Our first task today was to continue the assessments for the children at the Center. Keeping their attention off the boys was the challenge of Day 6. One thing we quickly discovered when doing these assessments was that the children were fascinated with the stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, and they wanted to be assessed repeatedly.
When doing these assessments, we gathered demographic data, measured height and weight, and had the older children provide a dietary recall for the past 24 hours. The children also received a brief physical assessment. It was interesting to find that about half or more of the children had multiple cavities on their back molars. Not only did the participants have cavities, but they were unaware of what a cavity was. When asked if they had cavities, many of the children turned their heads in confusion, and we had to resort to looking for the cavities ourselves. The children also had multiple scars on their arms and legs that appeared to be from vicious insect bites, and we observed numerous scars on their legs that were the result of environmental hazards such as glass and trash.
After the assessments were completed, we visited the local farmers’ market, which is an open market where locals sell their homegrown produce and food items. We purchased fresh vegetables and fruits for “taste tests” during our afternoon nutrition class. We did this because when doing the dietary recalls, we observed that the children ate practically no fruits or vegetables at home. We wanted to encourage them to enjoy the natural flavor of fresh fruits and vegetables and teach them the about the importance of food in relation to health. At the market, we purchased eggplants, carrots, bell peppers, celery, broccoli, cheese, bananas, pineapples, and watermelon to make fruit and vegetable skewers for an afternoon snack.
Mrs. Ruwe taught the children in Spanish about each fruit and vegetable and how they each helped their body. The vegetables were not very popular among the children, especially the broccoli and eggplant. Some of the boys decided eat the vegetables when Mrs. Ruwe told them how vegetables made them healthier and stronger. So, they got a kick out of eating and then flexing and showing off their muscles. The fruit, however, was a big hit with the children because they liked the sweet tastes. Here in the Dominican Republic, most of the food is loaded down with unnecessary sugar. The juice the children typically drink at home when available is freshly squeezed fruit juice with a generous amount of sugar and water added. With that fact being known, the director suggested that we pour honey over the fruit before serving it. No honey was drizzled, but the children still enjoyed the natural taste. Hopefully, during this experience, the children realized that the natural taste of fruit can be appetizing and appealing without the addition of sugar.
Reflecting on our teaching, it is sad to think that ultimately, although the children know how fresh fruits and vegetables can benefit their health, almost none of the children will have daily access because their families cannot afford to buy these foods. For some of the children, this serving of vegetables and fruit may be the only serving of these items they will have for quite some time. Our hope is that when fruits and vegetables are available at home or school, the children will choose to eat them and that the lessons we taught will be remembered.
Allison, Junior Nursing Student
Hannah, Sophomore Nursing Student