Comprehensive Healthy Eating and Living Guide for Lebanese Children

 Children, Farm to School, Health and Sanitation, Lebanon  Comments Off on Comprehensive Healthy Eating and Living Guide for Lebanese Children
Mar 032011

Click here to download the manual (PDF; 34 pages; 7.74 MB)

لتنزيل هذا الدليل إضغط هنا (PDF; 7.74 MB)

Fact: There are now more than 1 billion obese people on earth.

Fact: In the Middle East, obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades.

Fact: Obesity is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, and certain forms of cancer. It is one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide.

Fact: Physical activity has steadily declined, depriving children and adults of a key element to living a longer, healthier, happier life.

Fact: Healthy eating, combined with increased physical activity, is the only way to prevent the continued spread of the obesity epidemic.

Do you know how much grain, fruit, vegetables, milk, oils, meat and beans you should consume every day…?

HCI has the answer to this question, and many others, in our comprehensive healthy eating and living guide for children. Included are ten recipes for specially developed nutritious meals which use ingredients easily available throughout the region, and are tailored to local tastes. A balanced, nutritious diet is the key to a long, productive life. When combined with regular physical activity it can help relieve stress and provide an overall feeling of well-being. Physical activity increases the amount of calories burned, compensates for a lowered metabolism caused by aging, helps you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and lowers the risk of chronic disease. By combining regular physical activity with a nutritious diet we can make Lebanon healthier one person at a time.

Click here to download the manual (PDF; 34 pages; 7.74 MB)

لتنزيل هذا الدليل إضغط هنا (PDF; 7.74 MB)

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A Day in the City: Touching Lives and Engaging Minds

 Children, Farm to School, Health and Sanitation, Lebanon  Comments Off on A Day in the City: Touching Lives and Engaging Minds
Oct 282009

Jabal AkroumJabal Akroum is one of the poorest and most marginalized areas of Lebanon; it is remote, difficult to reach and underdeveloped. It is located high up in the mountains of the Akkar district which has seen several conflicts back-to-back; in 2006 there was the July War in which all of Lebanon was affected and in the summer of 2007 there was the more damaging Nahr Al-Bard conflict which dealt a devastating blow to the local economy. It is estimated that seventy three percent of the population of Jabal Akroum live below the poverty line.

Jabal AkroumIn an attempt to care for and support the children affected by poverty and conflict in this area, HCI together with local partner Jabal Akroum Association, organized an excursion for one hundred boys and girls from eight villages in the Jabal Akroum area this August as an intervention to address their psychosocial wellbeing, which is a very important factor that if neglected can lead to reduced social connectedness, coping skills and resilience, this in turn places children at risk of isolation, apathy, drug or substance abuse, truancy, self-exploitation, and criminal behavior.

Jabal AkroumThe children, mostly orphans from underprivileged backgrounds and their supervisors were transported by buses to the northern city of Tripoli for a fun filled day. The first activity of the day was a trip to an amusement park which was reserved for them in advance; they were given access to all the rides and games. The children laughed, ran about, played and generally seemed excited. Many of them told us that this was their first visit to an amusement park, and their first time in the city.

Jabal AkroumAfter the amusement park the children left, (albeit a little reluctantly) to go the Al Mona School, where HCI local partners CIWS had especially set up a dining hall and prepared a healthy meal for the occasion. The meal was prepared as part of HCI’s Farm to School project — where school-aged children receive nutritious meals, learn about the path from farm to fork and are provided with essential information on healthy eating habits. After an active afternoon of fun and games, the children looked quite happy to take a short break for lunch and refreshments.

Jabal AkroumAs the children got back on the buses to be transported to the port of Tripoli for the final stop of the day, their excitement was palpable and justified; many of them had never ventured far from their villages in the mountain and had only heard about the sea in stories or seen it on television. Once at the port, they observed their surroundings with awe as they walked along the shore and saw the fishermen at work. When it came time for them to take a boat ride along the coast, awe turned into pure unbridled elation. The children’s happiness was so intense that it was contagious; all the on looking boatmen and fishermen seemed to be wearing smiles almost as broad as those of the children.

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Sohatak Bel Deni: the launching of HCI’s specially tailored healthy eating habits manual in Lebanon

 Children, Education and Empowerment, Farm to School, Health and Sanitation, Lebanon  Comments Off on Sohatak Bel Deni: the launching of HCI’s specially tailored healthy eating habits manual in Lebanon
Oct 282009

Every child deserves to be healthy; the proverb “healthy body, healthy mind” says it all; access to a good nutritious meal and developing healthy eating habits are vital for every child’s well being. In 2009, HCI introduced the “Farm to School Program” in Lebanon, where small scale farmers, low income students, and unemployed women living in rural areas were all linked in a holistic socio-economical cycle. The approach of the program has proven its efficiency and is a great success as stated by the beneficiaries themselves. To this date, hundreds of school-aged children have received several nutritious meals, learned about the path from farm to fork and have been provided with basic necessary information on healthy eating habits.

The program was specifically designed to target low income school-aged children, most of which are direct victims of war and scarcity and have to bear the difficult consequences of violence and deprivation that affects them and their families on many levels; whether on the income provided by the head of the family or on the quality of their meals at home. Dietary deficiencies can affect short-term health, increasing the risk of dental problems, obesity and anemia. In the long term, poor diet may increase the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Some cancers are believed to relate to a low intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. Under-nutrition, even in its milder forms can have detrimental effects on cognitive development, behavior, concentration and school performance.

While implementing the Farm to School Program it was evident that complementary awareness raising activities concerning education and health should be implemented with the parents and care givers of these children giving them valuable essential tips on: healthy eating practices, food safety, hygiene and how to promote healthy eating and lifestyle habits, that can last a lifetime through specially designed engaging workshops and printed materials; Human Concern International is proud to announce the completion of the “Sohatak Bel Deni” manual, providing parents, teachers and caregivers with detailed essential information about cooking healthy food at low cost among other things.

The specially designed manual is a result of research done by a team of nutritionists and agricultural engineers and takes into consideration the access of the low income households to certain food items, as much as it takes in consideration the lack of access of these families to healthy living choices, and the common misconceptions about what is nutritive and what is not. The manual explains the ABC’s of what is healthy and what is not in an accessible format, it should be noted that the manual is not designed to alter the lifestyle of these families, but rather to reorganize their eating habits while keeping their financial budget intact.

The thirty-one-page Arabic manual is full of valuable information; from easy to understand food pyramids to recommendations on healthy eating habits such as consuming Omega 3 rich foods at least twice a week, from food safety advice such as the best way to handle and store poultry, to healthy cooking practices such as the use of vegetable oils instead of traditional ghee. A menu suggestion with recipes for healthy versions of traditional foods such as Okra stew and yoghurt salad is also included, each with its own calorie, Protein and carbohydrate breakdown. HCI did not forget to include an activity page for the children to color and have fun while learning.

Human Concern International is proud to publish and distribute this resource to enable communities, schools and caregivers to plan better meals for their children and by doing so contribute to their general overall physical and mental health and to their school attendance. The Arabic manual will be launched in various low income and rural locations around Lebanon, complemented with specially formulated awareness raising sessions held by qualified nutritionists; it can also be downloaded here free-of-charge in PDF format (7.74 MB): Sohatak Bel Deni Manual

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Jul 302009

Farm to SchoolThe “Farm to School program brings healthy food from local farms to thousands of poor school-aged children in low-income remote villages. Moreover, the program teaches students about healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. In addition, the use of local products in school meals and educational activities provides a new direct market for local low-income farmers. It also provides local women with temporary jobs in food preparation,” explained Abdo Raad — the director of Saint Saveur School and Orphanage. The school, located in the city of Joun, south of Lebanon is home to 70 orphans and vulnerable children and hosts 150 school children.

“It is a win-win situation for everyone,” he concluded during the inauguration ceremony of the kitchen supported by the German Embassy in Lebanon, as well as the opening of the third Lebanese-Palestinian youth summer camp which hosts Palestinian youth from camps in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

“We thank HCI for this important initiative which is vital for the revival of low-income remote areas,” commented H.E.M Brigitta Eberly, the German Ambassador to Lebanon who attended the ceremony.

The German Embassy in Lebanon contributed over $16,000 to equip the kitchen at the premises of the school/orphanage which will help HCI’s Farm to School project expand its scale and scope to reach out to other schools and orphanages in nearby villages, which is expected to benefit more than 700 children during the summer of 2009.

Farm to SchoolThe inauguration ceremony was attended by H.E. Mrs. Bahia Hariri, Minister of Education and Higher Education and H.E. Mr. Mario Aoun, Minister for Social Affairs.

“Cause and Identity” is the theme of this year’s Lebanese-Palestinian youth summer camp which coincides with the celebration of Jerusalem as the 2009 Arab Capital of Culture. The 40 Lebanese and Palestinian youth come from different regions in Lebanon and from Palestinian camps in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

“Building bridges and trust and creating a platform for dialogue and sharing among Lebanese and Palestinian youth is the main objective of this summer camp,” H.E. Mrs. Hariri, the President of the Hariri Foundation for Human Sustainable Development (HFHSD), explained during a discussion with the participants. HFHSD is sponsoring of the summer camp.

The Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education has been actively working in the past two years on integrating health and wellbeing topics into the Lebanese school curriculum, especially for elementary school students. “HCI’s successful Farm to School project which promotes healthy eating habits for school-aged children is a significant initiative that the Ministry of Education should consider adopting to improve student health,” suggested, Rabih Yazbeck, HCI’s Regional Director, during a conversation with the participants. “We hope that the summer camp’s attendees will benefit from our initiative, and take what they’ve learned back to their families and help bring awareness in their surrounding environment,” Mr. Yazbeck concluded.

The Farm to School Project was launched this March in two regions in Lebanon. To this date, thousands of school-aged children have learned about the path from farm to fork and healthy eating habits.

The program desires to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms, and provide jobs for vulnerable women and nutrition for poor students hence contributing towards their health and well-being.

The family farm owners will have a chance of securing a steady income, the students will be motivated to get an education, and the unemployed women will have the opportunity of working and generating income. These benefits are not limited to economy and education, but also affect the overall morale of the residents.

On the long-term, the program will introduce waste management programs like composting, and experiential education opportunities such as planting school gardens, cooking demonstrations and farm tours.

What we are witnessing here are the combined efforts of the public and private sectors, and the civil society, local and international. These initiatives transcend all national, religious, and racial differences and have one aim in mind, the well-being of our children and families. At the end, humanity is the bridge that connects us all, and it lies ahead in anticipation of the courageous many who will attempt to cross it.

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Jun 092009

Farm to School LebanonTwo jobs were created at the Al Mona center for hearing imparities & mental development in Tripoli the week that Yazan, a member of the fundraising team in Canada visited the HCI team in Lebanon. The center, a subsidiary of the Charity of the Islamic Women Society was where the first meal of HCI’s Farm to School program was served to schoolchildren in Lebanon. Farm to school brings healthy food from small local low-income farms to underprivileged school children at schools located in low-income areas. Vulnerable women, particularly widows and women with special needs are employed to prepare these meals and the targeted local farmers are given agricultural support and assistance to improve their economic stability. The center’s students were served a nutritionist designed meal of locally produced organic sautéed green beans and beef served with rice and a yoghurt salad, with an apple each for dessert. “The kids enjoyed the meal and were really happy to be able to play with each other and make new friends afterwards” Inaam Aloosh, the president of the CIWS told us as we toured the premises and witnessed the students happily engaged in their lessons despite the many challenges they are faced with. The Al Mona center has been a longtime local partner of HCI and hundreds of children with special needs have been able to benefit from many of the facilities secured by HCI such as equipment for testing hearing abilities and a psychomotricity room that helps the children coordinate the movement of their bodies with their brains.

CSP LebanonWe drive away from Tripoli northwards until neighborhoods are replaced by slums; grimy and bare concrete homes in disrepair randomly layered over each other and navigable only by uneven dirt paths. We have reached Beddawi, our second destination for the day. We are here to visit Mona; a widow and a single mother of nine. Her son Abdel Hadi is one of the many orphans aided by HCI’s child sponsorship program. She runs a tiny dimly lit grocery shop which also includes a sewing machine in the corner that allows her to double as a seamstress “I am barely able to make ends meet on my own; Beddawi is a very poor area, there is hardly any work here, I don’t know what I would have done without the child sponsorship program” she says to us as we sit in her modest home waiting for Abdel Hadi and his siblings to arrive from school (despite her difficult situation, she makes sure that all the children get an education).

CSP LebanonWhen we enquire about how Abdel Hadi has been doing, she tells us that thanks to the his sponsorship he has recently been able to have surgery done in one eye to enable him to see better and will have the other one operated on soon. When he eventually arrives he greets us shyly and tells us about his day at school, he looks healthy and happy; it was worth the long bumpy journey to see his radiant smile. As he runs off to have lunch with his siblings we also remember that we have to head out to our next destination as well.

Micro credit lebanonEl Minieh is our next destination; we are here to visit Houriyeh, a widowed mother of two and a beneficiary of one of HCI’s micro credit programs. She welcomes us warmly and serves us chilled glasses of delicious fresh yogurt and tells us the story of how the yogurt came into being; “three years ago after my husband’s death, it was up to me to take care of the children on my own. I had heard of small microcredit loans that were being made available by HCI through a local partner and I decided to apply for one and buy a cow”. With this cow she was able to set up a small household dairy business that supplies the local community with fresh milk and yogurt. In addition to this, the manure produced by the cow is also bought by local farmers to be used as a natural fertilizer. Her cow eventually gave birth and she was able to sell the calf and settle her loan. It is amazing to witness firsthand how such a small sum of money has been able to impact this family’s life so positively; she tells us that thanks to this one cow she has been able to provide for her children and complete the construction of the house that her husband had started building before his death. We are impressed to learn that the yoghurt salad that was served at the first Farm to School meal in Tripoli was made of yoghurt provided by Houriyeh.

Agriculture ExtensionOur final destination for the day is in the Mhamra agricultural area; it is close to the Nahr Al Bared camp and was heavily affected by stray shelling from the 2007 Nahr Al Bared Conflict resulting in the loss of many harvests which dealt a crippling blow to the local farmers that are already caught in vicious cycles of debt. We are here to visit Khodor, one of these local farmers. Khodor and his six brothers own a small farm that they struggle to survive from.

Agricultre ExtensionHe tells us that he has been engaged for about six years now and will continue to be unable to get married until he manages to save up enough money to build a small home for his future wife and himself to start a family in. Right now the siblings and their families live together in a small modest house on the farm and their priority is keeping the farm productive as it is their only source of income. As part of HCI’s agriculture extension services project, Khodor’s land is being reviewed by a team of volunteer agricultural engineers to determine what can be done to improve its economic stability. It has been a long day, we have seen a lot. It is time for us to head back to Beirut to prepare for the next day.

People with special needsWe head southwards towards Nabatiye the next day to visit another one of HCI’s local partners: Tamkeen Association for Independent Living, which is a nonprofit non sectarian and non political entity that takes care of the disabled and works on their rehabilitation. They have been around since 1987 and HCI has had a long and active history with them: some of the many projects implemented by HCI include equipping the special education center, early intervention center and the physiotherapy treatment center for rehabilitation of disabled people (particularly landmine victims), securing emergency relief funds for those affected by the July 1996 war and the numerous conflicts the area has seen, a landmine and unexploded ordnance danger awareness program and a micro loan program for disabled people and their families among others. HCI’s latest project with Tamkeen is to provide agricultural backyard production assistance to the physically disabled; the importance of this project lies in the fact that the handicapped are able to secure an income through micro farming outside their houses, without the need to commute placing them on the path towards self sustainability and improving their self esteem. Until now 10 people with special needs have been given support via HCI to help improve the viability of their backyard farms.

People with special needsAs we are shown around the center we meet Ali and Abdallah. Nine year old Ali was born without legs and until a few weeks ago had spent his entire life moving around on a wheelchair. Now, thanks to artificial limbs secured by Tamkeen, he is overjoyed to be learning to walk for the first time in his life. Eight year old Abdalla, on the other hand lost his leg a few weeks ago when he inadvertently stepped on an unexploded ordnance while playing in a field near his home. He too will be provided with an artificial limb once his injuries fully heal. As we visit the different classrooms and meet more of the special needs children, we can’t help but admire the spirit the challenged show in the face of adversity and a feel a deep sense of gratitude and respect towards all the individuals and organizations that dedicate their time and efforts to make positive change and empowerment come into fruition.

As we drive Yazan to Beirut, we excitedly discuss new ideas that have started to bud as a result of our collective experiences coming together on the field. The visit has come to an end. We say our goodbyes and though we head off in different directions, our goals remain the same.

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