by Karen Van Roekel, Impact Assessment Team Leader
Today we drove to a small community to visit our first group of children enrolled in ChildFund programs.
Getting there required that we leave the main highway and travel a bumpy red-dirt road. Dark gray clouds threatened rain but none came. We traveled up and down hills and across small streams with bridges made of wooden planks.
A fine layer of red dust covered all the plants for several feet on either side of the road, so we could see that it has not rained in some time. Chickens and roosters scuttled across the road in front of us.
Upon arrival, we split into three groups to start collecting data. In all, we were able to visit 47 children on this first day.
We saw a range of situations. Some children live in nice, simple homes while others live in houses with no running water or bathrooms. Cooking is done over wood fires and some houses were smoky as a result. The smoke can lead to respiratory troubles.
One mother told us that she uses the money she receives each month from the Brazilian welfare system to pay for water and electricity. Then she takes what is left and buys food for the month. Rice, pinto beans and pasta are the staple foods. Families with a little more money can buy vegetables or raise them in small plots, but the lack of rain makes this difficult. Meat is a luxury that most families we visited cannot afford.
The children we visited all reported that they attend school regularly, thereby benefiting from a school lunch program. Fortunately, most of the children we encountered are healthy. Medical care is limited to a nurse who visits the community twice a week. There is no doctor here and families have no way of traveling to a larger town to see one.
We have encountered a number of sad situations, including a young girl orphaned at an early age. Yet, we’ve also witnessed the resilience of children if they find a loving home and support.
Our journey continues.