In Barangay Alabang, Muntinlupa City, residents take the age-old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ far too seriously.
Co-leading a headstrong Community Support Group (CSG) of 60 members, Luilyn, 43, makes sure that efforts are all on board in ending malnutrition one breastfeeding session at a time.
Like many mothers, Luilyn shared the challenges she faced while breastfeeding her two children. Despite her limited milk supply, she maintained a consistent and dedicated breastfeeding routine for them. Now, she aspires to inspire other mothers to not lose hope and to sustain their commitment to breastfeeding – just as she did.
Today, she is joined by a varied group of volunteers representing different segments of the community, including youth, senior citizens, Persons with Disabilities, pregnant and lactating women, and the Barangay Security Development Officers. The group’s collective work is essential for more than 700 pregnant and lactating mothers in Barangay Alabang as it provides a network of encouragement, guidance, and shared experiences.
All of them provide support in campaigning for exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding through Save the Children Philippines and Sun Life Foundation's "Project SUNBRIGHT" or "Supporting Nanay in Exclusive Breastfeeding and Infant/Child Feeding for Growing Healthy Tsikiting."
In the second quarter of 2023, Luilyn took part in mapping 11 puroks (areas) in the barangay. This activity helps in identifying challenges and finding resources, creating a supportive environment for the health of both mothers and infants.
It was difficult given that some puroks consist of makeshift or informal dwellings. Other areas are located in the outskirts of Laguna Lake where houses are connected by frail pathways made of bamboo and wood.
This, however, did not stop her and the CSG from connecting with the identified mothers in the barangay. "Isn't it that when your goal is to help, no matter how difficult, you are determined to pursue it? Even if you say you'll go through the eye of a needle just to convey the message and provide assistance to them," Luilyn said.
From there, they facilitated regular Parent Education Seminars (PES) aimed at guiding parents on optimal child development. This aligns with Positive Parenting concepts which emphasize responsive and respectful parenting practices, promoting emotional connection, and cognitive stimulation.
They also continue to conduct home visitations and send out a daily text brigade and group chats to inform and remind mothers and their families to follow good infant and young child feeding practices.
The CSG also makes sure to always connect with the Barangay Nutrition Council and its numerous Health and Nutrition Service Providers (HSPs). Most of the time, Luilyn closely works with Alice, 58, a Barangay Nutrition Scholar.
While spearheading health initiatives in the barangay is her job as a duty-bearer, Alice underscores the significance of mobilizing the entire community to ensure the well-being of its residents.
"It is not possible for you to work alone. We need the help of stakeholders to carry out our activities properly," she said.
Throughout Project SUNBRIGHT's activation, both the HSPs and CSG participated in a series of capacity-building sessions. It covered topics on the First 1,000 Days (F1KD) of Life Program; Maternal, Newborn, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition; Kangaroo Mother Care; Essential Intrapartum and Newborn Care, and; Management of Moderate and Severe Acute Malnutrition.
They then contextualize their learnings and integrate the messages in their on-ground activities including the PESs, complementary food preparation, and kit distributions.
As a result, Alice observed more mothers now practice exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months. After 10 months of Project SUNBRIGHT’s implementation, 97% of infants aged 0-4 months are exclusively breastfed, marking an 82% increase from the 2022 health center data of 15%. This demonstrates significant progress in promoting exclusive breastfeeding within the community.
Alice hopes to sustain all these through the enactment of the F1KD law the in city. This would ensure that every child receives proper care and nutrition during their first two years through comprehensive maternal and child health and nutrition programs.
As of writing, the barangay is in the process of localizing the national law to an ordinance and will soon begin lobbying the city council.
Just like Alice, Luilyn also dreams for the initiatives, especially the formation and work of CSG, to prosper. Together with her co-members, they plan to recruit more members so that even after the project concludes, they can continue their work.
Reflecting on her past, Luilyn, during her pregnancy, recalls the absence of a support group that could have aided her in her overall maternal well-being. “That is why I am willing to help because I also want to share, in some way, the knowledge I did not have before,” she said.
“’Yung hindi ko naranasan noon, iparanas natin sa kababaihan ng Alabang ngayon.” (Let's offer the women of Alabang today the support and experiences I never had in the past.)
Note: In memory of Luilyn, a cherished member of Barangay Alabang and a compassionate advocate, we carry a heavy heart to learn about her passing.
Our thoughts and heartfelt condolences go out to Luilyn's family, especially to her two loving children during this difficult time. May her memory continue to inspire and serve as a testament to the positive impact one person can have in building a better and healthier world for and with children.