Eat Right, Live Long

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Mary Ekah
Mrs. Edirin Metseagharun, Founder, Passion for Healthy Kids Initiative (PHKI), is of the view that if we don’t help our children learn to eat right and be active every day, and then this generation may live shorter lives than their parents. This is where PHKI comes in. PHKI is focused on raising awareness and helping schools and parents to close existing gaps and help children learn to eat right and be active everyday. And so the organisation recently visited a school at Ajah, in Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos.

The event was the annual PHKI Mini Kitchen and Health Fair tagged ‘Balance My Day’, which aims at teaching children to eat balanced meals to enhance learning in school. “Your food should cut across the six classes of food but with the spring of fast food these days, a lot of people find it hard to eat right. So I think we really need to cut down on the junks that we eat and learn to eat more of fresh vegetable and fruits and that will help us to live healthy lifestyle and also aid in the longevity of our lives,” she noted

PHIK, she said is a non-governmental organisation that addresses childhood malnutrition, obesity prevention and also help children to eat right and be active, adding, “Basically, our overriding objective is eating right, move more and live long.”
Speaking on the activities of the organisation in recent time, she said, “We have gone round the schools over the year and we noticed that majority of children don’t eat breakfast before coming to school and large percentage of children also don’t take healthy meals, they do not know what healthy meal is all about.”

The PHIKI boss however noted: ‘We also noticed that schools, have gradually removed physical exercise from their curriculum, replacing it with other extra-curricular activities forgetting the importance of exercise to the health of a child. And also in rural communities, we noticed that a lot of these children lack basic information on healthy living and personal hygiene. Hence this gave birth to Mini Kitchen and Health Fair tagged ‘Balance My Day’.

“We are actually trying to talk to children and parents about the importance of healthy living, why the parents should live healthy lifestyle so that they can impact on their children’s lives. And part of what we do is giving out healthy pack to children, it might not be much but what we give to them will last them for at least one or two weeks this will also help to improve their healthy lifestyle and also encourage their parents to build on it,” Metseagharun said.

PHIKI’s target, she said, is on the children, noting, “we go to both primary and secondary in both private and public schools and the truth is though the children are our targets, and they cannot do this alone. They need the help of the parents, so we cannot tell children to live a healthy lifestyle when their parents are not being educated, hence, we always talk to parents, we go to school PTAs to educate parents on the importance of healthy living. It is not just theory we are doing but also the practical and so we pack stuff for healthy meal for them. So that they would know what it is like to have healthy meals.”
She said therefore that a lot of children have been impacted by this initiative the organization has gone to over 200 hundred schools till date.

Her vision: “In the next couple of years, I see myself having a centre for the less-privileged where I can at least provide them with healthy breakfast. My vision is to have a centre where the children whose parents cannot provide them breakfast could come in and have healthy breakfast and also where we can help those who are obsess to live healthy lifestyle, Metseagharun, whose passion drove her into pursuing the initiative on healthy living, is a teacher by profession who read Education Management at the College of Education, Warri, and then got a degree in Education from the University of Port Harcourt still in Education Management.

A volunteer fitness instructor and Productivity Solution Specialist with Microsoft, Vivian Atureta, said, “I am not a fitness instructor, my passion is actually technology. But I noticed from the kind of job that I do that we sit a lot, from morning to night we sit on chairs in the office, we don’t move, we eat and sleep on our seats and everything we do, we are always sitting down and when you get home we, you are so tired and everybody, including the kids just eat and then we go to bed. . And I just said, we cannot continue this way. This life style is not sustainable because if we want to live healthy lives, we need to change our diets and the level of our fitness activities and so my volunteering to work with PHIK, was born out of the desire to see children get active and get more healthy. I found that so many children are obsessed already at tender ages. This is very upsetting and funny enough every time we see such children; they are going into various eateries.

This obesity is as a result of what they eat, watching TV all the time and not exercising. So PHIK is really addressing that in my opinion because when we visit schools, we teach them simple exercises that they can do every morning or every evening before they go to bed. In addition to the exercises, we teach them what to eat, which is what PHIK is seriously preaching – balance diet is very important, making sure that the meal is balanced at all time to ensure that the child has enough energy throughout the day. Another things I have always advocated for is break time, where the kids can come outside, play and get their activity level up, so that they are not in the classrooms all through the day without any exercise at all,” Atureta said.

Another facilitator, Dr. Dennis Kalu, an Optometrist screened the children on errors that could arise as a result of malnutrition or food deficiency. He said his role was to ensure that the children sights were healthy. “Once your eyes are not okay at the early stage of live, it can become a worst situation at middle age like 40. So the earlier you start taking good care of your eyes the better your vision will be at later age in life,” Kalu noted. From his observation during the exercise, he said, “On average, the children’s visions were not good. We saw a lot of signs that have to do with malnutrition, which is why this NGO has really come all out to reach out to this area as it sensitise people about the need for balance meal.” In order to have good and long lasting sight, Kalu encouraged kids to eat balanced food, especially those that contain vitamin A. “And again, they should not skip meals, especially breakfast, because it goes a long away to stabilise the body and once you miss breakfast, the whole system will be knocked out, especially the eyes.”

A dentist, Dr. Maria Naboya of Asman Dental Clinic, said, “Coming into this community was a sort of awareness that is being created for healthy living and what I told the children was that having a healthy mouth is very important. If you don’t have a healthy mouth, you cannot have a healthy body. So we are here to sensitise the community and then the children because it is good to catch them young. And what we have discovered here is that their oral health is so bad.

So we told them that it is important they change their brushes every three months while they brush at least twice in a day. We discovered a lot of them with holes in their teeth. So what we have taught them is how to brush and what to do to have healthy teeth and gums. We also have to sensitise their parents because these children cannot really do much except their parents grab the concept of all that we are doing. I think the parents have caught the vision because they asked a lot of questions, which I have answered and I try to tell them that brushing twice a day will do them a lot of good. And that once they discovered that their children have holes on their teeth, they should quickly take them to the dentist. We have also taken out some teeth for a few of the children.”