A letter from Inge Sthreshley serving in the Congo
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In my kitchen I have a little box full of recipes that I have collected over the years. When I thumb through the box, there is one recipe in particular that I will linger over when I come across it. It is my grandmother’s bread recipe written in her distinctive, cursive handwriting on an old index card. There was always homemade bread at Grandma’s house on the farm, and plenty of homegrown fruits and vegetables. I loved her fresh bread and homemade raspberry jam from raspberries we often helped her pick from the garden. I can remember when I asked my grandmother if she would write down her bread recipe for me. I was living with her for the summer after my freshman year of college and learning how to cook. To this day I treasure that recipe because of the memories it evokes of a time and a place. Memories of Grandma and the love and care she gave me, of good food that nourished us.
Recipes—we create them, modify them, sometimes lose them, often share them and pass them down. Here in Congo with our nutrition work with the ASSP program (Accès au Soins de Santé Primaire), we have been working hard to pass around a recipe(s) for an enriched porridge. Many children in Congo are given just a thin manioc gruel as a weaning food and as a result they suffer from malnutrition. So we have been teaching community volunteers how to make an enriched porridge based on locally available ingredients. They in turn show young mothers in their communities and families with malnourished children how to make the porridge.
One day when we were in Kananga doing a training of trainers, I told my team I wanted to do the enriched porridge demonstration at the home of a family with a malnourished child. The demonstration was going to be filmed to use in future trainings. So I asked our staff to arrange for us to visit a family with a malnourished child to do the cooking demonstration. When we arrived at the house the next morning and I saw the nutritional state of little Mado “my heart stopped.” She was so malnourished she looked close to death. We were all taken aback, but we went ahead and did the cooking demonstration. Madame Germain showed Mado’s mother what ingredients she could use and the proportions to mix of corn and soya flour and other ingredients. Before long there was a circle of women and children from the neighborhood all watching the demonstration. And little Mado ate the porridge, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, “This little girl isn’t going to make it. We’re too late.”
Two months later we were heading back to Kananga, and I asked about the little girl we had visited at Ndesha health zone and how she was doing. I didn’t expect a good answer. When I was told Mado was doing very well and received a picture of her via email, I was overjoyed! I couldn’t believe it. None of us could. When we arrived in Kananga, we went to visit Mado and her mother. Before we even entered the yard, Mado’s mother came out to greet us. She hugged me and thanked me for what we had done for her daughter. Needless to say, I was in tears when I saw Mado and her mother. The change in Mado’s health was astounding.
Later we came back and filmed an interview with Mado’s mother in which she shares how she learned about the enriched porridge recipe and used it to help her child regain her health. This video has been dubbed into French, Lingala, and Swahili and is being shown all over the 52 health zones supported by the ASSP Program. It is always well received and has been an encouragement to many mothers. I was in Kindu talking with a mother about the recipe and she said, “We started making it for our 6-month-old, but all the kids liked it, so now they are all eating it.”
Recently we were back in Kananga again for training on our clean cook stoves with the 80 community volunteers from Ndesha health zone. We had combined a demonstration on how to use the stoves with a cooking demonstration of the enriched porridge. We also showed the Mado video. Afterwards Sylvain Kabanza, the community volunteer who had continued to work with Mado’s mother to encourage her to use the recipe, walked into the room carrying little Mado. When he introduced her, the whole room erupted into applause and cheers. It was their success, their efforts, their story from their community, and they were so proud. It was a beautiful moment. In the past year approximately 88,603 malnourished children and their families have received five home visits from community volunteers like Sylvain.
Thank you for your financial and prayer support that enables us to work here in Congo. And I extend to you the words of gratitude that Mado’s mother shared with me. Through your support, many mothers like Mado’s are hearing about a simple recipe that brings nourishment and health to their children. Thank you! And please continue with your support because there are more communities and children to be reached.
O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. Psalms 34: 8
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