Monday, 30 September 2013

Promoting better health, diet and hygiene

Lendwithcare’s partners typically accompany loans with a range of other services. These include offering savings accounts, insurance and money transfer as well as providing training in basic bookkeeping, financial literacy and marketing. 

Delivery of a workshop to FACES customers by Laura Sarango 
However, they also focus on the general well being of borrowers. Recognising that poor health can adversely impact on the ability of borrowers to work, care for their families and develop their small businesses, lendwithcare’s partner in Ecuador, Fundacion de Apoyo Comunitario y Social del Ecuador(FACES) raises awareness of health, diet and hygiene issues.

FACES decided that since many of its clients, women in particular, only possessed a few years of formal schooling and were sometimes only semi-literate, in addition to disseminating information through specially designed pictorial leaflets, it would also invite clients to regular workshops where health and related issues can be discussed in a relaxed environment.

At least once a month Laura Sarango, who works as social responsibility assessor for FACES, holds a workshop entitled ‘Healthy habits’ in one of the many rural communities where FACES works in southern Ecuador. Generally, around twenty borrowers aged between 25 and 60 years old attend the workshops and around four-fifths of participants are women. The workshop begins by asking participants to list the most common illnesses that affect them and their families; it discusses their symptoms and causes, and then goes on to discuss their prevention and cure.

Laura explains “many of the most common illnesses such as diarrhoea, which is more frequent among children, can easily be prevented through better hygiene practices such as washing hands and also food before cooking and eating, keeping rubbish bins covered and making water safe before drinking it”. However, she goes on to mention, “because of the increased incidence of chronic illnesses in recent years, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and prostate and breast cancer, we encourage all participants to visit their local health centres and take advantage of free check-ups”.  The workshops are participative and all those attending are encouraged to share their own experiences and ask questions. So far, almost five hundred people have benefitted from attending the voluntary two-hour workshops. The workshops are not restricted to borrowers; indeed borrowers often invited friends, neighbours and relatives to attend as well.

Many of the participants are small-scale farmers or at least have small plots of land surrounding their homes. They are reminded of the importance of growing and consuming their own vegetables and fruits. Laura comments “occasionally, I come across farmers growing only cash crops or selling all that they produce and buying basic foods such as maize and beans, even when it would be much cheaper to grow these items very easily themselves”. She adds that one of the most frustrating aspects is when she lays out refreshments for the participants, “I deliberately offer both healthy and cheap options such as fruit, vegetables and fresh juices as well as unhealthy expensive options such as fizzy colas, cakes and French fries. Unfortunately most participants choose the latter although I go on to explain to them the economic and nutrition benefits of favouring the former”. As well as discussing what constitutes a balanced diet and the types and quantities of food participants should eat, Laura also focuses on children’s diet and ensuring that they have a good breakfast before going to school. She remarks “we found that although children are generally eating well in rural areas, in urban areas they are often simply having a glass of milk for breakfast and then snacking on sweets during the day at school”.  Laura invariably remains behind after the workshops have finished, as some participants prefer to ask questions on sensitive issues such as reproductive health privately.

The workshops have proved to be very popular and the aim is to eventually cover all of the parishes in southern Ecuador where FACES is operational.

By Dr Ajaz Ahmed Khan, Lendwithcare Microfinance Advisor

1 comment:

  1. community work and social responsibility should be a duty of all