3 Lessons to Keep Children Growing

In Butezi, Burundi, there is a woman named Leonie who–no matter what she did–her children wouldn’t gain weight. They kept getting sick in a vicious cycle of illness.

When Food for the Hungry (FH) started working in her community, she learned three practices that changed her family’s life and broke the cycle of sickness.



FH Health Promoter trains Leonie on how to cook nutritious food.

1.    Gift of Nutrition
While food was accessible, Leonie’s family was malnourished. She didn’t know that a variety of vegetables, grains and other food would make a difference in her children’s health.  “Before the program, cooking for me was just to make sure there was something to eat for my children and husband,” says Leonie. “I never bothered about the quality of food I am giving them. I could easily feed them on sweet potatoes and amaranth for days.” Now she knows how to make a rich porridge from local ingredients that provide carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. By learning from an FH Health Promoter, Leonie learned to identify what foods provide different nutrients.


Leonie and her children listen to the FH Health Promoter teach about prenatal care.

2.    Prenatal Care Checkups
Another big lesson that brought big change in Leonie’s life was getting prenatal care. For her four children, she sought medical care in her last term of pregnancy. Now, she gets care during each stage of  her pregnancy. She also delivered her four children at her home, but now she plans to deliver her fifth child at the health center. “I am curious to see how my fifth child will grow up differently from the others,” says Leonie.  “I practiced new information given to me by FH and I know that this will make a big difference in the life of my children.”


Leonie’s children now wash their hands and are getting sick less often.

3.    Hygiene and Compost
With the support of her husband, Leonie constructed a hand-washing station, dug a compost pit, built a dish-washing table and a latrine with a cover. The compost will create an out-of-the-way place for vegetables to decompose and later be used for crops. For the hand-washing station, Leonie says, “I used to only use water to wash dishes and to wash hands. Now I spend money on soap and I make sure that my children use it at all critical times.”

Using these three practices, Leonie has seen drastic changes in her children. “Before the changes, my children were sickly,” says Leonie. “I had to spend a lot of money on medication. But today, they have good health.  I can easily spend eight months without seeing any one of them falling sick. That is a miracle for me, and I hardly believe it.”

Now Leonie is taking this information to her neighbors in care groups. As more mothers in Butezi learn about nutrition, prenatal care and hygiene, children will grow up stronger and healthier to reach their God-given potential.

About Renee Targos

Renee is a former journalist and editor for national arts and business publications. As a writer for Food for the Hungry, Renee explores and reports on the work and relationships of partners, FH staff and impoverished communities.

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