Friday, January 8, 2010

fresh thoughts for a new year

So I am sorry about the ranting in my last blog. I should never write when I’m angry. I read it again a while ago and it made me cringe just a little. I sound like a terrible person. Anyway, I guess I will leave it up on the site as it gives you guys an idea of the frustrations people encounter in the Peace Corps. At least now, I have happier news and am going to give all of my family and friends a long update of my life since then. At least, until my boss comes back and takes over the office. I’m using his office and computer right now to write this blog. My computer has been dead for a few weeks now, another reason I haven’t updated my blog.

As many of us are approaching our one year mark here in Rwanda, we have been handling it in different ways. Some have already started planning their next move once they’re back home--grad school, job hunting. As for me, I have yet to nail down a concrete plan once I return. Having been away from the States for almost a year now, I envision coming home to a land of no jobs and huge debts. It sort of makes me thankful I still have about a year and a half left in a secure job, a long time to make vague fanciful plans about my life.

I have to be honest, being here has definitely had its ups and downs. Just read my last blog for proof. Yet, even with the bad stuff, things turn around in a really good way sometimes. The political guy I complained so much about in the last blog has now become my best ally in getting my nutrition project funded. And even though it has been frustrating creating a project proposal with all the different languages and misunderstandings, I am actually really proud of how it turned out. I really hope we get funding by the end of this month. If so, we can start this project by March and continue until I leave. Oh, I guess I haven’t told you about this project yet. I am really excited about it. It’s called HEARTH or Positive Deviance and it’s a behavior change nutrition project. It has a really cool concept and is super sustainable. The concept of Positive Deviance is that, in every poor community with malnutrition, there are mothers who have innate knowledge of good feeding habits. They use the foods available in the area to feed their children healthy meals. These mothers are called Positive Deviants because they are poor villagers who have healthy children in a community of unhealthy children. Anyway, in this HEARTH project, we find the positive deviant moms in a community and use them as teachers in a community cooking class. In this class, women with malnourished children bring their children and a variety of local, affordable foods to the class. They all cook together using a nutritious recipe and get taught a lesson in nutrition, parenting, family planning, etc. Afterwards, they all feed their children. After two weeks, many children start showing improvements. They gain weight, improve their mood and energy level. During the class, the women also learn good hygiene habits since they wash all the food before cooking and their hands before eating. The program idea is so simple but it has been really successful in many countries. The key to its success is that it’s cheap and uses behavior change techniques really effectively. Mothers bring food locally available and learn from a neighbor. They also learn by doing through an extended period of time instead of sitting for an hour listening to someone lecture them. The recipes and the habits stick with them. They take these good habits home with them and implement them in their lifestyle. This program has rehabilitated children in Haiti, Egypt, Mozambique, Cambodia, Vietnam and many others. In Vietnam, it rehabilitated 80% of the children in the communities where it was implemented. Anyway, now I want to start it in the villages around here and see if it works. We also plan to have the women in the classes form cooperatives and raise chickens. We’re giving them six chickens for each group and we’re planting gardens in each of their homes. I really hope it works out because it’s a more sustainable solution to the malnutrition problem than just giving money and free food. Obviously, this program would not work where there’s food insecurity--in other words, in a desert or in a war zone. I’m a little worried because there’s a little bit of food insecurity in my villages but I will see how it pans out.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I will try to update you guys more later. Hope you had happy holidays and welcome to 2010!


  1. Trish, i think your project sounds really really good. How did you hear about it. I am excited to hear about how it goes. All the best!

  2. cheer up Trish, Good that finaly it turns good with the nutrition project! i am proud of you
    can't wait to see u!
    umwaka mushya muhire

  3. Thanks! I heard about it through my Peace Corps director and then found tons of information about it on the Internet. It seems to be a really popular idea right now.

  4. Hey Trish, that's really great! It seems wise to "teach them how to fish instead of giving them the fish". I hope it works with great success!

    I've tried emailing and texting you in the last week, I hope you're doing ok. If you happen to get online in the near future, please send me a quick note.

    I love you!