PROMISE: Celestin’s Story

Lost 7 Children to Malnutrition - Never Again!

I am called Celestin Bakurikiza and I am 54 years old. I am married and I have 4 children. I am a resident of Akabuga village, Karambi cell in Murundi Sector, Kayonza District (Rwanda).

By the time the ADRA PROMISE Project was introduced in our community, my two youngest children were malnourished and I did not know. Sometimes we thought that probably they were bewitched. Having lost up to 7 children between the ages of 2 – 6 years, I had thought that even these were going to die. The Community Health Workers and the local leaders were telling me that my children are suffering from malnutrition but I did not believe them.

By the time the project started, I was being hunted down by the local authorities for neglecting for not caring for my children. I had no idea about the health of the children and all I know was that if the children have a full plate, then they should be fine. However despite the full plates, the children would get weaker and weaker and in my thoughts, they were going to die just as the ones that I had lost. I had lost the love for children and hence did not spare any time to care for them. I would instead go drinking to quench my pain and hopelessness and I thought the children belong to their mother and that I had nothing to do with them. Actually some friends were advising me to divorce my wife saying that she may be the cause of the death of my children.

As one of the families known to have malnourished children in the community, I was among the first that the project volunteers case to sensitize to join Care Group. I accepted to join with a purpose of proving to them that what they said was not correct and that my children only suffered and died for some unknown reasons.

My wife and I started to attend the cooking demonstrations where we learnt about the nutrition of the children as well the mothers, the variety of food groups that are good for the health of children, we were informed about recommended feeding frequency for children, we learnt how to make kitchen gardens for growing vegetable at our homes, we learnt about hygiene and sanitation. Month by month I continued to attend all the programs organized by the project. I attended the Positive Deviance Hearth sessions.

In just a few months, my children gained weight and became healthier. Through the project, I now understand that my children suffered from malnutrition and the ones who died are likely to have died of the same and not witchcraft. I know the importance of feeding children on a balanced diet as well as the responsibility of men with regard to the health of their children.

We are now very happy as a family to have health children and to be a reference now having healthy children despite of economic status. With what I have learnt from the PROMISE project, none of my children will ever suffer from malnutrition. After the community realizing the change in my children, I was elected to head a committee in my village to fight against malnutrition.

With what I have learnt, I do everything possible to spare time for my children. They are my friends and when they see me they don’t want to leave me. I am very grateful and will always remember how the PROMISE Project has impacted my family and given life to my children.

Prepared by: Martin Rutazigwa, M&E officer