The mealtime battle
Every parent knows what a battle it can be to prepare healthy meals each week. In the rural community of Chocco, near Cuzco in Peru, traditional dishes contain mostly potatoes or bread.
When SOS Children’s Villages set up an educational centre here, the first priority was to introduce more vegetables and protein into children’s diet. One of the mothers who helped at the centre is Ruth, who says “our poor nutrition went on for a long time”.
Women in Chocco have also long suffered from a lack of education and high levels of domestic violence. Ruth’s parents were both alcoholics and she had to drop out of school when she was only 12. Later, after a difficult separation from her husband, Ruth found herself a struggling single parent. Through low self-esteem, Ruth admits she was a bit “lazy”.
But after helping with children’s meals at the SOS centre and with psychological and educational support, Ruth has become more confident in life. She has set up her own guinea pig farm to supply meat to the community. Her daughter, Camilla, makes an excellent helper.
Today, Ruth devotes her spare time to a group called Las Rondas or ‘community peacekeepers’. They support parents in creating a secure home life for their children. Ruth says her involvement with SOS Children’s Villages set her on a new path. “As a mother, my primary concern is for my daughter, but as a community member I want the best for all the children in Chocco.”
Across the world, many families survive on a diet which lacks essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc and vitamin A. This can have a devastating impact on children. Scientists believe that undernourishment in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life prevents the brain developing normally. And when children are older, dietary deficiencies can impair their physical and mental progress. This is why providing nutritional advice and support is an integral part of our community programmes.
Marie-Alice has been an SOS mother in Mozambique for fifteen years, but supervising mealtimes each day is a continual test of her organisational skills.
Three of her small children are drawing at a table nearby while she cooks. The noise level rises and Marie-Alice scolds them for using their “outside voices” in the home.
But even with the renewed peace and calm, this mother of eleven realises she is not going to get the meal finished on time without some help. Her older children are playing or doing chores outside. Marie-Alice darts into the garden to shout for one of them.
Fourteen-year-old Yolanda appears quickly to help her mother, without any sign of resentment. Mother and daughter chat together while they work. Yolanda was just a baby when she came to the SOS Village at Maputo. Now she is a confident teenager, happy to be teased by her mother.
When her children reach this age, Marie-Alice knows the time she has left with them will fly past. Four of her boys left last year to live in the youth house nearby. But it doesn’t take much to bring them home. “When they encounter a problem... they come and see me and we talk things over. I miss them, but we still have a good relationship,” says Marie-Alice. Isn’t that what every mother hopes for?
Did you know?
There are over 6,000 SOS mothers worldwide, caring for more than 60,000 children! Learn more about SOS mothers, watch videos and read stories...