Twenty-year-old Matildah is a doting mother with a beautiful, healthy two-year old daughter, Mercy.
As is the case for many children in rural Zambia, Mercy may not have seen her second birthday had she not been blessed with a mother well-educated on maternal and child health.
Matildah is a former World Vision sponsored child. She attributes her knowledge of, and passion for, good health to her sponsorship when she was younger.
“When my child falls sick, I leave everything behind and ensure the doctor attends to her. I appreciate the importance of health because of what World Vision did for me,” she says.
Matildah’s mother died when she was very young and she and her siblings remained in the care of their father. It was an extremely hard time for Matildah, who says she felt as though she was an orphan. At this time, World Vision’s presence in her life was hugely important to her.
“Mum died when I was very small and I can’t remember how she looked. Even if dad was alive, we lived as though he never existed, he abandoned us and we rarely saw him. World Vision became our mother and father,” she says, explaining that the organisation assisted with school and medical care.
“They never gave up,” she says of the World Vision staff.
Matildah credits World Vision for making her realise the importance of child health, and talks about the education she gained from World Vision being far more than books and pens.
“It was not just for me to obtain powerful academic documents but has helped me so much in understanding a lot of things like the importance of having my child immunised from diseases like polio and measles,” she says.
“A lot of people in this community have lost their children, not because there are no health care services available for them. It is because, for example, they are not educated...when they hear about child health issues, they think negatively about it. They say, ‘we’ll just depend on traditional medicine.’”
“Because I am educated, I know the importance of visiting the hospital regularly to be checked during and after delivery, because of the dangers,” she continues.
Through taking Mercy to under-five clinics and child immunisation programs, Matildah has learned how to prepare nutritious foods for Mercy, such as porridge made from mixing groundnuts and maize flour.
“Nutrition is one area that I have learnt both at school and at the clinic. We are advised to give nutritious foods to our children instead of feeding them on the same type of food every day which could make them suffer from malnutrition,” Matildah says, gazing at her smiling child.
Matildah is now educating other mothers in her community on the importance of child health. She does not want to see other children needlessly die from preventable diseases. She educates mothers on the need to take their children to under five clinics every month and during specified immunisation weeks, supporting women who may be hesitant.
“I visit them and ensure that I go with them to the clinic to have their children treated, weighed or immunised,” she says.
As World Vision phases out of her community, Matildah says she will forever remember and be grateful for what the organisation has done for her and the entire community. Without the support of Australian child sponsors, this would not have been possible.