Emerging from under the starched turquoise hospital sheets, Josh gave a startled cry and was whisked onto the stainless steel scales to be measured and to undergo his Apgar score. Scoring high on his first real test in life, the theatre nurse wrapped him in a fluffy white blanket and gave him to me and in that second we took our first uncertain steps of parenthood.
For days after we were immersed in classes, breastfeeding, my nutrition, baby’s nutrition and baby bathing lessons; and as we left the hospital almost a week later, we were handed a plastic coated personal health record book to monitor and to document his measurements growth spurts for the next 5 years.
Josh’s first 1000 days were filled with clinic visits and immunisations, baby check ups with the mothercraft nurse and paediatric referrals if something wasn’t quite right! We watched his progress and his development with such happiness and joy. We had a healthy baby boy.
Just an hour and a half from our northern coastline, the first few moments of a child’s life in Timor Leste present a frightening contrast to Josh’s. There, many children are born malnourished due to the poor nutritional health of their mother – in fact, Timor Leste holds the highest malnutrition rate for children under 5 in the Asia Pacific region. 5.2 percent are stunted, 11 percent are wasted and 37.7 percent are underweight due to chronic malnutrition.
The health of Timor Leste women is equally disturbing. Around 27 percent of women are malnourished, suffer anaemia and are susceptible to illness, infections, complicated pregnancy and post partum haemorrhage.
World Vision philanthropic partner Aged Care Channel (ACC) one of Australia’s leading educational providers to the aged Care sector were alarmed at the chronic lack of nutritional opportunities for women and babies and Timor Leste. Becoming powerful change makers, they formed a giving circle, Team Connect with other leading aged care professionals, to advocate and raise funds to improve nutritional opportunities for women and children and to improve the outcomes for babies in their critical first 2 years of life.
As part of their funding ACC’s Team Connect formed and alliance with Aussie Farmers Direct to create the Strong and Fit Box, packed with healthy and nutritional fruit and vegetables. Aussie Farmers Direct will donate $5 for every Strong and Fit box sold for the month of September – an extraordinary gesture of support and commitment to help women and children in Timor Leste. To order your Strong and Fit Box visit the Aussie Farmers Direct website.
Here’s how ACC’s Team Connect and Aussie Farmers Direct are helping
In the past, Maria de Costa lacked nutrition knowledge; not knowing how to prepare healthy and nutritious meals for her family from all the food she produced. “I only cooked white porridge for my children, without meat, vegetables or oil. I have never really understood which foods give nutrients to my children,” said Maria.
This all changed when World Vision’s nutrition program came to her sub-village. “World Vision staff gave information, training and conducted cooking demonstrations for the mothers in Rileu on how to prepare nutritious meals for our children from the vegetables and livestock we keep.”
To further support Maria and the other mothers in Rileu, World Vision initiated the formation of a Family Love Nutrition group. Maria was elected as leader of this group, which has 25 members.
Project interventions have helped mothers like Maria learn to cultivate their own gardens in their backyard. In addition, mothers are encouraged to bring their children to the Integrated Service Community Health Post every month for a checkup to monitor and aid their growth and development. Mothers can also access nutrition, hygiene and sanitation information at these health posts. “The women here are very happy to be provided with information on nutrition as well as the training on hygiene about washing hands before eating and preparing food and washing your hands after using the toilet and cleaning up a child’s faeces” says Diana, a Technical Facilitator for World Vision’s nutrition projects.
Thanks to ACC’s Team Connect and to Aussie Farmers Direct for their passion and commitment to changing the lives of families like Maria’s – To join this wonderful initiative, visit the Aussie Farmers Direct website.