When we first visited a garbage dump in Sandino City, Nicaragua, just outside the capital of Managua last December, our Children’s Feeding Initiative here was just getting underway. Now, just six months later, the program is in full swing and children who were going through garbage to find every meal are now being fed like they’ve never been before. In fact, around 65 kids here are eating through our program everyday.
Jesenia, 32, makes sure her three kids are always here for lunch. Although, she adds, “it doesn’t take much prodding to get them here, they are always hungry.”
Jesenia says her 12-year-old son, Jairo, learned the hard way the hazards of eating food out of the dump.
“Jairo and his younger brother ate spoiled chicken and he was hospitalized with food poisoning,” she says. “They were both very sick and I was just happy they could come to a healthy place to eat when they got better.”
Lesson learned and healthier than Jesenia says he’s ever been, Jairo makes a quick sprint to the feeding site shelter where kids are being fed an afternoon snack of coconut milk shipped in from Springfield, Mo. He gulps it down and groups up to play with the other kids who’ve gathered.
Sisters Heydi, 13, and Cynthia, 16, hop off the back of a large dump truck to join the group. The inseparable pair risks their safety everyday, picking through garbage just to find scraps of plastic to sell for food. But, they say some of the burden has been lifted because they get food everyday at lunch thanks to Convoy of Hope and its supporters.
“I want to have a real life someday because my life is hard here,” says Cynthia. “Now that I know I have food it is getting better.”
Heydi and Cynthia both say they dream of getting out of the dump someday and having healthy families.
Pablo Gomez, country director for Nicaragua, says the program in his country has brought change to a forgotten community that never expected it.
“We have witnessed these children becoming much happier and more healthy since our feeding site opened here,” says Gomez. “Most people don’t have any idea what it is like to live life day-by-day in a place like this, but what is encouraging is that there are so many supporting our efforts here in Nicaragua.”
There are now more than 5,000 children enrolled in our Children’s Feeding Initiative in Nicaragua and there are 32 feeding sites in place. Children are being fed and are feeling better inside and out.
I have the privilege of traveling the world to evaluate Convoy of Hope’s children’s feeding initiatives. With this, I’m constantly stepping back and forth between extremes. The following paradox explains these extremes well. Here in America, today is “Eat What You Want Day,” a day intended to give people like me a day without our diets. Today is also the day I leave for Nicaragua where among other projects, Convoy of Hope is working to provide food for children that currently pick through a dump in order to eat.
I am passionate about feeding kids, but I am even more passionate about ending hunger. At Convoy of Hope we’re fighting to end hunger by fostering education through in-school feeding programs, helping women find opportunities to provide for their families and working with farmers to find long term food-security solutions right at home.
What would the people that I’m privileged to work along side in places like Haiti and Kenya think of today’s holiday? Would the the 125,000 children in our feeding initiative wonder why such a day exists? Would the kids in the dump in Nicaragua be able to fathom that some people really can “eat whatever they want?”
Personally, I may celebrate in Nicaragua, a day off of Paleo sounds great! More importantly, today I’m challenged to work harder to ensure that more children will have the opportunity to decide what they will eat instead of wondering if they’ll eat.