Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rice in everyday meal now a reality

This is our food ... overjoyed kids haul off bags of rice for safe-keeping inside their classroom.

Children enjoy their lunch of rice and meat inside their classroom. Notice in the background a pile of rice bags which were donated to The Center by a Port Moresby-based expatriate businessman.

Penny Sagembo, TCC co-founder and matriarch, lectures the children on hygiene, which she said could start from washing their hands with soap and water before and after meals and after using the toilet.

A Friend of Tembari Children Care (TCC)

WE have just achieved something great for our kids here at The Center.

We are now able to serve them rice at lunch everyday, from Monday to Saturday, along with fish, meat, tinned fish or tinned meat, and of course, cordial drink.

Unlike before when they could only have rice for lunch four days in a week – that is Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – kawkaw (sweet potato), sliced bread and tinned fish or cheap meat loaf, boiled greens and root crops.

It couldn’t be helped. This orphanage run by Tembari Children Care (TCC) Inc, a community-based organization (CBO) at the ATS Oro Settlement at Seven-Mile, outside of POM, has no cash to buy enough food for the children.

The truth is that its only source of cash is the K400 monthly grant it began receiving from foundation WeCare! PNG in March 2009. This money pays for the food served to the children four times a week.

However, with 78 orphans and abandoned children under its care, the K400 monthly grant could barely support a decent lunch meal. It needed more.

But then, WeCare! PNG has served notice that the grant won’t be increased, with a discouraging advice to TCC not to take village orphans more than what it could feed.

But Hayward and Penny Sagembo – took exception to this.

They believe these unfortunate kids have become responsibilities of the community, and that being a community-based organization, TCC should not close its eyes on children who have joined the growing ranks of orphans from the settlement.

WeCare! PNG, through retired priest and founder John Glynn, earlier told me in an email that these kids are responsibilities of the community in which they belong. Therefore, the community should look after them.

Penny and Hayward agreed 100%, that’s why they are taking in every orphan and abandoned child at the ATS Oro Settlement – and feed them. They felt that since no one looks after their welfare, TCC should come out of its way and assume the job.

And now, the mouths it has to feed these days have increased to 85, as new orphans are being brought to TCC for whatever help they could get. Food, for instance.

It was good enough that one Port Moresby-based company – Pacific Towing Ltd – learned of TCC’s activities and offered it a monthly grant of K400 to support its feeding program. The money assistance started coming in last January.

However, Hayward and Penny, being the overseer of this facility, opted to save the cash for other needs. Otherwise, TCC wouldn’t be able to function at all, if not properly.

The monthly rice supply that I am talking about arrived two weeks ago like manna from heaven, courtesy of an expatriate businessman based in Port Moresby.

He pledged to provide The Center with at least 160kg of rice every month to cover the Monday-to-Friday lunch meals of the kids.

Special Saturday feeding is taken care of by individuals who sponsor the meal for this particular day, in which the kids are able to eat a more balanced meal of rice, meat or chicken, veggies, soup and other extras.

I expressed to our benefactor my wish to see the kids eat rice at least four times a week at lunch because they were only making do with whatever food TCC’s funds could buy. He said he’ll make it five-days-a week-lunch, thus the 160kg of grains.

Our benefactor did not think twice about making my wish a reality. The next day, a Saturday, he delivered himself eight bags of 20kg Roots rice to The Center. And the beneficiaries – the 83 kids --- rejoiced.

Each day since last week, our volunteer mothers have been cooking 8kg of rice for the kids’ lunch to cover the 83 kids who come to The Center for lunch. The food goes with tinned fish or tinned meat, and fish donated by another generous supporter – the High Energy Fishing Co Ltd – a Port Moresby-based fishing firm run by Thomas Kuo.

Thomas has promised to provide fish whenever the kids needed it. So the children’s source of protein has been secured.

Why did I pitch for this rice donation?

First of all, the guardians of these kids who could be their grandparents or relatives are also hard up to be able to feed them properly, or to feed them at all. They were left to their care without warning when their parents died – from AIDS, TB, cancer and other diseases. And violence.

Before they were brought to The Center, they would, from time to time, miss a meal, which could be breakfast, lunch or supper.

Would you like to believe that the TCC kids who attend schools in Port Moresby would usually leave their homes for their classes without taking any breakfast?

And when they come home at noon from school they don’t expect to have any food at all? And the only food they expect to see could be found at The Center. Any food will do, as long as it would satisfy their hunger.

Now, at home, they would be lucky to have anything at all for supper. Often, they would go to sleep with empty stomach.

Our benefactor felt terribly bad about this little story. He too could not imagine how those kids would survive the day without taking anything. He was thinking of his two young kids – a son and a daughter – when he estimated how much rice would be needed for the entire month’s feeding.

When he dropped off the stuff the next day at The Center, he had some moral-boosting cheering-up from his two children, who themselves had their first experience of giving to the needy children of their age.

The two young visitors distributed ice cream in sticks to all the kids present that day, and were thanked more than enough for doing so.

Perhaps, it would be an innocent but generous act they won’t forget as long as they live.

With rice now a major part of their daily lunch, the kids are now assured of various nutrients and vitamins that go with the grains, something that would gradually build their well-being, boost their health and make them better-thinking persons despite their young, tender age.

For all you know, a healthy well-being enhances the functioning of the mind. When the stomach is grumbling, the brain cannot function well, as in a car running on empty.

I don’t want to see this scenario in any of our children at The Center.

What about you?

Email the writer: alfredophernandez@thenational.com.pg

No comments:

Post a Comment