Collaborating with the Parents-Teachers Association to bring a school feeding program.

Sept. 16, 2020

In September of 2018, the primary school held its annual beginning of the year meeting.

In front of an audience of parents and school staff, the president of the Parent-Teacher Association announced her intention to bring two things to the school: bike racks for the students and a feeding program. As the village’s Peace Corps Volunteer, I was present at the meeting and intrigued by the projects. After the meeting, I introduced myself as the new Peace Corps Volunteer (as I had only been in the village for a couple of weeks) and told her I would love to work on bringing the community together to execute her plans. In particular, I liked the kitchen idea as it was a project the Volunteer before me had marked as a need for the community due to its relatively high rates of child malnutrition and stunting. The President and I would set up a meeting and discuss fundraising strategies to accomplish the goals. By doing barbeques and dollar drives, the PTA had raised funds for the bike racks. They were proving themselves to be capable of completing their promises. With one goal down, the PTA shifted focus to the feeding program.

For this project, we knew we would need to work with multiple facets of the community and outside resources. In the community, we would need the support of the school, the village council, and influential groups like churches. Building these bonds proved to be hard work, not because there didn’t exist a desire to improve the school and the health of the students, but because inertia is a hard thing to overcome. We had to organize meetings to plan how the feeding program would be structured, plan logistics for food and labor payments, and make construction plans and estimations. From outside the community, we sought advice from the Ministries of Education and Health. The Ministry of Education has an excellent feeding program menu, which we decided to adopt. To reinforce the importance of following such guidelines, a Ministry of Health nutritionist came to the school to speak with teachers and the PTA about the importance of proper nutrition. Through this partnership, we laid plans to do more educational talks later on in 2020, specifically targeted at educating the head chef of the program and parents of the students. From February to December, we worked interspersing meetings between the daily working lives of community members to finally reach a point where we had raised ⅓ of the funds for the project and documented a comprehensive feeding program plan.

What was left was now was a search for additional funding support. The Peace Corps Partnership Grant Program seemed a perfect fit. This had always been a community-driven project, so we found harmony with the Peace Corps requirements without much struggle. In December, my school’s principal and I presented our community’s vision for the project. Today we are in the final stages of securing the grant and hope to begin the construction of the kitchen in April. Following this timeline, by next school year, the feeding program will be running and serving snacks and lunch to the students at the primary school.

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PCV Matthew (bottom left) during one of the nutrition talks by the Ministry of Health.