by Andrea Katrina M. Marchadesch
A series of mother classes, spearheaded by the local health center, are being held in Brgy. San Antonio in Bay, Laguna.
According to Abigael Santos, one of the barangay health workers (BHWs), these classes are intended for new mothers to learn more about parenting and motherhood. Some of the topics tackled include the convention of the right of the child, indigenous cooking practices, and healthy food. The mothers are also involved in discussions on child diseases and health and child abuse. The mother-participants also discuss their situation with their children at home among with other concerns.
Volunteer Barangay Health Workers (BHW) facilitate all the classes which are held in one Purok of the barangay for a given period of time. They make sure that the topics are discussed properly and thoroughly for the benefit of the mothers.
These volunteer BHWs are mostly women who are residents of the barangay. According to Santos, the Mother Class helps not only the mothers in the community but also the BHWs. She admits, that they too, learn and get additional information on how to handle and raise their kids in terms of what to feed them and what to do when they get sick.
The BHWs personally invite the mothers to the classes. The classes take place every other Sunday of every month. Once all the needed topics have been tackled, they move on to other Puroks in the barangay. They started the Mother Classes in October up until December of 2011. In January of this year, they recommenced the program. They’ve just finished teaching mothers from Purok 7 and this coming February, the health center will start teaching mothers from Purok 5.
There were about 50 participants for Purok 7 alone. These participants, depending on where they live, are divided into groups of ten. These groups have two facilitators each who come to one of their houses and from there, the “class” meets for the day. The class usually involves sharing and discussions. Since most of the BHWs are also mothers, they can easily exchange tips and experiences with the participating mothers.
ChildFund International is a non-government organization that funds the Mother Class program. ChildFund International was founded nearly 75 years ago and today, they help approximately 13.5 million children and their families in 31 countries. According to their website, ChildFund.org, their distinctive approach “focuses on working with children throughout their journey from birth to young adulthood, as well as with families, local organizations and communities globally to create the environments children need to thrive.”
ChildFund International has been in the Philippines since 1954. One of the main issues that the organization tries to address here are to disaster emergencies that leave children without anything to eat or to sleep in. Another is the ever-growing issue of child labor and child trafficking. ChildFund International deals with this by coordinating with other to promote easy access to education.
Another issue the organization tries to address the reproductive health of the youth. They help the youth understand and respond to their reproductive health needs. More importantly, ChildFund International prioritizes the health care of pregnant mothers and children. They try to prevent child diseases by properly managing the child’s early development. That’s why the Mother Classes have been going on in different parts of the country and more recently, it has come to Bay, Laguna.
The organization coordinates with Romley Dyamante, the community mobilizer of the barangay’s health center on all the events and programs, and on what the community lacks in terms of materials and resources. And from there, he passes the programs down to the BHWs. He informs them on everything that they have to do for a particular program. The BHWs are given the materials and the information they need to disseminate to the mothers.
Several of the barangay’s child-related programs are funded by ChildFund International like the Adolescence Reproductive Health program, which basically teaches and informs teens on gender rights and roles, sex and reproductive health. ChildFund International also provides media like leaflets, flipcharts, posters, pamphlets, etc. needed in the programs.
According to Santos, ChildFund International also provides Vitamin A for them to give away to the mothers after the classes. She adds, “Masaya yung mga nanay, natututo sila, lalo na yung mga bagong anak.” When asked about the mothers in general, she says that most of them are in their early twenties, however there are also some mothers with older children.
One of the mothers who participated, Merceditas Masarap, says that she joined the program because she was interested. If she was given the chance, she adds, she would participate again because she is able to apply what she learned from the classes. The class that she remembers that most was the one about the brown rice and how it is better than white rice.
Another mother, Elvie Tamban, who has three kids, one of which is an infant, admitted that at first, she was only forced to attend since she knew the BHW who was in charge in their area. But she added that eventually, she realized that the classes really helped her in raising her kids, especially the class about the processed food. She says that she learned a lot from that and that she now knows which food brands are healthier for her kids.
The health center of Brgy. San Antonio looks forward for these Mother Classes to improve the health and livelihood of the community’s children in the near future. They also hope that they can bring these classes to the rest of their barangay before the year ends.