This year marked 35 years since we left Cuba in chase of the American Dream in the U.S. My parents — my mom a very pregnant 25-year-old with 9-year-old and baby in tow — left behind everyone and everything they knew and had in order to establish a life full of promises their island couldn’t give them. One of the more palpable repercussions of revolutions in poor nations is the scarcity of food. I grew up listening to my parents’ stories of basic shortages and the rationing of every day foods you and I expect to buy on notice. Because I was less than 2 years old, my parents were allocated certain foods other households had exhausted. Milk was the most important one. Their ration was one gallon per month. That was a huge luxury in a time when you only qualified for leche if there was a newborn to prove.
Their recounts validate how much I enjoyed copious amounts of milk (and yogurt) and that wildly contributed by my uber cute, albeit fat, belly. I trust my parents used the milk for other foods they could make.
Milk is still rationed in my native island. If you have USD you can buy pretty much — or hustle, really — anything you need, but it comes at a premium of both monetary and judgmental value.
Stories shared and untold have clearly carved an intricately-connected passion for food access and equality, especially for children. I grew up having everything & more a kid could have. My siblings and I were ushered to school every morning with very full barrigitas. Milk and yogurt remained to be the staple breakfast base. So much, one of our kid friends in the neighborhood easily depleted my Mom’s milk supply on a weekly. Mike would only ask for a tall glass of milk while the rest of us were begging for popsicles or pop tarts. It helped our casa was known for having all the snacks a kid could want.
We were the playground hub.
Omwana ni wa bhone
While my and my siblings’ story of deeply humble beginnings turned robust living can be typical of that era, children in other parts of the world will never go from rags to proverbial riches. Some will thrive more than others, but by and large, the population of hungry and malnutrioned children is a global issue with marginal disparity. The one common denominator geography, sociopolitical or socioeconomic won’t ever reconcile is the need for brain food for school-aged children.
September 27th is International School Milk Day. The Heifer’s School Milk Feeding Program is a newly birthed campaign with the rounded goal of providing milk packets to 1,742 school kids in the Njobme region of the motherland. Each 200ml packet ( made up of pasteurized milk) will be distributed daily, Monday through Friday, for the duration of the school year. Ultimately, the goal is gift 9,000 kids in the Njombe, Iringa, Mbeya, and Songwe regions with fresh milk while they are being educated. It’s a basic human need, but one that until now has not so easily been accessible.
For almost a decade now, the Heifer Tanzania program’s mission has been to assist dairy farmers increase milk production. If you follow agriculture on any level, you understand the vital role our farmers play to the greater good of societies. Already a labourous job, the income and reward are disparaging. We have unions etc. to help mitigate those issues.
The Heifer Tanzania program acts as a conduit in that country. With the cooperation of farmers, government agencies and school districts, they designed the milk program to encourage a generation of milk-drinkers. They understand the importance of raising properly-fed and nutritional children. It’s a full-circle implementation if you consider the concept of “cow-to-classrom”. Proper nutrition removes the damaging affects of focusing on hunger instead of learning.
The program’s not only benefitting the kids, but also the farmers and their communities. Consider it helps create stable production markets. It can also contribute to an increase in farmers’ income, reducing poverty.
I drink my beloved café con leche within 20 minutes of waking up every morning. It’s a luxury, I suppose, that I can run — literally– to the market and grab a half gallon of milk and half-and-half, in order to kickstart my brain.
Imagine not being able to do that. Not sending off your kids with a full stomach, enough to provide them brain fuel to get through the high stimulation day. Not because you ran out of time to toast bread of splash a bowl of cereal or oatmeal. Rather because you just don’t have access. Or the means. Or the resources.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
The Heifer School Milk Feeding Program gives the chance to put our money where our mouths are. $75 can provide one student with fresh milk for a school year (that’s just 40 cents a day). That’s roughly my cell phone bill. A dinner date, with wine! A pair of shoes. It’s something simple I can give up. You can too!
One of my core philosophies in living a more conscious life is to be aware of holes needing patching and then taking actionable steps to help fill that hole. I have the “gift of gab,” and so it’s quite natural for me to sit at my desk and pen this in support of global issues that impact even us. But it takes a little more girth to ask you to consider the same. To expend a bit of your energy and time to process the need and also spread the word.
In the words of the Kijita proverb, “Omwana ni wa bhone,”; it does indeed take a village to raise a child.
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*This post was sponsored by Women Online and Heifer International. All stories and opinions are my own. Images provided by HI.