We give (a damn)

An exciting part of our work here at DominicanCooking.com and CocinaDominicana.com is our partnership with an international development agency called Plan. Some of you may already be familiar with this organization, which works with children and young people in 49 countries all over the world.

In the Dominican Republic, Plan works in the poorest parts of the country – the rural south west. One of their areas of work is to improve the nutritional levels of babies and toddlers, a subject very close to us Aunties’ hearts, so we thought we would, in a small way, offer our support for Plan’s work in this area.

What we’ve been doing since September 2007, is donating a small sum (US$1) to Plan International for each of Aunt Clara’s Dominican Cookbook sold, as well as providing information about Plan and its work with this article and a link on our site, should any of our members wish to find out more and maybe even become one of Plan’s hundreds of thousands of sponsors.

The project we have chosen to support comes under the heading of Child Development, and Aunt Ilana visited one of the rural communities in San Juan de la Maguana province where the initiative is under way. Plan’s project officer explained that the extreme poverty in these areas means that many children do not get a good start in life.

Stimulation in early childhood can have a major effect on the child’s educational performance and future prospects. Good nutrition is just as important because it has been demonstrated that intellectual and physical development depends on this, especially during the early years.

In poor communities like this, parents lack the knowledge and motivation to provide all this for their children, so Plan is helping change this by running toddler playgroups during which the pre-school age participants engage in creative and stimulating activities such as art, craft and games, followed by a healthy snack. Meanwhile, the mothers get a break from their children and attend talks about nutrition, health and parenting skills.

The nutritional aspect of this work is very important because Plan’s community workers found that parents did not possess basic information about good nutrition. Many mothers decide not to breastfeed, but cannot afford baby formula either, and so give their babies inappropriate substitutes like herbal teas, sugar water or a flour and water mixture. In some cases they even give small babies carbonated drinks. It goes without saying that this is not just unhealthy, but life threatening.

Once the child is eating solid foods, their parents need information on how to provide balanced and nutritious meals using the resources available to them.

Some of these resources can be found in their own back yards, and Plan advises and encourages parents to prepare natural fruit drinks and feed their children with home grown vegetables and fruit, eggs and other easily obtained items.

By 2011 we have donated over US$2000 thanks to our amazing readers. With their work with families in these poor communities, Plan is helping to transform children’s health and future prospects. We at DominicanCooking.com and CocinaDominicana.com are happy to have the opportunity to be a small part of this. As we enter a new year, with a new site, we pledge to increase our contributions to this important work, and hope that you too can give a little for those who need it the most.

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