The Australian Ambassador to Mexico and concurrently to Nicaragua, Katrina Cooper, visited Las Joyas Primary School in Terrabona, Matagalpa, to see the implementation of the School Meals Programme, conducted by the Ministry of Education with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP). The Australian Ambassador, who helped mothers serve food to the kids, was delighted to chat and get to know them better. “We are very pleased to contribute to help feed the children of Nicaragua,” she said.
The Australian Ambassador was able to see how the teachers and parents organized and prepared the food, and the key role they play in the programme. “Today I have seen many future doctors, dentists and engineers. I hope that when I return in 15 years I find that you have all become professionals working for the community,” the said ambassador. In the photo the ambassador is accompanied by WFP Country Director, Helmut W. Rauch, the Director of Multilateral Cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Nicaragua, Candida Fonseca, and the WFP Programme Assistant, María Elena Velázquez.
A group of students from the first grade enjoy a meal of rice, beans, tortillas and cereal fortified with micronutrients. For the majority of students this is the most complete and nutritious meal they receive during the day. According to Elizabeth Torres, a mother and the person responsible for the storage of food at school, some of the kids have to walk for more than an hour to get to school and sometimes they have to do it without any breakfast due to the difficult economic situation faced by their families.
There are 122 school children who attend Las Joyas up to the sixth grade. They gave a warm welcome to the Australian ambassador. During the visit the students recited poems, danced and presented artwork displaying a flower made from all of the seeds and ingredients used in the school meal, supported by the Australian flag. Over the last three years, the Government of Australia has contributed USD1 million annually, which has provided meals for 75,708 Nicaraguan children attending public schools.
Francisco Sequeira (7), a student in the first grade at Las Joyas, does reading practice after having received a hot and healthy meal. “What I like best is the beans and rice and I feel bad if I don’t eat. I wish that we could eat at school every day,” Francisco said smiling. Teacher Luisa Castillo from the fourth grade believes that meals improves the nutritional status of the students, yields greater academic results and improves attendance, which in this school has reached 98%.
“It's really interesting to witness how involved are the parents in the education and feeding of their children, which is what really makes the programme a success. We hope to continue contributing and guaranteeing the meals every day,” said Cooper after finishing her mission.
“WFP can only provide this food as a result of donations from friendly countries like Australia. We are firmly committed to continue working so that you may eat well and grow up healthy to become doctors, teachers and whatever you want to be," WFP Country Director, Helmut Rauch, told students. According to local leaders, Terrabona is one of the municipalities of the dry state of Matagalpa, where more than 90% of families are forced to rent plots of farming land which impacts harshly on the household economy.