Friday , April 19 2024
The global economic crisis is making it hard for ChildsLife to pay for the the school meals it provides.

Interview: Patricia Kicak of ChildsLife International

In his inaugural address President Barack Obama pledged to fight global hunger. In countries like the African nation of Kenya, the situation is becoming more desperate. Unrelenting drought has ruined harvests and caused food shortages. Last year violence following a disputed presidential election coupled with the global rise in food prices took its toll on Kenyans, many already living in poverty.

The slums of Nairobi, in the capital of Kenya, are the hardest hit by food shortages and increasing poverty. The Netherlands-based charity ChildsLife International is helping to fight this hunger and poverty, including providing school meals to children. Patricia Kicak, director of ChildsLife International, talks about how crucial school feeding is for children in Kenya, and the difficulty of funding this program.

How many children benefit from ChildsLife's school feeding programs within Kenya at this moment?

Currently, ChildsLife’s school feeding program benefits over 2,000 children in Kenya, from primary schools in the slums of the capital, Nairobi, to pre-primary schools in remote rural areas.

Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.

As the saying goes, “education is the key to a better future.” At ChildsLife International, we believe that for a Kenyan child, education means a chance for a future. Through education, children get an opportunity. A chance to study, a chance to get a job, a chance to generate income and have a better life in the future. The primary objective of the ChildsLife school feeding program is to stabilize school attendance in areas where hunger and illness often prevent children from going to school. The program ensures that children, when in school, concentrate on classes. Their performance improves when they're not learning on an empty stomach.

Our challenge is to ensure that children go to school and remain there. In Kenya and throughout Africa, school feeding has had a proven impact on attendance rates. School feeding first provides a strong motivation for parents to get their children into schools, then it acts as a magnet to keep children in school. Finally, the program acts as a remedy to health problems, and lowers malnutrition risks for the most vulnerable children. Poor nutrition and poor health among schoolchildren in developing countries can make it even more difficult for them to succeed in their countries’ educational systems. Children who don’t get enough to eat have lower productivity levels, repeat grades, and even drop out of school. Food programs in these schools are essential to help children learn, by giving them the nourishment they need to concentrate. Often, lunches provided by schools are the only meals students receive on a daily basis.

With our school feeding programs, ChildsLife is combating child hunger. Our programs make sure children get at least one nutritious meal every day. And by feeding the children in the schools supported, ChildsLife is helping to ensure they receive the education they need to build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Does ChildsLife have plans for expanding its school feeding program?

If only funding would permit. As with everything, ChildsLife has the skills and ability but not always the funds to extend our working area. In Kenya, particularly in the expansive slums of Kibera, many schools do not have a consistent feeding program in place. ChildsLife would like to ensure that children in difficult situations can at least have a meal a day at school.

It is proven that when schools start offering food programs, attendance and enrollment rates soar, especially for girls. A meal encourages hungry children to attend school and at the same time improves their ability to concentrate on their studies. School lunch programs also lessen the financial burden on poor families, and encourage parents to send their children to school rather than forcing them to work.

Therefore ChildsLife would like to expand our programs to many more schools in Kenya.

What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program?

Private and company donations are used to gather resources for our school feeding program. ChildsLife is also attempting to get access to different governmental programs, including USAID and the McGovern-Dole Program.

What has been the effect of rising food prices on this funding effort?

ChildsLife has been struggling to uphold current program commitments, and the much required expansion of the feeding programs in Kenya has been put on hold until funds are secured. Because of the global economic crisis, Childslife is having a hard time paying for the the school meals it provides, and even might need to cut back on program expenses. With food prices soaring, hunger is around the corner for thousands of children if nothing is done.

How can someone help ChildsLife International provide school meals to children in Kenya?

There are numerous ways people and companies can help ChildsLife.

Individuals, organizations, or companies can help with a donation of funds. These funds can either go into the overall program for feeding or can be earmarked for a specific regional area such as Eastern Europe, Kenya or East Africa, etc. Please visit our website for more information on the school feeding program and other Childslife programs and donations through PayPal.

It is also possible for companies that manufacture food products to make a direct donation of food to ChildsLife. In most instances we can handle the transport and distribution, either directly from the location of the goods, or from our 600 sq meter warehouse adjacent to ChildsLife headquarters in the Netherlands where tons of donated items can be stored.

ChildsLife also partners with airlines and trucking companies who donate transportation services to deliver these life-saving supplies to children across the globe.

To learn more about how you can donate money, goods, or transportation services to help needy children around the world, contact ChildsLife at [email protected] or call + 31 (0)23 557 0081. Please also visit the ChildsLife website.

About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.

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