written by Dawn Duncan Harrell
Sociologists call Nahayo Annonciate’s cooking “positive deviance.”
Her teenage daughter concentrates on her schoolwork. Her 3-year-old son chases the chickens throughout the entire visit. World Relief’s commune supervisor points out the healthy kids to Annonciate’s promoter.
Every other week Annonciate and nine other women have been meeting with her promoter in a Care Group. At each meeting she hears basic healthcare lessons and looks at picture cards to reinforce the messages. To memorize the ideas, her group creates songs and dances together.
Annonciate applies the lessons in her own home. Her neighbors notice that her kids are sick less. “We voted to send you to the Care Group. Now your family is doing better. Tell us what you learned!”
Annonciate shows them how to build wash stations outside their latrines. She explains that washing before meals prevents diarrhea and sleeping under mosquito nets stops malaria.
But unlike the other women in her Care Group, Annonciate was mixing food groups and incorporating sources of protein into her cooking long before the group started. This is why her kids were doing well.
This is what the supervisor and promoter noticed. Annonciate had positively deviated from the normal habit of serving kids corn mush and keeping meat for the men. When it was time for the cooking lessons, they invited Annonciate to show the Care Group some of her recipes.
“Strong women impact the family dynamic,” explains JJ Ivaska, World Relief’s Country Director for Burundi. “They are the unsung heroes, the pillars of family life. Women work hard. They’re up before dawn, collecting water, preparing food, caring for the children, and working in the fields.”
Women work hard. They’re up before dawn, collecting water, preparing food, caring for the children, and working in the fields.
Annonciate’s neighbors and Care Group aren’t the only ones who notice. So does her pastor. He invites her to special classes on caring for vulnerable children and orphans. The World Relief curriculum is called “Our Children.”
“We built a house for vulnerables and orphans,” explains Annonciate’s church delegate. “We have solidarity. We put together our resources to help the vulnerables and orphans in their fields.”
Sixty percent (60%) of children in Burundi under the age of five are chronically malnourished, not just hungry. This effects brain development and eventually economic development.
“The church is working to spread the message about how to take better care of early childhood nutrition and health,” says Ivaska. “There’s been great progress. Five years ago, one out of six (1/6) kids died before the age of five.”
Now one in ten kids (1/10) dies before her fifth birthday. That’s not good, but it’s better.
Ivaska reminds us of our conversation with an ecumenical group of pastors. “We saw this yesterday. Three children died every month in each pastor’s congregation. Yesterday, those pastors couldn’t think of any child who’d died in the last month.”
“How are you able to do all this work?” he asks Annonciate when we visit.
“In order for me to reach others, I base myself in the Bible. I am strengthened to go and reach others. Through the Bible and the Our Children training, we support orphans.”
Sociologists might call Annonciate’s cooking “positive deviance.” Her kids probably just call it “good cooking.” When they’re old enough, they’ll notice that it’s not the cooking, but their mother who should be blessed (Prov 31:28).
A good woman rises while it is still night and provides food for her household. . . . She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. — Proverbs 31:15, 20
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