In villages across Sri Lanka, many mothers struggle with the harsh reality that they are unable to provide healthy food for their children to eat. Many are either too poor to put food on the table consistently, or they don’t know what healthy food is and how nutrition impacts the bodies and minds of their growing children. Children who grow up malnourished are more likely to struggle with illnesses and developmental delays, leading to more medical issues as they get older.
According to UNICEF, nearly one of every five children in Sri Lanka is born with low birth weight and approximately 29 percent of children under five years old are considered underweight. To address this epidemic, Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) launched the Food Security Program (FSP).
The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering has pledged $9,000 to the Food Security Project to provide food relief; to provide supplies and training for nutritious food resources; and to purchase seedlings, eggs and small livestock in Sri Lanka.
CERI’s Food Security Program (FSP) teaches mothers in impoverished Sri Lankan villages how to cook healthy meals using affordable, nutritious ingredients they can acquire locally. Since 2013, CERI’s FSP has helped more than 400 children in villages which were identified by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health as struggling with malnourishment. CERI partners with churches, healthcare professionals, community leaders and volunteers to educate families about the importance of proper nutrition for their children.
One mother of a 4-year-old girl learned the meaning of “brain food” while in the program, and how certain foods support healthy brain growth.
“The brain needs its own kind of fuel,” she explains. “It requires healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, protein and adequate vitamins and minerals. Before, I was worried that my daughter was so inactive and her memory was so short, but when I started feeding her differently, she became more active. I can see her development every day. I can see that she became a better child by eating better food.”
The FSP is a multifaceted, family-centric learning experience that educates women on how to build a healthy family, teaching family planning, breastfeeding, and effective parenting techniques. The program also includes a spiritual component where children are taught lessons from the Bible.
CERI Executive Director, Connie Belciug, says the FSP has extended helping hands to mothers who have endured dreadful hardships while trying to provide for their families.
“As a mother, it’s gut-wrenching and painful to see your child suffer and feel powerless to stop it,” says Belciug. “That is how so many families feel in the areas CERI serves. Programs like FSP make a lasting impact on families, and entire communities, by empowering women through education.”
Outcomes and Impact:
Last year, the FSP helped 123 children in nine villages in Manmunai North and Manmunai West.
In 2016, CERI is focusing FSP efforts on six villages in a war-torn area of Sri Lanka’s Kiran Division, expecting to serve 125 children.
This Mother’s Day, May 8, a special offering will be received from Texas Baptists churches to help alleviate hunger around the world. You can help mothers in Sri Lanka raise their children with proper nutrition by giving to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering. Click here to learn more about the Hunger Offering and to donate today!
Leonard Favela is a writer/translator for Children’s Emergency Relief International.