|This group of mothers sticks together through thick and thin.|
The small multipurpose room was dark, except for sunlight streaming in through the front doorway and a small window behind our team.
In the circle of chairs filling the room sat 11 Guatemalan mothers, a few with their young children present. One mom, in particular, held her son, no older than eight months, who cooed and squawked the whole meeting—his jet-black curls snuck out of the hat he furiously tried to lose.
The mothers were gathered to share with us, a team of six Canadians, some of the lessons they have been learning in their Cascade group—a regular opportunity initiated by FH staff that is facilitated by Leader Mothers for women in the community to gather and glean valuable lessons about caring for their little ones.
In Acul, childhood malnutrition is a real problem.
The root of this issue is a lack of education surrounding the nutritional needs of babies. Families live for generations teaching the same lessons, even if those lessons result in developmental problems for the children.
It’s a classic case of the phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know”.
Without the proper education and resources to nurture their little ones, this process can repeat itself unchecked, forever.
The first thing that struck me, as we sat in on the meeting, was just how many mothers were present.
I wondered how quick Canadian mothers (and fathers) would be to sit in a class and learn about taking care of their own children. But that’s when it hit me: these moms have found community around the shared mission of motherhood—it’s clear their love for their children, and their care for the wellbeing of these precious little ones is rich and alive.
It’s a bond I saw growing up in Canada between my mom and her closest friends. Allies in the mission who knew the nitty-gritty of raising kids and could empathize when the hard days inevitably came. Older moms who could comfort young moms with their own experiences and assure them that their child is okay.
The solidarity of mothers filled with such compelling love, empowered and supported by an education-rich community, can break the cycle of generational malnutrition.
Sitting amongst the group, we learned about the importance of keeping a newborn on its mother’s milk. Prior to learning this critical fact, mothers would switch milk out for water or other drinks too early. By changing this one simple way of caring for their little ones, these mothers have seen real change in their children’s health. And boy, are they proud of that!
|Proudly brandishing her radishes, this mom makes sure her children have enough of the food they need to thrive.|
A separate day of our trip included a visit to a family garden run completely by a mother and her children.
In the fight against child malnutrition, only half of the mission is completed through education. Actually walking alongside mothers as they begin to grow the necessary, nutrient-rich foods their children need is equally crucial. The mom who showed us her family’s garden was proud to share the impact it's having on her family. Not only were her children now able to eat healthy fruits and vegetables, she was also able to share or sell any excess she grew in their garden.
Our stay in the multipurpose room came to a close with the women showing us the book the mothers are working through, facilitated by the Leader Mother.
The book contains both written and visual instructions for how to comfort a distraught infant, as well as how to hold a newborn in a way that supports the neck appropriately. One of the most important sections of the book was focused on assessing a child’s health and whether they were in need of medical attention. Mothers are learning the invaluable skills of checking temperatures, looking for sores or infections, and other practices that could prove life-saving for their children.
As the group came to a close for the day, the mothers thanked us for sitting in on their lesson. We returned the thanks and told them we would continue praying for the health of their children.
The young boy with the jet black curls who had cooed the whole hour sat as a real-time reminder of who benefits from these lessons.
His future, like so many other children in Acul, is now changed, the cycle of misinformation broken. Thanks to a group of mothers willing and ready to walk with each other on the critical mission of motherhood.
Now if only there was a lesson on how to keep his hat on...
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Eric believes in the power of teamwork. Driven by relationship and interested in learning about what makes people come alive, he likes to spend his time with his wife, Riley, their friends and family, and usually a table of delicious food.