I came back to Mozambique in October 2016 with a desire to start a nutrition program. The idea I had was to teach a group of moms whose children were 0-2 years old, the importance of giving their children nutritious foods to eat and as well as teaching them when to start giving their children food. I did not have a clear idea of what this would look like or how to start it. I wanted the program to give the moms knowledge but in a way that they could also have the ability to carry out what was being taught. I did not want to give them theory that they would not be able to use in their daily life. I also wanted it to be something that was collaborative. I wanted them to share knowledge with each other rather than myself being the only teacher. I wanted them to be able to share what they were learning and possibly share that knowledge with other moms in their communities. I did some reading on and off throughout this year and found some research and teaching on mother to mother support groups. The purpose of these groups is exactly what I was envisioning, it is mothers volunteering their time to teach other mothers the importance of nutrition and caring for your child well. The struggle I have with this is finding the moms. Living on the centre does not avail itself to know where and how moms normally gather in the community. I wanted this group to have a home feel, so having the moms come to the centre was not an option.
One of the programs I am already involved in is the milk program. The purpose is to provide formula to babies of moms who are not able to breastfeed for reasons of illness. Working with this program opened my eyes to the need of teaching moms nutrition for their babies. Myself and the Mozambican nurses who work with the moms noticed that once the babies reached 6 months old their weight gain would slow down. When the nurses would ask the moms what they were feeding their babies the response they would get was “milk” ie formula. The moms were only feeding their babies formula rather than starting baby on complementary foods. Either from lack of education or resources, the moms thought that formula was enough for their children after 6 months of age. The Mozambican nurses would then educate the moms that they needed to feed their baby food but it was not always acted upon by the mom.
One of the babies in particular, was not gaining well. The mom was asked how often and what types of foods she was feeding her child. She gave the right answers but based on how the child was presenting it was obvious to us that the child was not being fed well. Working with the Mozambican staff we were able to speak with the mom and make a plan with her that the child would come live on the centre for a short period of time for nutritional rehabilitation.
My goal was to work with the mom in the weeks leading up to her child’s return home to teach her strategies on how to feed, how often, and what types of food so that the progress the child had made here could continue at home.
This was one way that I thought I could support a mom and the nutrition of her child. It was not an official program or a large number but I was content to start small. One mom and one baby at a time.
Our reintegration team (similar to social workers in the west) began making arrangements with the family to ensure that the child would be returning to a safe home and family situation. The grandparents have now become involved with the mom to care for the child and social welfare is also involved to look after the nutritional needs of the child.
It is not what I pictured but it is what God has arranged and it is way better than what I could have ever done. The family has been strengthened by coming to work together and the local resources have been utilized to ensure this child is well looked after. I could not be more pleased. This situation reminds me that God's ways are always better than our ways and I am so thankful to see His work.
He has utilized the Mozambican systems.
He has lessened the dependence on outside help.
He has strengthened the Mozambican systems and empowered the Mozambicans to care for themselves rather than relying on others to care for them.
He has arranged for this precious girl to return to a loving supportive environment with resources to care for her needs - her physical and emotional needs will be looked after.
Looking back I can see that His purpose was for her to come to the centre for a short period of time. It gave her the boost she needed to receive nutrition and it gave our reintegration team the time to find a long-term solution for her health needs.
It provided a way for both her and her family to receive rehabilitation.
I am thankful that I was able to be a part of this child's healing and restoration in her body and that in-directly her family was strengthened. She received the nutrition she needed and her family has come together.
I love seeing God at work and that He works with us.