Padre. Bambo. Baba. Pitaji. Dad. No father is the same, but by any name he has the potential to help transform the health and well-being of his community and family. In the spirit of honoring those who have embraced this role and challenge, we asked Project Concern International (PCI) staff to help us highlight a few standout men from our programs. Meet Ezequiel, Dagras and Rufino – three fathers leading by example.
Ezequiel Vásquez – Guatemala
Ezequiel Vásquez didn’t wait for a seat at the table. He pulled up a chair.
When PCI began training local women in his community on health and hygiene practices to help prevent malnutrition, he asked to join the “Mothers in Action.” The group formed through ACCION, an emergency food security program run by PCI with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Vásquez didn’t meet the most obvious membership requirement, but he helped them see the role he could play as a “Father in Action.”
“I want to participate in the trainings and be able to help my wife with our son and to help the other women in the project,” he said.
ACCION hosts trainings every month for Mothers and Fathers in Action. Like the women in his group, Vásquez shares what he has learned with community members in his sector of town by giving demonstrations on handwashing and healthy food preparation. Participants remark that he always shows patience and concern as a teacher.
Thanks to his commitment and dedication, Vásquez has helped promote behavior change among other local fathers. Following his lead, many of them now accompany their wives to health and nutrition trainings as well as food voucher events. They are also beginning to put what they learn into practice at home.
Across Guatemala, 26 Health Brigades and 347 Mothers in Action groups – some with Fathers in Action, too – have formed to watch over the health conditions of their communities.
Dagras Nyalira – Malawi
Breaking tradition led to several breakthroughs for Dagras Nyalira and his family in Malawi.
After joining a male Care Group in his village, the 31-year-old father of two began seeing his wife as a teammate instead of someone with duties and issues that did not concern him.
“We are one body,” said Nyalira, who now accompanies his wife to the health clinic and helps her make household decisions.
Through PCI’s Njira project, a USAID-funded initiative, both of them have learned better ways to feed their children, clean their home, take care of themselves and each other, and build financial security for their family.
Nyalira serves as the secretary of his nine-member male Care Group, which meets regularly to study and discuss issues related to sanitation, nutrition, maternal and child health, women’s empowerment, climate change and disaster risk management.
In addition to gaining access to a toilet and other simple household tools that allow his family to improve their health and hygiene practices, Nyalira also started a home garden to make sure his daughters get the nutrition they need to grow strong.
At first, other men questioned Nyalira for his hands-on involvement as a husband and father. But now that they’ve seen the ways his family has become healthier and more prosperous, they want to know what they can do to change their lives as well.
Nyalira said his participation in PCI’s programming hasn’t just transformed his family’s quality of life but also how he and his wife talk to each other.
“We can have intellectual conversations and talk about issues as a team now,” he said. “Development, family and community – all of these things are not only for women but also men. It needs to be education for all, so we can make decisions and grow together.”
Rufino Chales – Guatemala
Rufino Chales has become intimately familiar with cultivating growth in dire conditions—from working drought-ravaged land to raising three children as a widower.
PCI first met the agricultural day laborer in August 2016, when staff enrolled his family in ACCION. Like many others in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, they were living in extreme poverty. Fifteen days after joining the emergency food security program, Chales lost his wife to a terminal illness.
Despite this devastating setback, he was determined to make life better for his children.
In addition to finding work to support his family, Chales joined a volunteer Health Brigade and regularly attends trainings offered by ACCION, too. He said these activities have helped him learn how to improve the health practices of his family and better care for his children in terms of their hygiene and diet.
This desire to educate and empower himself in the face of grief instead of give in has motivated other men to become more engaged in family and community health issues.
Want to learn about another way PCI is helping to educate and engage fathers around the world? Check out our work with Every Preemie-SCALE.