Our feeding programme
We began our feeding programme in 2007 when we moved into our new premises. Children in the nursery class received African porridge, which is a mixture of sorghum and maize flours and sugar boiled together to thicken, sometimes we added bread, but the finances were not well managed then and sometimes the project ran out of money leaving the children with nothing to eat.
One week in the summertime of 2008, two things happened together. First, a boy fainted from hunger one Monday morning. Asked what was wrong he told us that he was hungry and he had not eaten since the previous Friday at school. That week a visitor gave us ten food containers and another gave me 100 dollars. Those events combined to make me think about a lunchtime feeding programme.
I asked the staff to choose the ten most needy children, which was a hugely difficult thing to do. Looking closely at the children it became clear that very few ate well regularly. Not all were needy, but some were in desperate need.
Photographs of smiling children in bright clean uniforms in the sun mask the pathetically thin bodies of some and the diminutive size of most of the students.
Our daily porridge continued but now we added a small meal of rice and beans. Over time we occasionally added carrots or green vegetables, sometimes substituting potatoes for rice. To fund this we had asked parents who could afford it to make a small donation each term of up to 10,000 Rwandan francs (15$ US) each term. Very few donated that amount, some gave small money, but most could not contribute.
Enter Francoise, our wonderful cook, who organises all the cooking, has the children trained to wash their hands, wait patiently, sit and eat quietly - though that is something that is never a problem, all meals are eaten in silence, something which is disturbing - all the concentration is on the food and there is never any waste.
Add Judith, our marvellous office assistant, who now manages the purchase of all foodstuffs, monitors its use and accounts for every last franc.
By the end of term in October2009 we were feeding 39 children at lunchtime, in addition to 170 children receiving porridge mid-morning or afternoon. In January 2010 that number will increase to 55 at lunchtime and 200 receiving porridge.
Francoise has a new cooker, which is more efficient but the space is limited. Funds permitting we plan to build a new kitchen area.
The lunchtime meal now includes soya flour for added protein and some vegetables on most days. The vegetables are brought to school by women who attend our literacy class and who sell vegetables on the street for a living.
The funding for this programme has come from a number of sources. The Jewish Helping Hands Organisation in the USA has helped us to establish and extend the programme this year. A contribution is paid into the fund each term from the money for sponsorship for individual children. Other donations are received from visitors to the project and we receive a small percentage of the profit gained from the sale of our products. More recently Karen and her friends in the USA have paid for the refurbishment of the food store, the addition of vegetables and occasionally fruit.
We need help to fund our new kitchen (approximately 2,000$US), buy equipment (60$) and pay another cook. (around 600$US per year)
And, finally, the effectiveness of this programme can be demonstrated by the pictures of two children, taken in September 2008 and again in September 2009
With grateful thanks to all who have helped us to make this programme successful.
Our staff for 2010
Left to right : -
Epiphanie. Visitor. Immaculee. Tamar. Meg. Karen. Claire. Judith. Felicie. Marthe. Albert.
- Epiphanie - a teacher of 8 year's experience, she has a great sense of humour and loves our training sessions. We are looking forward to working with her. She will be jointly responsible with Tamar for the running of the school, as Evariste is no longer with us.
- Immaculee is an assistant with Nursery 1. She loves working with the children. She has attended the literacy training and was so excited the day she could write her name.
- Tamar is the teacher of Nursery 1 and she has been with us since the very beginning. She is a remarkable lady who has changed and developed her teaching over the last 2 years. She loves to sing and dance with the children.
- For once, I am on the picture, not taking it! I am a retired Primary Headteacher and I am loving working with and for this project.
- Karen is our most recent volunteer and she will be with us a long time into 2010. She is already talking about coming back. Karen teaches English and maths and will be working on a family health project in 2010. She is a strong supporter of our feeding programme.
- Claire teaches Nursery 2 and shares the teaching of Primary 2 with Karen. She is very enthusiastic and loves learning new things. We are supporting her to attend English classes in the evenings.
- Judith is our office assistant. She is responsible for the purchasing of all the school supplies. She also makes the payments to the various departments - tax, social security
- etc. Judith also manages the jewellery project. She is a widow with three children of her own and three adopted orphans. We are supporting two of her children at secondary school and one of the orphans attends our school.
- Felicie is a classroom assistant who has been with us from the beginning. She has developed from a shy insecure person to a smiling, confident young woman. She attended secondary school to Senior 4 but the genocide disrupted her career. We are sponsoring her to finish her secondary education in the evenings.
- Marthe began work with us as an assistant, but will be teaching Nursery 3 from January. She too is being sponsored to finish her secondary education in the evnings.
- Albert has managed the tailoring classes and will be manager of the tailor's co-operative, when it is set up during 2010.
Missing from the picture are Francoise, our remarkable and endlessly good-humoured cook, Andre, our day guard, Zamu, our night guard, and Divine, who will start work as an assistant in January.
This is a great team, working well together and having a lot of fun learning new things, watching the progress of the students and enjoying each other's company.
We are looking forward to the start of the new term in January!