Chickens can be easily overlooked, when you think about farms. Horses are big and beautiful, and pigs are funny. Cows make for good cartoon laughs too, as Gary Larson demonstrated ably in The Far Side. Chickens are hard to draw or imitate and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chicken-themed baby hat on Pinterest.
But when Food for the Hungry gives a gift of chickens it can lift a whole community out of poverty. And, chickens can transform people’s thinking on how to make the world a better place to raise a child.
Leonsa in the chicken coop.
An idea takes shape
Leonsa Mejia is a 56-year-old Nicaraguan housewife in the community of El Porvenir. She has been a recognized leader in the community for over two decades. As the mother of six and grandmother of 10, she has a big interest in El Porvenir’s future.
FH staff asked leaders like Leonsa to identify the issues in El Porvenir that were hurting children. Leaders mentioned that poor school attendance was a huge problem. Children were being pulled out of school to make money in sugar and banana plantations nearby.
Worldwide, it’s been shown that offering a nutritious school lunch can be a powerful motivator for school attendance. But rather than just give the schools food, FH and community leaders decided to start a small farm at the school, including a vegetable garden and a poultry project.
Leonsa watched as plans took shape. She began to visualize how she could help, rather than observe from the sidelines. She didn’t know anything about chickens, but she knew she had good administrative skills to help manage the poultry farm.
From student to teacher
So Leonsa learned from a technical trainer FH provided in the community. She was such a good student that FH asked her to take over as a teacher for other adults and children. Together they named the project “Happy Chicks.”
Community members live out the sign on the coop: “Let’s end poverty together!”
As a result of Happy Chicks, 130 students are receiving daily meals that at least once a week are fortified with protein from the chicken eggs and meat, and also vegetables from the school garden. The mothers participate in cooking the meals at the school, and parents help some of the heavier work needed to keep the chickens healthy. Leonsa and others learned that they could take the droppings from the farm and use them as organic fertilizer in the vegetable garden.
Parents and other community members can also buy poultry products from the school farm at a lower price than is available at local markets.
What about school attendance? The school retention rate is now up over 80% and school attendance is greatly improved. Parents, teachers, students and community leaders are all working together to make the project a success.
A gift of a chicken or two, via FH’s gift catalog, can indeed influence an entire community and solve multiple issues that impact children. Consider providing communities like El Porvenir with their very first chickens.