Women Farmers in Fada N'Gourma, Burkina Faso, at a training nursery where orange-fleshed sweetpotato and other nutritious crops are being grown.
I started with Helen Keller International in April 1994 – as country director in Bangladesh. One of the most exciting programs I inherited was our home gardening initiative – which has evolved to become Enhanced Homestead Food Production – “enhanced” to include small animal husbandry and increased focus on promotion of optimal nutrition and health behaviors. When I moved from Bangladesh back to Africa in 1997 this was one experience I ardently wanted to replicate – since access to nutritious foods is one of the major obstacles that women face in providing adequate diets to their children.
I also observed firsthand how bringing technical expertise to small-holder women farmers could be transformational – building on their traditional knowledge about gardening and allowing them to develop more skills and generate increased income.
It is very moving, 19 years after having joined HKI, to sign this new grant with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Salamata is a community leader, farmer, mother, and grandmother.
In her village in Burkina Faso in western Africa, Ouoba Salamata is a Grandmother—with a capital “G.” Not only does she care for her immediate family, but also for her entire village. And, like many grandmothers – with a small “g”, she has lived a life filled with hard work, sacrifice, and boundless love for her family.
Wherever I travel, the faces of everyday heroes become imprinted in my memory. I recently returned from a visit to Helen Keller International’s programs in Burkina Faso where I met Salamata, a hard-working, brave member of her village. When I saw how she has utilized HKI’s programs to transform life for her entire community, I knew I had to share her inspiring story with you.
Tags: Breastfeeding, Burkina Faso, Complementary Feeding, Essential Nutrition Actions, Gardens, Homestead Food Production, Kathy Spahn, Mother's Day, Reducing Malnutrition, Sweetpotatoes, Vitamin A
Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition
Today is World Sight Day which is celebrated every year on the second Thursday in October to raise awareness about avoidable blindness and visual impairment.
I’ve worn glasses since I was a young student, so I’m pretty familiar with visual impairment. In fact, I couldn’t really function at all without my glasses (or contacts) -– I couldn’t drive, work on the computer, cook, manage my way through my apartment, etc.
This post was written by Victoria Quinn, HKI’s Senior Vice President of Programs. It is part of a series of blogs on The Huffington Post by leading NGOs to call attention to a range of issues that should be raised at the G8 summit at Camp David in rural Maryland from May 18-19.
There is a time in a child’s life that has a profound impact on her ability to grow, learn and rise out of poverty. It’s the 1,000 day window beginning with a mother’s pregnancy through to her child’s 2nd birthday. During this critical 1,000 days, ensuring that mothers and children have proper nutrition can have a profound impact not only on the individual but also on the long-term health, stability, and development of entire communities and nations.
Tags: Biofortification, Breastfeeding, Burkina Faso, Complementary Feeding, Essential Nutrition Actions, Gardens, Maternal Nutrition, Sweetpotatoes, Victoria Quinn, Vitamin A
Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition
The famous social activist talks about the importance of vitamin A
Shopping at my local supermarket this morning, imagine my surprise when I spotted Helen Keller! I debated whether I should bother her – because most celebrities like to be left alone – but decided I had to go up and introduce myself. Not only is my organization, Helen Keller International (HKI), named after her, but she is also a personal hero of mine.
I caught up with her in the vegetable aisle and asked her why she was shopping so early on a Sunday morning. She was beyond gracious, encouraging me to call her Helen instead of Ms. Keller. “I am making a sweetpotato pie for dessert tonight,” she explained, “I’ve invited some friends over for dinner to introduce them to the great work that HKI is doing, and wanted to show them how delicious vitamin A can be.”
An interview with HKI's Senior Program Manager for Nutrition and Health
I often wonder how people actually get to live their dreams. I sat down recently with Jennifer Nielsen, Senior Program Manager for Nutrition and Health for Helen Keller International, and discovered someone who has actually done just that. Here is Jennifer’s story:
Tags: Acute Malnutrition, Breastfeeding, Burkina Faso, Complementary Feeding, Essential Nutrition Actions, Food Security, Homestead Food Production, Jennifer Nielsen, Maternal Nutrition, Nepal, Niger, Sweetpotatoes, Tanzania
Categories Africa, Helen Keller, Reducing Malnutrition, Staff Profiles
Sweetpotato pie. Sweetpotato casserole with marshmallows. Sweetpotato fries. It seems like this time of year, these starchy, sweet-tasting root vegetables are all the rage. But, did you know that sweetpotatoes are more than just a Thanksgiving staple? In parts of Africa, orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes help save sight and lives.
For those of you still scrambling for the perfect Halloween costume, I have a great last-minute suggestion: dress up as your favorite micronutrient! Just because your Halloween candy may not have nutritional value, doesn’t mean your costume can’t.
Below are some costume ideas from HKI staff that embody an essential vitamin or mineral:
Doug reflects on how HKI is preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition for the most vulnerable in West Africa.
Today, we drove the 150 miles from Fada N’Gourma to Ouagadougou – the last leg before flying out tomorrow morning. On arriving in Ouagadougou, Nicholas Kristof and the “Win-a-Trip” winners visited a center for supporting people living with HIV. Over the course of the past week, Shawn Baker and I have accompanied Nick through four countries – Mauritania, Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso. We’ve been in numerous villages, and we’ve spoken in depth with many people – mostly women – about the challenges of their lives and the solutions to help improve their lot.
In pursuit of HKI’s mission to prevent blindness and reduce undernutrition, we focus on two major program areas in Africa – fighting malnutrition (particularly micronutrient deficiency), and controlling certain tropical diseases, such as trachoma and onchocerciasis. During this past week, we have seen some successful programs in each of these areas. During these days, I’ve been reflecting on HKI’s approach to reducing malnutrition.
Tags: Acute Malnutrition, Biofortification, Breastfeeding, Burkina Faso, Douglas Steinberg, Essential Nutrition Actions, Food Fortification, Gardens, Homestead Food Production, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Nicholas Kristof, Niger, Onchocerciasis, Sweetpotatoes, Trachoma, Vitamin A
Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness, Reducing Malnutrition
In just a few days we officially celebrate Mother’s Day. At Helen Keller International, we celebrate mothers all year round since they are crucial to the success of our program that prevent blindness and reduce malnutrition.
One constant I have observed while traveling to HKI’s programs around the world is the love that mothers have for their children and their willingness to try new things to ensure their health and happiness.