My placement: Nutrition Project in Cangumbang

Time to tell you what I actually do here. I signed up for one of the three nutrition projects that VfV is running.  At three different places around Tacloban a team of volunteers and local mothers are cooking one “nutritious and delicious” meal a day for all the sponsorkids. Based on recipes from previous volunteers and our own inputs from all over the world we feed 35-50 kids at every place.

Sponsorkids: For 300 USD a year (25 USD a month) sponsors from all over the world can support a school child fro a disadvantaged family in and around Tacloban. The donations provide the basic necessities to the kids and supply them with access to education, food, social support, and medical care. 

My placement is in Cangumbamg, a small community 30 minutes outside of Tacloban.

The community is home to 158 kids of which 38 are sponsored. It comprises around 300 households with 1-2 families living in one household.Most families have lots of kids with around six being a normal number and twelve the record I’ve heard to far. Families live in wooden houses on stilts as the area is prone to flooding. Cooking happens on open fires as gas is quite expensive.

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The VfV community centre and one other house are the only concrete houses in the community.

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These two buildings were the only ones that resisted typhoon Yolanda. Everything else was knocked down and completely destroyed. Fortunately and miraculously the community had no casualties. VfV and the Catholic Relief Service amongst other organizations have brought the community back to life. With a piece of land and wood from 15 coconut trees families were top of the list to rebuild their houses.

The project is the only VfV project that takes place in the afternoon. Monday to Friday I start my journey together with the other volunteers at around 12:30 from Bliss. With our daily budget of 600 Pesos we set out to shop for a healthy, filling and tasty meal for our kids.

600 Pesos are about 12 Euros – that makes about 0.30 Euro per kid per day! Comparing the value of this treasure to how easily 12 Euros are spent in our lives is unbelievable, overwhelming, humbling, grounding, and many more things. I find myself converting everything I spend into number of days or kids I could feed with it and still can’t get my head around it.

With our 600 Pesos we catch a Jeepney from Cangumbang to Palo to do our shopping at the market.

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The meals usually include about 2kg of meat mixed with about 3 kg of vegetables in some kind of sauce. The regular side dish is about 2-3 kg rice – although it sometimes appears that the sauce is the side to the rice. I hope my “Today’s special posts” give you a flavour of what we produce.

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We spend about 300 Pesos / half of the budget on the meat – chicken, pork or sometimes fish. About another 150-200 Pesos buy us the vegetables while the remainders gets us the sauces and condiments we need for the sauce (e.g freshly ground coconut milk as in the picture above). If we manage to stay under budget we invest in treats like fresh fruits, oatmeal or peanut butter sandwiches to ramp up nutrient and calorie intake. Up until today we were very lucky in Cangumbang to have a sack of rice that we could use. That freed us about 100 Pesos for other components of the meal.
A 48kg sack of rice is worth 2000 Pesos (40 Euros) and lasts for about one month.

With our harvest we catch a Trycile or a Habol-Habol that takes us through the rice fields to Cangumbang.

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Kids come running from all corners of the village to greet us and take our supplies into our “kitchen”. The kids call us “Ate” – big sister and “Kuya” – big brother. I already know that I miss the sound of “Ate Judith” in a few weeks time.

In great team effort with the local mothers we chop up everything we brought in tiny pieces that a) cook faster and b) hide the vegetables from the kids.

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By around 3:30 pm we start our “feeding” with a short prayer and a cross in the rice with the same routine.

  1. Wash hands
  2. Take multi vitamin supplement
  3. Eat meal
  4. Brush teeth

Surprisingly the kids eat basically everything we create, although they have their favorites: Chicken adobo or spaghetti with tomatoe sauce. Most important is the right amout of rice: a lot, more rice than sauce and preferrably not covered by the sauce. Basically the opposite way to how I would eat my rice 😉

Before, during and after the feeding playing, singing, talking to the kids is the best part of the day. The kids range from 6-16 and are simply amazing – cute, smart, cheeky, shy – just great.

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What they all have in common is one very worrying fact: they are all underweight which very often goes along with malnourished and unhealthy. It is hard to find out how much they actually eat in a day apart form what we provide them with. It is very dependent on the family. In any case it is a quite an one-side nutrition based on lots of rice lacking important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fibre, etc. Despite all this the supply chain for sweets and fizzy drinks even reaches into the smalles corners of the world. In tiny and therefore affordable pack sizes lollies, crisps, ice-cream are adding a small luxury to an otherwise constrained world. Understandable but unfortunately on the costs of eating away on beautiful teeth of the kids. Another topic that is hard to grasp.

At around 5:00 we leave the left overs in the trusted hands of one of the mothers and start our journey back. Followed by lots of “Good Bye”-s and “See you tomorrow”-s. I love every day of it and I am more than grateful for this overwhelming experience.

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