No More Stomach Pains

Author Portrait_Anisa Naimi, School Health and Nutrition Officer, Faryab Province
Anisa Naimi

School Health and Nutrition Officer

Save the Children in Afghanistan

October 3, 2017

In Afghanistan, especially in rural areas, people are suffering from the lack of a consistent energy source for heating and cooking in their homes. To overcome this problem many families still prefer traditional ways of supplying energy. This means that often children can be seen walking the streets to collect animal wastes. Dung, or called “sargen” in Dari, the local language, can then be dried and used as fuel or even building material. Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge on protecting ones health and hygiene was causing children to get sick after collecting sargen.

9-year-old Amina is in 3rd grade at the girls’ school in her village, in Faryab Province. She lives with her parents and is third eldest among her 3 sisters and 2 brothers. She is an active student, but a few months back she suddenly was facing some difficulties, enduring a pain in her stomach followed by her health quickly deteriorating. She tried to attend school regularly but her poor health conditions did not allow her to actively participate in the class work and recreational activities at school.

Her mother Gulbadam shared, “Our family worried about her health. Her father gave her a pain killer medicine, but the pain continued because she felt terrible cramps in her stomach. She preferred to stay at home and was disappointed and sad.”

Thanks to sponsorship, 9-year-old Amina no longer gets stomach pains and is able to stay in school.
Thanks to sponsorship, 9-year-old Amina no longer gets stomach pains and is able to stay in school.

Amina told us proudly, “Save the Children staff came to my school and conducted deworming campaigns. They told teachers and students about worm infestations which is very common in school-aged children in this community, because every day children collect sargen and the germs enter our stomachs and makes us sick.”

She added, showing what she had learned on the topic, “Save the Children staff told us that if these worms grow they would make children much weaker and sick. It is always better to take dewormers to kill worms and to wash our hands with soap. They gave deworming tablets to all the children in school and I took the tablets too. The next day it kicked out many worms from my stomach and I felt better.”

After being inspired by her new knowledge of what had made her sick, Amina become a member of the child-focused health education group in her village, and actively participates in the sessions. She mentioned, “Before I never knew to wash my hands with soap after collecting sargen, and that [washing with] only water does not remove the microbes and causes stomach worms. Thank you Save the Children,” she added shyly.

The child-focused health groups are sponsorship supported programs that provide a forum for girls and boys to meet once a week in the homes of volunteers or in community spaces. At these meetings, health skills such as how to maintain good hygiene and nutrition and prevent diseases are key topics. Children learn through participating in public campaigns to spread health messages through their community, as well as in meeting sessions learn through activities such as drawing, storytelling, roleplaying and other child-friendly activities that strengthen important health skills, like proper handwashing.

Amina explained, “Now our school is closed for winter holidays but there is a [child’s health] group in our neighbors’ house. I regularly attend each session because I enjoy learning many new things, I learned when to wash my hands with soap and why I should do so. Before this I rarely used soap but I learned if I do not use soap I will face stomach worms which is very scary and painful.”

Amina and her fellow child-focused health education group members practice safe handwashing.
Amina and her fellow child-focused health education group members practice safe handwashing.

As a part of the child-focused health groups, child participants are asked to share what they have learned in each session with at least 3 family members or relatives. Community elders, parents and school management are also invited to some of the events. In this way, not only do the children benefit but the impact of our programs are felt throughout the entire community.

Amina’s mother says, “Children learn best when they are healthy. Thanks to Save the Children for implementing very helpful and useful programs. Now I encourage my children to always wash their hands with soap after participating in deworming awareness raising and deworming tablets distribution campaigns.”

Amina’s mother also says, “Amina regularly attends school and is much more active and healthy than before. I am really happy and appreciate Save the Children for its efforts for our school.”

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Malina is a Clever Girl

Author Portrait_Benafsha, School-based ECCD TeacherBenafsha

School-based ECCD Teacher

Save the Children in Afghanistan

April 7, 2017

I am Benafsha. I live in Maimana City of Faryab Province, in Afghanistan. I have been an Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) teacher for three years now. I love my job. I enjoy teaching little kids and preparing them for entering primary school. I think ECCD is a very important program because it prepares children for a better future early on in their lives. I have many great stories from each day of my life as an ECCD teacher, but Malina’s story is one of my favorites.

Malina is a six-year-old girl. She joined our ECCD classes two years ago. Her family is very poor and her parents are illiterate, like many of the children in my classes. When Malina first joined ECCD, she was not behaving well and had difficulties communicating. She was very shy and barely spoke to anyone. Her parents were worried about her.

Benafsha and her smiling ECCD students.
Benafsha and her smiling ECCD students.

Thanks to Sponsorship’s ECCD programs, our classroom is full and colorful. I have also received trainings from Save the Children that help me make my lessons engaging for my young students. Each day here Malina is greeted with a child-friendly and safe environment that helps encourage her to learn and play. As teachers, we help children develop their cognitive, socio-emotional and language skills, as well as skills in early literacy and math. It turned out, all this was exactly what Malina needed.

I encouraged Malina by welcoming her into opportunities to play and participate in different activities. She took the chance to communicate with the other children once they were all playing together. Day by day, Malina gained the courage and confidence to talk more and more. Today, she is a very active and intelligent little girl, which makes her mother very happy. Her mother proudly shared, “Malina is a very clever girl. She is happy and very sociable.”

A happy Malina (middle) and her sister Madina and Malya.
A happy Malina (middle) and her sister Madina and Malya.

Children who graduate from our ECCD classes perform much stronger in school compared to classmates who did not receive any pre-primary school education, and are usually the top of their class. Malina’s mother tells me, I have five daughters. All of them had normal childhoods and thrived. However, Malina struggled with talking for years. I was very worried about her future. I sometimes cried thinking about her. Fortunately, Save the Children established the [ECCD] centers for our children, and it has been two years since she started attending ECCD classes. She is very active now. She sings songs for her sisters, dances and tells us stories. We are very grateful to Save the Children for giving this great opportunity to our children.”

As an ECCD teacher working directly with the children, I find my work fulfilling although it is sometimes hard. I push my limits to go beyond my work and always try to give a little more, helping more children because they deserve to be served and they are the future of our country. I give my special thanks to each of our sponsors, and I hope their support continues so more children like Malina can have brighter futures.

We thank you, Benafsha – our programs would not be possible without hardworking, caring and dedicated teachers like you. Thank you for being our partner in changing children’s lives for the better!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

 

Learning Healthy Habits

Author Portrait_Anisa Naimi, School Health and Nutrition Officer
Anisa Naimi

School Health and Nutrition Officer

Save the Children in Afghanistan

February 28, 2017

My name is Anisa Naimi, I have been working as a School Health and Nutrition Officer with Sponsorship and Save the Children in Afghanistan for the past nine years. Sponsorship’s health and nutrition programs are designed to improve the health of children and to reduce malnutrition, which in turn enhances children’s scholastic performance. Healthy living habits are promoted by involving children in health campaigns held in their community or at their school. We arrange for at least two campaigns to be held in each village in which we work each year, on topics like the importance of healthy nutrition. Campaigns are coupled with the distribution of vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets so children not only leave with improved knowledge of how to stay healthy but leave a little healthier that same day!

Vitamin A campaigns and distribution is one of my favorite parts of my job. After we meet with community members and other local stakeholders who help us organize campaign days, we travel to the far away villages that we bring our Sponsorship programs to.

Children sharing health messages through songs.
Children sharing health messages through songs.

One such day we had to go very far, passing through rough roads, multiple valleys and by small villages. Once we were close to the school we started to see students and their parents walking from the nearby villages towards the school, where the day’s event would take place. All around us children were confidently calling out to the villagers through loudspeakers to encourage them to participate in the activities.

The first thing we do when we enter a school is prepare child-centered health education groups, so that children can have fun while learning with their peers. We lead the groups in learning about health topics through role playing, singing songs and playing games. Children also learn how to spread messages about how locally available fruits and vegetables provide good sources of vitamins, by holding banners they’ve made and sharing presentations.

This was an opportunity for the children and their parents to spend time together and learn about healthy habits. The children explained to their parents or guardians the messages they’ve learned, for example to eat organic foods which are cheap and available in their community, and most importantly nutritious. One of the girls told me proudly, “This campaign was very helpful for us. I used to believe that only those things that were very expensive, like meat, were good for our health, but now I can prepare healthy food using vegetables [that are] locally available, for my family.” Another said, “I spent a lovely day with my friends, and we conveyed health related messages to the nearby villages. I wish this day was celebrated more often!”

A group of children spreads healthy habits through their community.
A group of children spreads healthy habits through their community.

As a School Health and Nutrition Officer, I led the children in these exercises. I am happy to be spreading health messages to communities and schools to raise people’s awareness about healthy habits and behaviors, and improving people’s lives. During this year’s events the children were all very active participants. We have been inspired by the children to continue working hard to implement the program. They dream of a better future, and we can help them make that happen.

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