Why is The Niapele Project investing in a school feeding program? Perhaps the reasons are intuitive: feeding hungry children is a worthwhile enterprise to finance, particularly in a refugee setting. It seems to me, though, that it’s important to highlight the more complex reality that lead The Niapele Project to push very hard for the creation and implementation of a School Feeding Program at the Carolyn A. Miller School.
Below is a short account of why I believe an SFP is of paramount importance – I wrote this while in Buduburam the first time around, when I was the health coordinator at the Carolyn A. Miller School, before the SFP began. It’s not necessarily the most well-written piece I’ve ever produced, but I think (hope!) it helps shed light on why this program is of paramount importance:
“Surely, the Carolyn A. Miller School is a strikingly different environment than the one most of us grew up in. Cultural, social and environmental differences aside, one of the things that strike international volunteers the most is the issue of malnutrition among CAMES students. Often, one will teach a class where a number of students are asleep on their desks. While in our countries this would be unacceptable behavior, teachers and staff quietly accept this situations – comments are rarely made, and children are rarely woken. This implicit acceptance is linked to a recognition that this lack of energy is due to a lack of food – too often, students will come to school on an empty stomach, having not eaten for perhaps 48 hours.
While this problem is pervasive throughout the Buduburam community, it is worryingly prevalent at CAMES. Most students are unaccompanied minors, whose guardians already have too many mouths to feed; or perhaps the students’ household is headed by an unemployed widow, who struggles with little to no resources. While the school struggles to make ends meet and certainly faces structural and cyclical issues, the issue of student malnutrition is high on their list of priorities. Teachers and staff are concerned that their efforts to provide education to these children will come to no avail if students, weak from hunger, are unable to benefit from what
Whatever the reasons, it is clear that there is a severe problem which calls for action. Most of the students as CAMES see education as their salvation, as their means to achieve a fulfilling life. But when one has little to no food or drink to subsist on, it is difficult – if not impossible – for these children to achieve the level of academic excellence that they are striving for.”