Good food makes for healthy children at NPH Haiti

Raising healthy children is hard in a country or family plagued by poverty. At NPH, children are free to learn, play, and grow as they should, without worry for their health, nutrition, and other critical needs.

Beating price rises with home-grown food

Economic instability has greatly increased the price of food in Haiti. This makes the agricultural programme at NPH Haiti more important than ever. Among the most expensive items are rice, beans, herring, oil, meat, some vegetables, and milk—especially milk-based formula for babies. On our farm, we grow vegetables that are otherwise too expensive because of rising prices.

Feeding thousands in homes and communities

At NPH Haiti, we provide food for the hundreds of children and young adults living in our remote homes, like St. Helene, St. Anne, and St. Simon. We also provide meals 3 times a day for those who live onsite. Additionally, we provide daily lunch for the nearly 1,000 students from our neighbouring communities who attend our school, as well as meals for employees who staff our schools, homes, and other programmes.

Free education and healthcare make the difference

After 27 years’ experience with NPH, Dr Rachel FanFant really understands the difference that NPH makes to Haiti. She loves working at NPH for all it does for the poor and vulnerable children and families in Haiti. She says 2 of the areas where NPH makes the biggest impact on the country are the free education and healthcare we provide to our children, as well as the high-quality 24-hour medical services that are offered to anyone who comes to our door in need.

Dr FanFant points out the challenge of addressing the wide-ranging medical needs of children at NPH. They range from kids with no medical problems at all to children who have heart disease, sickle cell anaemia, or immunodeficiency complications.

She identifies our robust nutrition programme as one of the main reasons children living at NPH do not suffer the malnutrition otherwise common throughout the country. Not only do we have healthy food available, but we also have it in a variety of recipes to help ensure that children have plenty of options to keep their stomachs full.

Children visiting farm
Children visiting the NPH farm

Typical meals prepared by our kitchens include rice, chicken, corn or beans, with tasty sauces to liven up the flavour. Occasionally, meals also contain fish, aubergine, cheese, stewed vegetables or soups.

Milk is served every day, which is essential to ensuring healthy growth for all of our children. We also have special programmes and diets for children who arrive underweight.

Strong emphasis on healthy diet

Dr FanFant is a regular visitor at the kitchen and the clinic to check that dietary needs are met. “I talk with the medical care programme at the clinic once every other month. And if we find there is a meal that children consistently don’t eat, we find a way to replace it with a new dish.” The emphasis on full, healthy diets goes a long way, especially in a country where 1 out of every 3 children suffers from chronic malnutrition. Less than 50 percent of households have access to safe water and only 25 percent have adequate sanitation. One-third of Haitian children and women are anaemic. But thanks to your support and the hard work of our staff, NPH Haiti is able to do everything it can to ensure that the children in our care grow up healthy and optimistic, free to focus more on their studies, family, and building a brighter future.

Family foundations: a second chance for Areli in the beauty salon

A tough start to life is no exception for the children who come to NPH Honduras, but with the right guidance, they can shine. Enter the spotlight, Areli…

Family relations can be fraught at times, tensions may rise, trust can be broken and words are said that test the bond. But where problems arise, solutions are often hidden behind hurt and angry emotions which can only be resolved through key ingredients of forgiveness, orientation and positive enforcement, often resulting in new opportunities and personal growth.

I have learned this in my first year of working at NPH Honduras, meeting staff who work day in, day out with young people and teenagers from social risk situations, sometimes recovering from traumatic experiences, or coming from a dysfunctional family background, which is coupled with the usual growing pains of adolescence. Patience is not only a virtue in this profession; it’s a requirement, and it’s practised with unconditional love. And this was made evident to me when I was introduced to Areli.

Success stories

My role is mainly administrative. In short, I develop projects and oversee them to closure, and we have up to 40 projects at any one time. While contact with the children is limited, I still feel the energy and bond between employees and youths which is more familial than any other workplace I have experienced.

About a month ago, while closing our annual project for our vocational centre, I asked the education coordinator of the department, Nery Martinez, if there had been interesting case stories amongst the kids.

“Yes,” Nery bellowed, joyfully. “Many, in fact.”

Francisca and Areli Francisca hugging
Francisca and Areli

They rolled off her tongue proudly, fantastic stories of students achieving high scores in our assortment of workshops. As well as the formal school education which our students attend in the mornings, afternoons are dedicated to studying a vocational course in textiles, electrics, shoemaking, carpentry, metal working, home economics or hair and beauty, for students from 7th grade and onwards.

Skills for life

At NPH, we strive to provide the children with the skills and opportunities to prepare them for adult life. According to the International Monetary Fund, unemployment in Honduras was 5.9% at the end of 2017, with the majority being in the 15-24 age bracket, meaning students have an extra string to their bow in an already very competitive job market. Students must take complex exams at the end of each term administered by CADERH, a non-profit development agency, on behalf of the Honduran education authorities. Students must pass or otherwise repeat the year.

After giving me a list of the names, Nery sat pensively. “We had an interesting case. Areli. The girl didn’t actually pass, but we view her as one of our star pupils.”

Nery went into depth, stating that Areli had always been very reserved, similar to her sister Federica who is now part of the high school programme in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, 36 kilometers away from Rancho Santa Fe. Areli started the year in a bad way, with disruptive behaviour, arguing with her teacher, skipping classes and being uncooperative.

“So what happened?” I asked.

“A miracle!” she replied. “But please, why don’t you ask her yourself?”

Areli’s background

I was intrigued. A miracle? A student who failed? Very strange. I did my research on this surly 16-year-old and she agreed to chat with me in our home for the girls, Talita Kumi. I wasn’t expecting an easy ride, but I found her more forthcoming than expected.

“My sister had left Rancho Santa Fe. I was suffering and felt very alone. Our parents abandoned us when we were small, and I guess it also affected me. I don’t like to make excuses, but I was angry and difficult, and it was a dark time for me. I didn’t want to be at school or the workshop or be around anyone. Students would say something and I would lose my temper and be thrown out of class,” she said.

“I’m not proud of myself. At the end of the first term, I received a 0% grade. The strange thing is, I really enjoyed the workshop, but I don’t think the teacher liked having me in it!” she laughed.

“Something clicked”

The 0% grade affected her deeply, and it led to her being disciplined. The teacher and directors were very worried about what they were going to do with her. They sat down with her and the psychologists to identify the triggers for her bad behaviour and ways to improve her mood.

“I was ashamed to read 0% on my score card, but I deserved it. Initially the second term began like the first, but then one day I was helping to preparing a smaller girl’s hair for an event, and something clicked. The task wasn’t difficult, but the teacher liked what I was doing because it was creative. I was thrilled. I felt really good at something. And the teacher said she would like me to repeat it the next day, and the next day, and the next day, which I did. She kept showing me new ways to fix make up or cut hair, and I learned quickly.”

These performances continued, and she achieved 89% in the final term, one of the highest grades of the year in this workshop.


Francisca Ramos, the instructor in the hair and beauty salon, said, “I’ve never seen a turnaround like this. At the start of the year, her behaviour was impossible. By the end, she was supporting her classmates and smiling, being part of the NPH family. We’re so proud of her!”

She admitted it took a lot of patience and positive reinforcement to get her where she is today, but she continues to improve. “We felt so sorry for her. She just missed out, and will have to repeat the year after her difficult start. However, we’re happy to see her happy.”

Second chances

Areli added, “I was a little disappointed not to pass, but it is a blessing in disguise. Hair and beauty is something I really enjoy. I am better prepared for next year and learning what I missed out on. I thank the teacher and director for the faith they put in me and their patience. They are more than teachers: they are family. Without them, I would still be lost.”

She will enjoy the time off during the vacation and passing time with her sister, but she now looks to the future with optimism.

“I must improve my school grades. I accept that. But I want a career in hair and beauty. I know I must perform. I want to do some diplomas and learn more, and maybe one day have my own salon. But more than most, I want to thank my God, as well as my family.”

Stories like Areli’s goes to show what family support can do. And for myself, I too am proud to be part of the NPH family.


John Maughan