“In the cornfield, if you put the fertilizer on too late, the corn becomes yellowed and withered. But if you do this on time, the corn will grow green and large. That is what we want for your child.”
–German, our Nutrition Manager
The metaphor is far more eloquent in Spanish, but the sentiment is the same. Tending to a cornfield takes many people and much effort. In the same way, it takes a village to raise a child: mother, father, siblings, friends and family. This is never more true than here in Guatemala. With scarcity of resources plaguing so many families, a mother and father cannot do it alone. When German made this analogy in the home of a patient, he was emphasizing that to help a malnourished child, both parents must be dedicated to improving their health. However, there are wider implications.
Nutrition education, like that provided by Yoli and our other educators, is necessary when so few parents have had the opportunity to learn what is healthy and nutritious to feed their child. Viveres—the diet supplementation of beans, eggs, and nutrients that Wuqu’ Kawoq provides for children in its program—is support for parents who may not have the means on their own. The extended family that often lives nearby can help the parents to make changes and support them through the long process of improving a child’s health. And the community itself, the support of other families fighting for their children, is crucial.
These are the “fertilizers” that German speaks of, the necessary components to “growing” a healthy child. And to do it early, while the child is still young, and before chronic malnutrition has taken an irreversible toll, is urgent. Yes, it is back-breaking work to grow the corn, but the outcome at the end vale la pena.