Hackers, Lentils & Love In A Flower Bed

Nursery worker Shivkumari Pate leads children in a learning song. Pate works with the nonprofit Jan Swasthya Sahyog, which developed the first network of community nurseries. Ankita Rao for NPR

Nursery worker Shivkumari Pate leads children in a learning song. Pate works with the nonprofit Jan Swasthya Sahyog, which developed the first network of community nurseries. Ankita Rao for NPR

It would be remarkably easy to fill these pages with stories from India, from various places in Africa and Latin America where we also have projects, that give a strong sense that no matter how quickly solutions get hacked, there are more problems than can possibly be resolved; we spare you those most of the time. Instead, we point to stories like this one (thanks National Public Radio, USA):

…For decades, aid organizations tried to improve the health of moms and babies in Chhattisgarh. Little made a dent. But then a garden of flowers rose up in the state.

In 2012, a group of tribal leaders worked with nonprofits and the government to launch the Fulwaris, which literally means “flower beds” in Hindi. Fulwaris are a network of nurseries run entirely by moms in the community who take turns feeding and caring for each other’s children.

Each day, two mothers volunteer to make lentils, rice and eggs for babies, toddlers and pregnant moms in the village. The mothers also teach the kids lessons and create toys out of scrap material.

The impact has been clear. Malnutrition dropped by nearly a quarter among children in Fulwaris, the State Health Resource Centre of Chhattisgarh reported in September 2013. Maternal health also improved because volunteer moms had more access to nutritious foods and learned how to track their weight and their children’s weight.

On a sunny January afternoon, the Fulwari in the Surguja district was buzzing with babies. While one snoozed under a mosquito net, toddlers waddled around, shaking colorful rattles made out of crushed bangles in old plastic soda bottles. A few 2-year-olds sat cross-legged on a rug, stuffing rice and egg into their mouths with impressive speed.

Eggs, leafy greens, lentils — these are the obvious benefits of coming to a Fulwari in a state where 1 in 3 children go hungry. It’s enough to keep the kids, and the pregnant mothers, coming back.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get the children to eat the vegetables, but they always love the eggs,” says Brindavati, one of the young moms supervising the nursery that day.

But there’s more to Fulwaris than filling up empty tummies, says UNICEF’s Sheshagiri Madhusudhan, who has worked with the government to design the centers. The toys and social interactions also make sure kids get the stimulation they don’t always get at home. Six months to 3 years old is one of the most important times for children in terms of brain and psychological development, he says…

Read the whole article here.

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