one of the mothers. “We’re learning many things—how we can best feed our children and reduce the problem of malnutrition in our babies.”
The project’s reach goes far beyond meeting physical needs. In each training or meeting held, the women are taught about the love that God has for them and their children and the importance of valuing and caring for the sacred life He has given them.
“The spiritual impact that this project has on the mothers and their children is very important, since many of the moms did not know the Lord beforehand,” said Chris Artola, Samaritan’s Purse country director for Bolivia. “So, through the maternal/child health project, we are teaching the mothers to not only care for the physical health of their children, but to also seek out a personal relationship with God.”