As we approach June, I find it incredible to believe that Roots of Health has been in operation for nearly an entire year. It was June 2009 that we held the first Roots of Health Board meeting during which we adopted by-laws and made concrete plans for activities for the year. It was also in June that in Palawan, Susan and Lyn Lyn started the incorporation process for Ugat ng Kalusugan and began the preliminary work of making contacts and finding out more about the various communities that we considered first working in. We have accomplished so much in the last 12 months and it has truly been humbling to see firsthand how far our small programs have gone to improve the health and lives of women, girls and children in Pulang Lupa and among various groups at Palawan State University.
Just in the last month Roots of Health has had a variety of new developments, initiatives, and new people who have committed their time joined our team.
Child Health Programming
We’re working hard to expand our outreach work with children in Pulang Lupa and we’ve taken several steps to support our goals. Rather than continuing on with the day-care model of simply entertaining the children in our sessions with songs and games, we have started implementing an ambitious curriculum in order to also teach the children basic math, literacy and English language skills. To that end we have hired a full time teacher, have a part time teacher, and have a third teacher who we hire on a day-to-day basis. This allows us to have three teachers present at every session we hold, which allows for the kids to be divided up according to age so that age-appropriate lessons are easier to implement. The children love the individualized attention, and this also allows our teachers to get to know each child better.
Increased Weights Among Children
After each of our twice-weekly sessions for the children, the kids are served a nutritious, heavy snack. All of these same children also attend our Saturday Nutritional Support Program sessions where they are served a heavy soup or porridge that always includes chicken or beef, eggs or milk and a variety of vegetables. At the weekend NSP sessions the kids also have fresh milk, or taho, a sweet soy drink.
Since February we have been monitoring the weights of the children who come to our Saturday sessions. Some come more regularly than others, but we have data for 168 children who have attended our NSPs. Of those children, 114 attend one or both of our weekday sessions. We recently analyzed the children’s weight data and found that since we began our NSPs, 72 children have an increased weight of an average of 2.2 kilos per month. Of the 72 children with weight gain, 71 attend our weekday sessions. While we of course want to increase the number of children who are gaining weight, we have been thrilled to see the gains that have occurred. At this point we do not have enough data to definitively say that these weight increases are due to our programming alone. However, it is heartening to see that the weekday sessions may be making a real difference and could be the main factor involved with boosting the weight of undernourished children.
Reproductive Health Outreach with Mothers
We’ve continued on with our sessions with moms in Pulang Lupa, and are entering our 17th week with our groups. We have been operating with a 20-week module of sessions so our activities with moms in Pulang Lupa will begin winding down after this next month. We will continue to have informal contact with the moms once or twice a week, but will no longer hold the formal education sessions.
Since we began these sessions, attendance has continued to rise. During our first week in Pulang Lupa we had 21 women attend our sessions. Last week we had 26. Overall we’ve had 39 women attending. Since we started our sessions 16 weeks ago, 5 ladies have attended every single session. 4 more have missed only one. We’ve received very positive feedback from the ladies. They really enjoy learning about their bodies and their health, and having a forum in which they can ask questions and engage in discussions about their families and their lives.
Health Care for Women and Girls
In May we hired Josylyn Gulane, a nurse with extensive experience working in rural, underserved provinces of Palawan. This month, Josylyn began providing direct healthcare to women and girls in Pulang Lupa. She has conducted 7 general health check ups, has carried out 5 pap smears, and has provided family planning check ups to 5 women who have requested condoms, birth control pills, and the injectable contraceptive, Depo Provera. We have 11 women signed up to have check ups with Josylyn in the coming week and in the future will have one or two regular clinic days for her in Pulang Lupa so that women can drop in to see her as needed. This community has long been unable to access adequate health services and the women have been thrilled to have the chance to access free, high quality care.
We are so excited with everything we’ve been able to carry out in this last year and are looking forward to implementing all our plans for the coming year. We hope to work even more effectively during Year 2 and will of course keep you all updated as we progress. Thanks once again to all of you for your continued support. We couldn’t do this without you!