Forty-one year-old Melinda Manorina is proud of her baby, Iglot, short for Mark Daniel. Pride lights her face as she tells her story while sitting in her small nipa hut in the middle of a dark field in Daraga, Albay, Philippines. With her husband trying his luck in Manila as a construction worker, Melinda is left to take care of herself and her young children.
Luckily, Melinda is not really alone. She is one of 75 mothers in the Healthy Start Program run by the Consuelo Foundation and Children International's Child Sponsorship for Community and Development.While she was pregnant, Melinda attended pre-natal sessions and learned to talk to her unborn child, to play soothing music, and to eat the right food to keep him growing healthy in her womb. She alsoattended Healthy Start sessions after Iglot was born. She learned how to teach Iglot to brush his teeth and hold a spoon, which he could do on his own at a little over a year old. She also learned to provide him with stimulating, homemade toys, such as a drum made from a plastic bottle. Encouraged by Healthy Start, she takes Iglot and his siblings to regular checkups at the public health center.
Having been a battered wife in a previous marriage, Melinda and her second husband are more conscious now to avoid arguing in front of the children, something she learned at Healthy Start. The program also helped Melinda start a livelihood weaving abaca and selling pinangat, a local dish of coconut milk and gabi leaves, from her yard. Says Melinda, "I hope to keep saving up to give my family a decent home."
"I already had three kids before Iglot," Melinda said. "So I thought I knew how to raise kids. Now I know there are proper techniques and skills to bring up children well."