Bimala Pariyar, 31, is a woman committed to a cause. Although she lives in a hard-to-reach, remote mountain village in the mid-western region of Nepal, she has understood the importance of educating mothers in her community and keeping their children healthy at home. With a small endeavour, she has made all the difference, inspiring many others like herself.
Bimala is a mother of four children. She has been working as a Positive Deviance (PD) Hearth volunteer mother for almost four years now. Her station is at Litakot of Tatopani Village Development Committee (VDC) in Jumla district. She also works as a Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV), providing basic health information to pregnant women and new mothers on birth preparedness, reproductive health, safe delivery, right nutrition, and child care while ensuring their access to local health institutions.
As a PD Hearth volunteer mother, she has been trained by World Vision to conduct classes on good nutrition, health and hygiene for young children in the community. Since she received the training, she has been conducting early morning classes for mothers with malnourished children, usually under-five, in their homes in her community. Her classes focus on ways to prepare nutritious food with locally available resources, and how to keep children healthy and monitor their growth. Mothers take turns to host her classes in their homes whereas locally produced grains like maize, beans, rice and seasonal vegetables, required to make sarbottam pitho (super flour), and poshilo jaulo (nutritious rice), are contributed by all participants. After the demonstration comes to an end, children are provided the cooked nutritious meals. Since this continues for two weeks, many malnourished children get an opportunity to eat healthy food, which results in weight gain and better health conditions. Goilee Pariyar, a mother participating in Bimala’s classes with her 3-year old malnourished child is happy to learn from another mother. She shares, “I have been attending these classes which teach us not only about why nutrition is important for children but also how to make nutritious food. My son loves the food that is served after the classes are over. I can see that my son is getting healthier.”
The classes are run for one- two hours for14 days at a stretch every month for different groups where a maximum of 12 mothers take part with their young children, mostly malnourished. On the fifteenth day of the class, Bimala weighs the children to observe the change in children’s weight before and after the classes. Many children put on a few kilograms of weight within that period. After that, Bimala spends the rest of the month, another 15 days in home visits, monitoring the growth of children and ensuring mothers have applied their learning.
Bimala shares, “Women in Jumla focus more on their field work and cattle and less on their child’s health. They are not aware of the importance of breastfeeding, nutritious food and good hygiene for young children. Many women who take part in the classes are from disadvantaged households and have children suffering from malnutrition. “After taking the classes, I have seen mothers change their ways in feeding children and using what they produce to make nutritious food with more efforts. They also share their knowledge with other new mothers. I enjoy giving the classes and interacting with mothers like me,” she says of her work.
Since 2010, World Vision has been partnering with SAADA (Social Awareness and Development Academy) Nepal to run the PD Hearth classes in nine VDCs of Jumla namely Kudari, Tatopani. Lamra, Tallium, Kartikswami, Chandannath, Garjyangkot, Patmara, Dillichaur. At present the classes are run in 35 clusters of the nine VDCs every month by a volunteer mother like Bimala. This has helped in changing the behaviour of mothers to care for their children with better feeding practices, consequently reducing the number of malnourished children in those VDCs.
Maternal child health and nutrition is a key sector of World Vision’s work in Nepal through which it contributes to promote practices to improve child health and nutrition. Promoting home-based management and the prevention of childhood malnutrition through monthly growth-monitoring, door-to-door visits, and training in preparing nutritious food for children, e.g. sarbottam pitho (super flour), and poshilo jaulo (nutritious rice) is one of the key activities in this area. At present World Vision is also working in other districts of Nepal namely Sunsari, Lamjung, Rupandehi, Doti, Udayapur and Kailali, to improve maternal and child health.
(Shrestha is a Communications Specialist at World Vision International Nepal)