Terezinha takes the lead to improve child nutrition

Terezinha may be small in stature, but she’s a big catalyst for change in her community. The inspiring mother of two from Aileu is a community health volunteer and leader of a food processing group that is producing and selling nutritious snacks at local markets, shops and kiosks.

Terezinha always has a welcoming smile and, although busy with sons Jordanio, four, and João, two, she is also dedicated to supporting other families in her community.

She leads a food processing group of 10 members – six women and four men – that meet twice a week to process nutritious superfoods like soybeans, red kidney beans, orange sweet potato, moringa and egg into crackers, cakes, tofu, milk powder and omelettes to sell.

Terezinha's food processing group make crackers
Terezinha's food processing group make crackers. Photo: Jaime dos Reis/World Vision

“After I became part of the Better Food Better Health project, I received training from World Vision staff about local superfoods and processing food into crackers, cakes and tofu that taste very good,” she said.

The project also supports her as a community health volunteer to run superfood cooking demonstrations for parents, visit households to identify and monitor malnourished children, and connect families with local health services.

“Before I had no capacity to lead people, but after the training I got the self-confidence to lead other women. I am always close to them to help change their mentality and provide advice to them, and I always encourage them to join the group sessions,” the 28-year-old said.

“I feel proud to be a leader because my role is to involve other women, listen to their concerns and involve them in more activities,” she said.

“My husband is always proud of me because I already do many things (in the community),” she said. “When I do voluntary work through superfood training or community health services, my husband always sees that our children are fed and looked after.”

Terezinha, her husband Antonio, and son Joao.
Terezinha, her husband Antonio, and son João. Photo: Jaime dos Reis/World Vision

Sharing her knowledge to improve lives

With the skills and knowledge she has learned, Terezinha is creating a better life not just for herself and her family, but also for other families.

Since she started feeding her own children superfoods, she’s noticed they have become a more healthy weight. Now she is actively working to improve health and nutrition in her community.

“Now I train other groups in food processing, health promotion about nutritious food, and cooking training for men,” Terezinha said.

“I have created jobs for myself and others, and have ideas to do more small business activities to process superfoods in other locations to improve household incomes,” she said.

Terezinha’s food processing group earns up to US$20 every week from selling their products. On market day, Terezinha isn’t shy to use a megaphone to sell her group’s crackers, tofu and cakes. And while she’s at it, she also promotes the benefits of eating nutritious superfoods.

“Children and pregnant women like to eat the superfoods that have been processed. When our group recently went to the Aileu market to sell our processed superfoods, we earned US$28. The results of these sales are tremendously satisfying,” she said.

Terezinha uses a megaphone to sell her products at the market.
Terezinha uses a megaphone to sell her products at the market. Photo: Jaime dos Reis/World Vision

Terezinha also leads her group in savings and loan activities, with training support from World Vision. “We have reinvested our income in the form of a savings and loan scheme. Now our savings are US$1,000. The money has been borrowed by five members with low interest rates. The purpose of these loans is to use for the household and children’s school needs,” she explained.

Terezinha has many roles: mother, community health volunteer, leader of a food processing and savings group, entrepreneur. A super-woman promoting superfoods, Terezinha is actively creating positive change in her community to improve child nutrition.

Food processing group
Terezinha leads a food processing group. Left to right: Flogensia, Veronica, Terezinha, and Lulita. Photo: Jaime dos Reis/World Vision

World Vision’s Better Food Better Health project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).