Laura Sheahen is an information officer for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian agency of the US Catholic Community. She recently returned from a trip to Moldova, a country in Eastern Europe that is struggling with poverty. According to Catholic Relief Services, economic collapses "as devastating as America's Great Depression of the 1920s" have struck Moldova since it declared independence from the Soviet Union.
Children have been especially impacted by the harsh economic conditions in the country. While in Moldova, Laura witnessed the heroic efforts of Sister Maria Tolledo, who runs a day care/school center. At the center, needy children are provided meals and an education. Laura discusses Sister Maria's programs and how similar initiatives need to reach more children in Moldova.
How many children receive meals at the Day Care/School run by Sister Maria Tolledo?
Right now, 34 Moldovan children receive breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. About 20 more children come after school (at about 2 pm), and they receive lunch once a day.
What is the effect of the meals terms of the childrens' nutrition level and performance in class?
Many of the children are from very poor families, so food is definitely an incentive for the kids to come to Sister Maria's. When I saw the children eating breakfast, I was struck by how many of them really scraped their bowls clean, getting every bit of food. It's not at all certain they are getting enough nutritious food at home. The food makes a big difference in their ability to concentrate on the subjects they're taught there, like Romanian, mathematics, and English.
How are the school meals and the day care/school center funded?
Sister Maria’s center is funded by her religious order, the Sisters of Saint John the Baptist.
Talk in a broader sense about school feeding in general in Moldova. Do all needy children have access to services such as those run by Sister Maria Tolledo?