In a land that was once dry and inhospitable, I met a Bolivian father in the village of Keualanni. He used to have trouble growing much more than potatoes. Like the rest of the farmers in his community, his children cried from hunger every day and night.
One out of every three of the community’s children suffered chronic malnutrition.
Bolivia is ranked as the 3rd highest countries for chronic malnutrition in children under age 5.
Stunting is one of the major outcomes of chronic malnutrition in children.
Stunted children never reach the full potential God gave them. Not mentally, and not physically. Their weakened bodies can’t fight off diseases. Many die before reaching the age of 5, often from curable things like a common cold.
Those who survive to adulthood face issues later in life. Things like heart disease, diabetes and kidney damage.
That doesn’t even take into account the life-altering economic impact of having a weaker body in adulthood. Or the life-long impact of stunted brain and nerve development. These include lower IQs, limited coordination and lack of social skills. And mothers who are underweight give birth to underweight babies.
It’s a vicious cycle.
But Food for the Hungry helped reverse the cycle.
I talked to Food for the Hungry’s Bolivia Country Director Oscar Montes. He’s a former beneficiary of FH’s work. He told me that farmers in Keualanni couldn’t grow much more than potatoes 10 years ago.
Hunger led many to eat dirt.
Can you believe this desperate community faced even more issues? Oscar told me they didn’t have clean water to drink. They didn’t have water for irrigation. He said the community had no streets or education.
Oscar introduced me to members of the community’s Development Committee. One of those leaders, Don Vital, summed up what life was like for them prior to FH stepping in to help. “We did not live well in those times,” he said.
Don said that before Food for the Hungry came to his community, he and his family had to carry water up a steep slope from the river.
“We had to bring pitchers of water in our backpacks, or carry them on our shoulders, or with our hands. In the dry time, there was not enough water.”
As if the burden of getting water up the hill wasn’t bad enough, disease contaminated what they came back with.
“There was a lot of malaria and other illnesses,” Don told me. “My oldest son got very sick. I did not know where to take him. The doctors could not heal him.”
As a dad myself, I know how horrible it would make me feel if I couldn’t feed my children. What if I could find no work or no doctor when my kids got sick?
But things changed after Food for the Hungry stepped in more than 10 years ago.
Chronic malnutrition no longer plagues Keuallani!
“Now, there are thousands of papaya trees generating more income for a better life, ” Oscar told me.
Don’s wide grin brought me great joy as he proudly stacked his papayas into a basket for me to see. He introduced me to his children. They ran around playing like the healthy kids they were. They were being educated, something Don never dared to even dream about before.
My heart felt like it might explode when a powerful thought entered my mind: “Here’s what we’re doing.”
Don was barely making it 10 years ago. But Food for the Hungry staff taught him how to farm and how to take his produce to market. His income increased tenfold! He has a truck. He wanted to feed our group a meal.
“Food for the Hungry taught us how to manage our farms and crop production well,” Don said. “We say that their help makes our hearts bloom. If we didn’t have irrigation, we wouldn’t have produce like the papayas. It would be very sad. I think God sent Food for the Hungry. If not, things wouldn’t be like they are. I am thankful.”
As I left Keualanni, I was struck by all the ways Food for the Hungry helps dads like Don, who are no different than me in their desire to provide for their children.
I’m honored to work for an organization that helps fathers in vulnerable situations around the globe. You can participate with your generous donation to the good work of Food for the Hungry.