Future Calling

Improving nutrition from the very start is a proven way to break the cycle of poverty and poor health that can hold families and communities in its grip for generations. With better health, children can thrive in school, and in life. And when they do, a world of possibility emerges. Karin and Rambu’s story showcases how small changes can make a huge impact on one child, one family, and one community at a time.

By Eryn Blazey

Karin sat on a tricycle in the middle of the room and played with an old cell phone. She pretended to take selfies before politely excusing herself to make a pretend phone call in the other room. Our team couldn't help but laugh along with her mother at the bold and bright personality of the three and a half-year-old. I leaned over to Rambu, Karin's mother, "Does Karin remind you of yourself when you were little?" She chuckled, "Yes, but Karin has a bigger chance at a happier life." 

Rambu is a teacher in Dasa Elu located on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. I recently had the privilege to meet Rambu and to learn about her family's life in Sumba, and the difference she has seen within her community resulting from the distribution of Vitamin Angels' nutrition interventions.

Our team received a warm welcome into Rambu's house, where we were invited to take a seat on the family's bed. I sat on the edge of a hand-woven straw mat that lay across a wooden bed frame. During our conversation, my eyes wandered throughout the main room. Photos of Karin hung on the wall, and her toys lay strewn across the cement floor. A mountain of books was stacked on a shelf in the corner with a stuffed monkey standing guard. 

Over the past four years, Rambu has regularly needed to repeat her curriculum, bringing all of her students up to speed when she should be teaching something new to her class. Every week were one or two students who missed school because they were sick. Lately, Rambu has noticed the trend has been changing. Since the local health clinics have begun providing vitamins and other services to the children in the community, her students are missing less school. With better attendance, Rambu can experience one of her greatest joys -- standing in front of a class and helping the children in her community learn. 

I looked over to see Karin drawing. Despite her seeming concentration, her ears would perk up when she heard her name mentioned in the conversation. "I love watching my daughter grow healthier, more beautiful, and smarter each day," Rambu shared. We learned that Karin is known as the most active student in preschool. "I will bring home picture books, and Karin will memorize the stories and repeat them back to me." The proud preschooler heard her mom mention her books and began pulling from the giant stack.

Realizing we had Karin's attention, we began to ask her some questions, "What do you love most about mama?" She smiled and looked up at Rambu. "I love my mama. She cooks the most delicious food in the world!" We learned the family typically eats rice, vegetables, fish, tofu, tempeh, and sometimes meat. However, availability and affordability vary considerably based on the season and weather patterns.

My mind wandered back to earlier that day at the health center. When it was Karin's turn to receive a dose of vitamin A she began to cry, she was nervous. Understanding the importance of the intervention, Rambu calmly changed tactics. She walked around the room with Karin, watching as other children received their dose. Karin was still too scared, and the distribution was nearly complete. The health providers were preparing to pack up to leave. 

It was in the final minutes when Karin bravely sat down with her mom to receive her dose of vitamin A. Our team, along with other mothers and health clinicians, clapped and cheered. Rambu looked over to me while wiping the imaginary sweat off her brow - the universal display of "Phew!" The effort was worth it to Rambu. She had witnessed the benefits vitamins had for her students and she wanted for her daughter.

As we were saying our goodbyes to Rambu and Karin, I felt a little hand grab mine. Karin took my hand, kissed it, and pressed it to her forehead. Surprised, I looked over at Rambu. She smiled at me, beaming with pride, and explained that this is a sign of respect. The honor, however, was mine.