Friday, August 9, 2013

Smoothie Challenges with Parents in El Alto

Aldeas Infantiles are dedicated to the healthy development of children in a family environment and runs a number of nurseries throughout Bolivia. We work two days a week in a nursery situated in Portada Triangular, one of the less affluent areas on the outskirts of La Paz. 

We’ve each been assigned individual roles within this project – mine is to organise and co-ordinate parents’ evenings with the mothers and fathers of the children at the centre. The purpose of these evenings is to educate parents about nutrition, an underlying problem in Bolivia, particularly amongst rural communities.  The country suffers from what’s been coined “hidden hunger”; approximately 28% of its children are suffering from malnutrition, however, a further 33% are classed as obese. These figures suggest that the problem is not solely a lack of food but a lack of understanding and practice in how to maintain a balanced diet. 

The issue is one that Aldeas Infantiles are trying to address. The children’s centre in Portada Triangular is fortunate in that it has its own nutritionist and cook, who provide the children with a steady stream of healthy food throughout the duration of the day.   The challenge lies in how to ensure that these healthy eating habits continue once the children have left the centre and are back at home. Through participating in parents’ evenings, we intend to spark an ongoing interest in healthy eating with the hope that the parents will then endeavour to provide their children with a balanced diet at home. 

The challenge, for me personally, was how to make the evening fun and interactive without the whole thing coming across as patronising paternalism and potentially deterring attendance at future evenings. We knew that in the past it had been difficult to persuade parents to attend and numbers tended to be low. Eager to facilitate an activity which would engage the parents and young people, we decided our first session would be a smoothy making competition!

I felt it was best for the evening to be led by the parents rather than the volunteers.  For this reason, instead of explaining the benefits of various fruits, we laid the fruit out on tables along with blenders and flash cards I’d written. These cards contained all the information the parents needed to find out about the nutritious value of the fruit for themselves whilst making the smoothies. The materials were all there- it was up to the parents to make the smoothies and pitch to us why theirs was the healthiest using the facts they’d learnt from the flashcards. 

They took up the challenge with enthusiasm, playfully fighting over which teams should get which fruit. Everyone got involves, and within minutes they were all peeling, chopping and laughing. Once their time was up, each team pledged why their smoothie was the tastiest and had the best health benefits.  The fact that the parents were able to do this without the flash cards in front of them demonstrated that they’d learnt something from the evening. The children acted as judges, and the winners were named. 

We were all pleasantly surprised by how well the evening had gone and we hope its set a precedent for the parents’ evenings to come.  

Written by Kim Nicholson
Edited by Sarah Cassidy

To find out about International Service's ICS projects and stay up to date with our latest activities, please visit our blogs and 'like' our facebook page:

UpClose Bolivia
ChildFund - Encounter of the Youth's Generation
Aldeas Infantiles-Stranthening Families

International Citizen Service - Bolivia Facebook page

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