For children living in Huari, Bolivia, attending school often means walking an hour to and from their homes on an empty stomach. Fortunately, working with local government, PCI entered into an agreement designed to help feed over 1,250 school children in 19 of the municipality’s schools – in both urban and rural areas.
Feeding the Children at School
Improving the quality and availability of school breakfasts – complete with hot, nutritionally balanced food – has a significant impact on children’s education. Providing consistent meals in the schools results in more students attending classes, and fewer abandoning their classroom studies, with an added benefit for these children also learning the value of nutrients required for a hard day’s work.
“Their parents work as farmers and are gone most of the day; therefore, the school breakfast is so important,” said a teacher in the Condo primary school, located in Huari.
Teaching Life Skills and Healthy Hygiene
Part of PCI’s involvement in the Huari schools has been a fairly comprehensive approach to promoting healthy behaviors. Children have learned to wash their hands before eating, brush their teeth afterwards, drink safe water, and recycle garbage both at school and at home.
One of the children was excited to share about his efforts at clean water conservation: “At my house I cut the top of the drinking water bottle so that it opens and closes like a little door, so only a little water comes out. I also put a tub underneath, so that no water is ever wasted when I wash my hands before eating and after using the bathroom.”
Significant changes have been made by the entire community in the treatment of garbage. Real efforts at recycling have been made, including different colored waste bins used to separate trash from recycling and repurposing certain kinds of trash, like reusing plastic bags. Furthermore, organic garbage is buried and used as compost.
Sustaining Schools as Productive Enterprises
School gardens were developed and chicken coops were built, providing eggs for food and also for income at some sites when excess eggs were sold to the local community. The sale of eggs covers the cost of chicken feed with enough left over to provide for a stipend for the custodian, who cares for the chickens, as well as the bookkeeping necessary for notating egg sale profits.
“With the $236.64 that we already have, the school board decided to buy more chickens to increase the amount of egg production. PCI taught us that the chicken farm could be sustainable.”
The entire community became involved as the sustainability projects in Huari began to thrive. Students tended to the chickens – providing them with ample food and water each day. Experience with the chicken project also provided a chance for students to utilize math skills necessary for measuring and problem solving.
In the school garden, the students themselves grow lettuce, cabbage, spinach and turnips – healthy vegetables sufficient for their own daily consumption.
Parents organize themselves each year into a school board – with elected officials – that supervises the quality of food, manages money from contributions and sales, and purchases supplies such as spices for food preparation and cleansers for facility cooking areas.
Volunteer parents transport natural gas tanks, and bring meat and vegetables from the local market twice a month.
Mothers in the community participate in many ways, including by cooking the school meals. In some communities they participate as volunteers, but, for the most part, they receive a small stipend generated from municipality funds or family contributions.
The mayor of Huari was very enthusiastic when asked about PCI’s contributions to their community. “PCI supported the concept that we no longer need to hire and pay a company to take charge of school feeding. Rather, we should promote and encourage our own local production and village economy. Together, we have improved the quality of school meals for our children…”