HAITI: Salesian Missions USAID-funded ‘Hunger for Education’ provided meals to thousands of school children, improved learning environment
The fortified rice-meals provided better nutrition for poor youth at six Salesian centers.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Jan. 16, 2020) Ten years after the devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, the country continues to face challenges and serious issues with hunger and undernutrition. Three-quarters of the population lives on less than $2 a day and faces the highest levels of severe food insecurity in the world, according to the World Food Programme. More than half of the country’s population of 10.7 million people is undernourished. Nearly 100,000 Haitian children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, causing irreversible stunted growth for close to 30 percent of all children in the country.
To ensure youth in six Salesian centers have access to better nutrition, Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, launched its Hunger for Education project, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from September 2016 to March 2019. The project aimed to increase the health and learning capacity of students by implementing school feeding programs in Salesian centers within the country.
Overall the project provided lunch five days a week for 12,746 students at six school centers from January 2017 to Oct. 31, 2017, 15,541 students from November 2017 to September 2018, and 18,161 students from November 2017 through the end of the project on March 31, 2019.
The project helped support the shipment of 40 40-foot shipping containers of meals—16 from Breedlove, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping eradicate world hunger; 17 from Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization that provides food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable; and seven from Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit Christian organization committed to “feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit.”
The donation was shared among Salesian centers in the cities of Port-au-Prince, Fort-Liberté, Cap-Haïtien, Les Cayes, Gressier and Gonaïves. The feeding programs also covered two months of summer programming at Les Cayes, Gressier, Fort-Liberté, Cap-Haïtien, Gonaives, Thorland, Petionville, Drouillard and the Salesian post-novitiate.
The Hunger for Education project has also helped to ensure each of the six Salesian centers had kitchens equipped to cook the rice-meals while training 15 school cooks to prepare the nutritious meals for students. Prior to this project, the Cardinal Keeler Center in Gonaïves had no kitchen at all. With funding through the project, the center was able to develop a new kitchen from the ground up, including cooking supplies.
“The new kitchen and feeding program have been well received by students from all disciplines within the school,” said Father Yves Jorcelim Pierre, director of the Cardinal Keeler Center. “This new kitchen has also provided access for teachers, support staff, cooks and managers to eat there as well. The feeding program and donation of food aid have been a great blessing to our center. Children are now assured a hot meal each day. Prior, many were coming to school on an empty stomach and knowing they had no food to go home to in the evening. Children are much more focused on their studies now.”
Salesian vocational training students who received meals from the Hunger for Education project expressed high levels of gratitude for having food to fuel their practical exercises. In Fort-Liberté, agricultural students work in the school’s fields from 8:00-11:00 a.m. every day, and they count on having food available when they are finished with their morning projects.
In Cité Soleil and Les Cayes, Salesian students work hard in vocational training workshops to learn skills in carpentry, welding, auto-mechanics, electricity, sewing and beauty. They rely on the meals to keep them going through practical training workshops as well as classroom learning. Before the feeding program began, administrators noted instances of vocational training students fainting during their practical exercises due to a lack of food. Now students have energy not only to make it through the day but also to stay after school to participate in soccer or other programs.
Each of the six participating school directors noted that the feeding program improved student academic performance and enhanced the learning environment. Students who previously were sleepy in the afternoon after recreation time had more energy to continue in their studies after meals were implemented during the school day. School directors also noted that report cards have improved and that their students study much better when they have proper nutrition.
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