Priyangika has been a part of the Mother Support Group for the past seven years. She joined it when she was having her first baby. Since then they have grown as a group supporting new mothers and each other through the challenges they faced raising their children.
"I would say, feeding the child is the biggest challenge that every mother faces," smiles Priyangika, "That is the most unpleasant time for most mothers as we struggle to get them to eat."
Underweight among children between 0 – 5 years was alarming in Ridigama in the Kurunegala District when World Vision commenced working in the area.
"But since then we have had a great improvement in the nutrition levels," says Sandya, the leader mother of the group, "Those days mothers had no knowledge on nutrition so they did not pay attention to the nutrition needs for the growth of the baby. Some didn’t come for the weighing of the baby every month. But now everything has changed."
Each Mother Support Group ensures that mothers in their area bring their babies on time for the weighing and check up every month on the given date. They also assist the Midwife with the monitoring duties and support the mothers when they have concerns or issues.
"We have even seen a positive change in the midwife in attending to the mothers since World Vision programmes," Sandya says.
World Vision introduced the Positive Deviance (PD) Hearth Programme to the Mother Support Groups. PD Hearth introduces mothers to good nutritional practices that supports the baby’s growth in their early years. Leader mothers continue to share this knowledge and do activities with new mothers.
Sandya’s group has around 35 mothers currently. They met every month to learn a new nutrition recipe that they can easily prepare at home until the pandemic restricted them from gathering.
"To keep us making new foods, World Vision provided us a booklet with recipes and we follow it," says Sandya, "Sometimes I visit the families to make sure that they are cooking nutritious food for their children during the pandemic."
"We were also introduced to homegardeing to support us during the pandemic and that became a great help for us especially for me when my husband didn’t have work and he had no earning," says Priyangika, "Some Mother Support Groups have even started to cultivate paddy together to support each other."
"My son was underweight at first, but with new recipes I have been able to improve his appetite and now he has reached his ideal weight," says Hansika another mother from the group, "I want to make sure to maintain it."
"There are about 10 children who are underweight in our group and we have been able to provide them with additional nutrition supplementary food for them," says Sandya, "Four children who are severely underweight were referred to the Kurunegala hospital for treatment. Every year as new babies arrive, we always have a few who are undernourished, but when the Mother Support Group is there, we are able to quickly intervene and support."
The underweight rate in Ridigama is already down to 22%. Even though there is a pandemic that has brought in many limitations and challenges, the babies will continue to grow. We can’t stop them. But in Ridigama, every child will have at least 35 mothers to support them in their growth.