Access to food is a basic human right. Yet, every day children are showing up hungry and malnourished to our VisionTrust programs—inattentive and unable to learn or adequately grow.
One such community that is facing these great challenges is Comendador. Comendador is a small town on the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Haitians and their descendants have long been discriminated against in the Dominican, despite originally being brought across the border for sugar harvesting. Due to this discrimination, men are scarce and women and children are extremely impoverished. Children do not have enough to eat and often suffer from parasites from polluted drinking water. During a recent assessment, more than 35% of the children at our Comendador program were moderately to severely underweight. This is nearly triple the number of children at such a low weight last year, despite our ongoing efforts to provide food.
VisionTrust is committed to a long-term effort that allows children and communities to be nutritionally self-sufficient. Historically, we have provided direct food aid through meals and snacks, but a gap still remains for sufficient protein and other vital nutrients. While the current approach improves the child’s immediate ability to grow and learn, it does not adequately or sustainably provide for the long-term growth and development of a child—nor does direct food aid build community capacity to ensure proper nutrition. In addition, the extreme need in this community for nutritional support exceeds our sponsorship resources, further making our current approach unsustainable.
SUPPORTING PROTEIN AND VITAL NUTRIENT GAP
The VisionTrust Food Security Team has spent the last two years systematically assessing assets, cultural preferences, and engaged local agricultural experts in the Dominican Republic. It is our first large scale attempt to create a sustainable food plan to address the protein and vital nutrient gaps for the long-term. The plan involves investing in the production of chickens for meat and creating a small scale farm-garden. With the help of extraordinary technical experts, we expect to begin the farm-garden in late 2016 and launch the chicken farm in 2017. The farm-garden will provide immediate supplementation for the VisionTrust feeding program and the chicken farm will provide meat, financial support for the feeding program, and vocational opportunities for some of our older students. The complete sustainable food program will be a blessing to the community, providing work and a more readily available and affordable source of protein.
In summary, this project will provide vegetables and protein for students’ meals, remain sustainable through livestock sales, and expose students to the importance of food independence with skills in raising fruits, vegetables, and livestock—aligning with the goals of World Food Day 2016.
We seek your prayers and support as we begin this first large-scale implementation of a sustainable food project. You can partner with us to begin the critical work of food independence in the Dominican Republic and other VisionTrust countries by contributing to the launching of the project. By providing food, skills, and independence, you will be playing a part in equipping children to achieve their full potential!