Tuesday, October 14, 2008

PNGC Week 14: Eating Healthy

After a few weeks off due to school holidays and our visit from Mary and Vanessa, PNGC was back in action this week in the run down to the final few weeks of club for the year. Despite yet another gruelling day of 100 degree heat, the girls arrived back enthusiastic. Of course their first questions to us for the day were all about our family: How was their trip? Where did you go? Will they be able to come to club again? and more. It was clear that the short time they spent with Mary and Vanessa was memorable for them and we were happy to know they enjoyed that day as much as we did. After recounting our holiday with the girls, we moved on to our first order of business for the day, birthdays. Each month the PNGC Student Council gives out nice new pencils to anyone with a birthday in the coming months. The girls really enjoy having new things for school and always look forward to the first club of each month. October was no different and this month we have seven girls and one leader celebrating their birthday!The lesson for the day revolved around Eating Healthy. Nutrition is something that is severely lacking in Seleka, and most other villages in South Africa. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not found in many homes. Partly this is due to a lack of produce available in the villages and also in part it is that not many families go out of their way to purchase them when they are in town. Sometimes this has to do with expenses. Maize meal, used to make bogobe, is inexpensive for large quantities. Heavy in starch and with the consistency of soft mashed potatoes, it is not an ideal food to eat day in and day out. Yet, for most households, it is eaten as the main course for one, if not two, meals each day. Along with that there may be a small amount of meat or vegetables served, but again they are unvaried and not helping to round out a food pyramid anytime soon. The other inexpensive way to eat in the village is to buy sweets. Zimbas, the equivalent of homemade Cheetos, are the most common. We see students on a daily basis buying them for 50 cents for breakfast, lunch and after school snacks. They also pocket a lolly pop or two if they can afford it. The result is an entire diet built on high sugar and starch intake with nothing else to balance it out. Fruits like apples and oranges are available in the village sometimes. We even see fruit trees in yards and gardens when we are out and about. The trick is actually getting the kids to choose these over their beloved sweets. The leaders emphasized to the girls the importance of this change of behavior, pointing out problems that many children and adults face with tooth decay, diabetes and other illnesses. The girls seemed to have a solid background in healthy eating as they discussed the lesson, though putting it in to practice will prove a larger challenge. The leaders asked the girls to spend this week trying to substitute fruit for sweets each day. We will see how it pans out!

Having exhausted the topic of food for the day, the girls then turned to their craft, a 5-string beaded necklace. At this point, the girls have done a number of beaded projects and at first they seemed to be rather complacent about the craft, thinking it was just like all the others. A few girls, however, tackled their necklace quickly and soon they could see how this project was different in look and style to anything they had tried before. Word spread about how cool these necklaces looked. They were different from the single strand work the girls had done in the past and as we tried to wind down club for the afternoon, many girls sped up their beading to finish before the end of the day. The day finished in a whirlwind of beads as girls secured their final threads and clasps to begin modeling their work. Using a number of different color beads and patterns the girls showed off their creative sides by designing many different styled necklaces. They posed proudly with their finished product and talked about how their mothers and sisters would really like this new look. We are now starting to see the girls realizing that other people in the village are interested in the types of things they are making. There is potential for PNGC to use these products as a way to raise money for future club projects and that is getting people very excited to keep learning new techniques. Our hope is that one or two of the girls came away from today learning that they can eat healthy and look good at the same time!

1 comment:

Brandon & Rachel said...

So, Paul, I guess we're not good examples when we eat entire bags of leftover Fizzers, huh? - B


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