Recently, the Nutrition Security Program (NSP) teamed up with the Departmental Directors of the Ministry of Health (MSPP) to hold graduations for 450 Mother Leaders in the North and Northeast Departments in Haiti. These women completed over a year of training in nutrition and health education in the North and the Northeast regions of Haiti. NSP is funded by USAID/Haiti and is in its second year of operation. The 2015 graduations are an exciting milestone for the project!
The graduation ceremonies marked the completion of a 15-month "learning by doing" training program. The participating women were trained in how to teach things like the importance of a balanced diet, breastfeeding best practices, and various livelihood activities. They were also taught how to use nutrition counseling cards as visuals to better communicate with their neighbors and other mothers in their communities. Each Mother Leader is responsible for visiting 10 to 12 households twice a month to have a face-to-face conversation on diet diversity, food groups, and best practices relating to nutrition and health for children under 5. The target audiences for these conversations are pregnant and lactating women.
Local health staff, departmental and local authorities and family members participated in the graduation where the Mother Leaders were honored for their commitment to volunteerism and their valuable support in promoting behavior change at the household level. Medical staff at all levels recognized the contribution of the Mother Leaders by speaking at their graduation. The importance of reaching out to families in order to educate them and connect them to the health system was reinforced in the variety of speeches. Community members at all levels, from the community health agent to the local health center to the regional hospital were all encouraged to work together to help the messages from the Mother Leaders be heard.
Mother Leaders have been getting positive feedback from families in their communities. Visit after visit, the dialogues continue to improve and their messages grow stronger. While sharing their knowledge and experiences, participants continue to build trust and solidarity. During the graduation, Mother Leaders showcased what they had learned through their talents. They used theater, songs and dances to express their appreciation of the program and to show what they had learned over the last 15 months.
As a result, community members are becoming more supportive to the pregnant and lactating women. Kids and the adolescents are also becoming more interested in improving their knowledge in nutrition. Mother Leaders have the strength to meet these interests. They are available to participate in training sessions, visit families on a regular basis, review their approach and are responsible for updating promoters twice a month on their activities. Mother Leaders are very supportive of the families in their communities. They work very hard every day to teach households and communities how to prevent malnutrition. And their efforts are paying off!