Madres Comunitarias, more children with food Aid

Madres Comunitarias, more children with food Aid

They are more than 53 thousand women who look after children from Colombia’s lowest-income areas in their own homes. Community Mothers make a difference in the lives of these kids. The programme’s director, Juan Valencia, explains that, for many of them, the only food they eat are the meals given to them by the community mothers.

Young ethnic mom holds her daughter on lap who is snacking on a carrot from the garden. She is leaning her head back and laughing uproariously.

In just one year, Jerónimo Martins has donated food for children through the Colombian programme, corresponding to an increase of 130 tonnes of food, when compared to the previous year. Madres Comunitarias take care of children whose mothers are struggling to survive every day in the country’s lowest-income areas.

“We are able to provide 70% of the nutritional needs of these children. For many of them, these are the only meals they have during the day”. These are the words of Juan Valencia, head of the Madres Comunitarias (Community Mothers) programme of the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), the Colombian Institute of Family Well-being that supports the feeding and development of children from birth to the age of five. In 2016, aid increased: more than 268 children were helped, an investment of 82,000 euros which translates into over 130 tonnes of food, provided by Jerónimo Martins. An increase of 55%, compared to the previous year.

THE MISSION AND GOALS

Launched in 1986 and regulated in 1989, this government programme run by the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (Colombian Institute of Family Well-being), supports over one million seventy thousand children, from birth to the age of five, from Colombia’s lowest-income areas. The programme consists of support provided by Madres Comunitarias (Community Mothers), more than 53 thousand women who look after children in their own homes, feed them and help them develop physically and mentally.

MALNUTRITION MAY LEAD TO GROWTH PROBLEMS

In 2017, there are now 53,000 women who dedicate themselves to a task which today is considered a paid job, with the right to an employment contract, something the ICBF has been fighting for for many years. The government initiative has managed to support increasingly more minors with help from the Institute, which emphasizes the important support from Jerónimo Martins in increased food aid. It makes all the difference to the future of boys and girls who are part of Colombia’s poorest classes. “Children who are not in the programme suffer from malnutrition and have developmental delay, they are unable to integrate into society and are not in school”, stresses Juan Valencia, who also stresses the work of community mothers not only in relation to feeding, but also child development. “They not only help feed the children, they also focus on their physical and mental development”, says the director.

Jerónimo Martins provides support in Colombia through the Ara supermarkets and an ICBF representative monitors the aid given to community mothers. The group has held workshops for new babysitters who have joined the programme. The group also organises other events where these women learn methods for handling foodstuffs, as well as the need for children to have a balanced and controlled diet.

Madres comunitarias singing with childrenToday, there are already 53,000 women who take care of children, from birth to the age of five, in their own homes.

Photography of Juan Valencia circle

“WE ARE ABLE
TO PROVIDE
70% OF THE
NUTRITIONAL
NEEDS OF
THESE
CHILDREN.”

INTERVIEW

JUAN VALENCIA

DIRECTOR OF MADRES COMUNITARIAS Y PRIMERA INFANCIA

 

HOW HAS THE MADRES COMUNITARIAS PROGRAMME EVOLVED?
It has seen exponential growth: when it was created, in 1986, we had between 1,000 – 2,000 community mothers. Now, in 2017, there are more than 53,000, with an employment contract. Besides ensuring their nutrition needs, to which the IBCF and other partners also play a big role, these “mothers” take care of children from neighborhoods in their own homes thus ensuring they receive dedicated attention needed for their social development.

WHAT IS THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHILDREN IN THE PROGRAMME COMPARED TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT PART OF IT?
The difference is huge, both in terms of nutrition and education. For many of these children, the only food they eat during the day are the meals given to them by the community mothers: three meals a day. The children who are not part of the programme suffer from malnutrition and have developmental delays, they are not able to integrate into society and are not in school. Receiving this aid is vital for them to survive and have a future.

DOES THE INSTITUTE HAVE A PROGRAMME FOR OLDER CHILDREN?
There are two groups that need aid: the first is the early childhood group, from birth to the age of five; the second group encompasses the other ages. For these age groups, we don’t have an established aid programme. What we do is prepare these adolescents to face life. The Institute is mainly dedicated to the feeding and development of younger children. There are other Colombian institutions that have programmes for older children.

This article is part of the “Being part of the Community” feature.

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