One Two Meals A Day –
I learned this week that for each school day between February 2012 and this week, the three Primary 7 students living at ACIO Child Care Center have been surviving on one meal a day, served to them in the early evening when they return to the center and eat supper with the younger children.
All three boys are attending different schools, decided upon by the Director of ACIO, taking into account the level of their ability and the quality of education to best serve them. One of the boys, a top student in his division, travels several kilometers each day, to and fro, to attend a distant school where he has access to a “higher quality standard of education”. The other two, also attend schools that match their standings, and while closer, still must travel distances to attend.
This means the three boys rise early in the dark, prepare and leave so they can arrive at their schools on time, long before posho porridge ( maize meal ) has been cooked for all the other children at the center. So, no breakfast.
Hot school lunches are available at each school, but they cost money, or food, and ACIO has not afforded this “extra” for the three boys.
Supper at the center, served by around 6pm each day, is usually a meal of beans and posho and some days, some greens. This meal has been “pushing” the boys through the night and all day, every day, while they have been working hard to make the most of, and do their best during this final year in primary school.. a year that will hopefully propel them into their first year of senior school.. an opportunity many orphaned children never have.
Last Saturday, my first day back with all the ACIO children, at one point I gathered the three P7 boys together for a little meeting to learn from them how things are going, if there is any way we can support them as they approach their final exams. “Food, please Mummy, we are hungry every day. Please may we have lunch at school.” They explained. And, from the child who travels farthest (these days, often in heavy rain) “Please, can you also support me with transport?” And he explained.
I returned to the children on Tuesday. Each boy reported to me what they had learned from their principal the day before about the cost for a hot lunch each day, until the school year is completed in November.
For the student who travels farthest – Lunch to end of term = 15,000UGX (around $6) and transport (80 cents, per day). Love and gratitude to the donor who has offered to cover this child’s lunch and transport expenses to the end of this school year.
For the 2’nd child – Lunch to end of term = 7KG maize and 3KG beans
And for the 3’rd – Lunch to end of term = 10KG maize and 3KG beans
1KG of maize = 700UGX x 17 = 12,000 ($5) 1KG beans = 1,000UGX x 6 = 6,000 ($2.50)
Thank you LITA family of supporters. All three children have been given warm coats/hoodies for their early morning treks, AND, are already enjoying hot lunches at school every day! You have helped to cover these small costs and empowered dramatically the daily lives and learning environments and potentials of these three students.
As a footnote.. why, one might ask, did no one mention this issue for the boys to us before now?
My take.. one often comes across a strongly entrenched belief system to ‘endure’ here.. to prioritize needs, to be grateful for all that one does have, and, quite simply, to ‘suffer’ the rest. Like life everywhere, seems that healthy balance of open heart and open mind is called for, and Blessings, my, how they are always present, accordingly.
With Love and gratitude, Catherine