May 24, 2012The last two days have definitely been full days, but rewarding ones. After completing our pre-morning subway commute and cafe puro, we start each day at CREN. The first day I was put in a group with a few other students and we got to tour a favela nearby. After hearing all of the safety information ad nauseam I thought our last minute warning on safety would bother me, but that morning I was certainly eagerly listening.
We toured with a social worker and a nutritionist from CREN who kept close and told us when we could take pictures. The roads here were narrow and offset (certainly not handicap accessible) and the rigged-up electricity above hung very close to my head. The homes were shoddy and small and water ran down the street in a stream, occasionally taking on a soapy appearance from shower run-off. Unfortunately we were not able to make any in home visits; however, we got to speak with one of the mothers of the children at CREN and what amazed me was her resilience. Despite the conditions in which she lived, herself and most others seemed to be happy people.
Day two at the center was also very interesting. A pediatrician named Paula handpicked five case studies of children (mostly 2-4 years old) and first read us their medical history and family background. Typically, one might think that the sole problem in the favelas is undernutrition and a good solution is just feed each child more. However, after hearing each unique case it became clear the the issue is incredibly complicated and each case needs to be handled delicately in its own way. Next, we were introduced to the children, who were all adorable. Some of the children were stunted, some wasted, and some were both. Additionally, some kids had parents who were addicts, some were orphaned, some were neglected, and some had parents that parented too much and this hurt the child. You're probably thinking how could over-parenting lead to childhood undernutrition? Well, the mother of one child who followed prenatal care to a "T" ended up over breastfeeding. The failure to introduce complementary foods (i.e. baby food) ended up hurting the child and led to undernutrition. I thought this was interesting and it really underscores the lack of education and traditional training in motherhood that is absent in so many young mothers in the favelas.
I also had a few more interesting foods including caqui, which turned out to be a persimmon; however, this was the best persimmon I've ever had and Brazilians typically eat it for sobremesa or dessert. Even better was picanha na grelhada, which is grilled picanha or a cut of meat from the rump of a cow. It was brought over mongolian bbq style and you could cook it to your own liking and add garlic, picante and farofa (manioc flour) to it. Salivating right now!
- Cody Magulak