“Why am I doing this?” Roj repeated the question to herself.
She smiled and held her breath. Her friend and partner in the field, Fidel, then nudged her to the side. “She’s going to cry,” he quipped, pointing to Roj’s eyes.
Roj, however, remained calm.
“It’s because of that feeling you get, knowing that like them, you’re also at the end of your rope but then you were given a second shot to live again,” she said in Filipino.
Before moving to Manila to join Save the Children, Roj worked as a nurse in Leyte, her birthplace. She served in a hospital, catering to ails and ills of her people.
When Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck in November 2013, Roj was right there in Tacloban, witnessing trees, homes, and people wash away.
“I’m a Haiyan survivor,” said Roj. “That’s why I got into the world of non-governmental organizations.”
On her first stint as a development worker, Roj learned how to handle child malnutrition cases in Leyte. Later on, she decided to fly to Manila to join Save the Children as a community mobilizer.
She was tasked to be among the frontliners of Save the Children’s Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM). Launched in Navotas City in March 2016, the program is the first of its kind in the National Capital Region.
“It was hard to set up at first,” Roj recalled.
Before Roj and Fidel could carry out the CMAM program, they needed the help of the barangay. The duo worked with the barangay officials and its health center. They pooled together and trained 13 Barangay Health Workers.
Although Barangay North Boulevard Bay North has been successfully implementing its own nutrition programs over the years, it lacked expertise on child malnutrition. This is where Roj stepped in.
A nurse for 4 years, Roj shared her knowledge on handling child malnutrition. Together with barangay health workers, Roj identified and treated 117 moderately malnourished babies ages 0-59 months.
All babies are now healthy. They’re enrolled in the barangay supplementary feeding program and are still being closely monitored to ensure their steady progress.
“I can’t do it alone,” said Roj. “We need to mobilize the community and tap partners because malnutrition is everyone’s battle.”
“To continue touching the life of others, we must first learn from them.”
The CMAM program is currently treating 6 severely malnourished babies. This includes the feeding of Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food, which is specially formulated to treat malnutrition.
Rain or shine, Roj and her team do house-to-house visits to counsel parents on proper nutrition, hygiene, breastfeeding, family planning, and childcare.
Misinformation, says Roj, is one of the biggest problems she observes among parents. “You really need patience,” she added.
“I hope that when we leave the community, its health center can still continue our good work,” said Roj, explaining their goal of making the CMAM program sustainable for the years to come.
“But the program could only be sustained if there’s budget. Right now, it’s fully funded now by local Save the Children supporters,” she added. Roj hopes that more people will support Save the Children to keep such life-savings programs alive.
In the future, of course, Roj dreams of barangays where no child goes to bed hungry.
The day is still long for Roj. After catching up with the parents and children in the CMAM program, she still has to visit 5 other barangays in Navotas City. She will talk to barangay officials regarding the planned expansion of the CMAM program over the coming years.
This means more work for Roj, but for her, it’s all worth it
“I do this not just to earn a living, but to serve,” she said. “I know I’m touching people’s lives.”
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