In my experience working with Helen Keller Intl in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one thing that has been a constant is the positive feedback from partners working on the ground to improve the health and nutrition of children across the country. This has happened time and time again; but for some reason, it always comes when I’m least expecting it. I remember having lunch with a government Nutrition Coordinator responsible for services covering a population of approximately 2.5 million children under the age of five. In the midst of sharing ideas for Vitamin A coverage and the feasibility of using a new strategy in part of the Katanga province, he says to me, “You know that after all these years of working with HKI, there is nothing that would make me want to work with another partner on these campaigns.” As always, the unsolicited comment came as a surprise in the moment, and made me very proud to be affiliated with an organization that comes through, where it counts, on the ground where the real work is taking place.
Our partner’s comment made me remember my last visit to Katanga where, through rain storms and muddy roads, we drove out to various health zones to provide them with extra supplies of Vitamin A and deworming capsules. During that same week, I had taken the opportunity to speak directly to multiple women in two villages where mothers were bringing their young children to a health center for Vitamin A and deworming. I have to say that I was once again very proud of the work that Helen Keller does in training and supporting these health teams, because one after the other, mothers explained to me why they had brought their child for the health service. Their answers to my questions showed that they understood the importance of Vitamin A and the benefits of deworming their children! These were not mothers who had had the benefit of many years of formal school education. Their knowledge, wisdom, and strength to walk the one, two, or three miles at times, to reach these services gave me renewed faith in the fact that our efforts are not wasted. They were doing their part to protect the health of their children and I was proud that we were doing our part to support them.