Hello there, health/nutrition/food safety team is here!
We have been working with so many people thus far, so here is our cast of characters:
David: a youth member of the CBO, recent graduate of a catering program, and the cook for our group
Dan: the nurse at the Centre’s clinic for the children and community members
Bernard: director of the CBO (youth cooperative)
Peter: a youth member of the CBO, caretaker of the cows, key-informant on ways youth cook and prepare food while living on their own
Kevin, Chris & Musyoka: youth involved at the Centre, key informants on lives of youth living on their own
Priscilla: head of arts & crafts initiative being incorporated into the skills program at the CYEC
Wangila: driver extraordinaire (but seriously, he’s a magician with a van)
We arrived here at the CYEC six days ago and truly hit the ground running (both in work and on the soccer field). We began by collecting observational and conversational data about the health and nutrition of children at the Centre, as well as the eating habits of the youth (typically 17+) who are working towards living on their own. Dan provided us with detailed information about the health information collected on every child upon arrival, as well as the health information he tracks for children and the common ailments he identifies and treats. He offered great insight into the most realistic interventions that could be made in the diet of the young children to ensure their health and highest performance in school. There are no words to explain quite how great of a man he is, he truly cares about every child at the Centre and has adapted to meet needs here that span far beyond what a typical nurse would have to handle.
On Sunday Blair was able to spend some casual time with Kevin, Chris, and Musyoka learning about their lives since finishing grade school. They are a well-qualified group of young men, both in experience and education, but told about how they still struggle to find employment. Just the short time spent with them opened so many questions about how young people like them can afford to feed themselves, especially when facing unemployment for months at a time. They suggested we talk to a few of the other youth to gain greater understanding about what the real-life budgets are that constrain many of them – so Blair has been focusing on working out some realistic budget plans to be left behind for use by the CBO.
Yesterday Carrie was able to spend some incredibly valuable mentoring time with David discussing his future aspirations to become an international chef. Her background as a ServSafe trainer allowed her to give David information about safe food preparation and serving that can work as a strong foundation of habits for his culinary future. David has been incredibly open with us about how and what he cooks and seems receptive to any advice we attempt to give – he is definitely going to go far in life.
We were also able to tag along with Wangila as he delivered lunch to the children at the two local schools. Every day he brings three five-gallon buckets full of guthiri (a bean and corn mixture) to the children of the Centre, as well as kids in the community who may come to school without food. Unfortunately, there never seems to be quite enough for every hungry child, but the effort being made with so few resources is truly heart-warming.
Carrie (being the impressively energetic one of our pair) has also been working with Priscilla to develop some simple craft projects that could be incorporated into her new arts program. Carrie has been working to find ways to make soaps that could be marketed to the tourist/safari population here, something Priscilla has some experience with and seems excited to continue. They have also discussed trying to make infinity scarves out of the beautiful fabrics available locally, a simple craft that could create some revenue for the Centre or individuals if the elected to sell them.
Our latest action was a nutrition and food safety workshop held this morning for the youth in which we discussed the MyPlate food and nutrition analysis tool as well as some basic nutrition facts. Carrie also spent some time passionately emphasizing the value of hand-washing (WITH SOAP!) and the lives that can be saved by such a simple action. We completed a fun interactive game with the youth to ensure their understanding in which they used paper cut outs of food to design an ideal healthy plate that they could prepare on their own. The youth seemed very engaged and were interacting positively with us, so hopefully some valuable information stuck that can benefit them in the future.
We are certainly forgetting to report on something, as everyday has felt jam-packed with information and activity, but that’s a pretty good overview. We are excited to continue learning more in our remaining week here and maybe even discover more projects to be involved with!
Sending love and good health to all tuning in,
Carrie & Blair