Kelly is dedicated member of Team SmartyPants and has the coolest pair of frames in the entire office.

This year, I was lucky enough to travel with Vitamin Angels to the Philippines and witness, firsthand, the incredible impact they are making on real families. The trip was one of the most unique weeks of my life. It was so special to learn about the culture, the history, and the lifestyle of people who are so different from myself.

Children looking out from a traditional house on the island of Coron, Palawan in the Philippines.

To give you some background on the Philippines, 11.5% of the population are children under five, and, of those children, 30% are stunted and over 4.4 million are vitamin A deficient. Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include stunted growth and development, compromised vision, brittle skin and hair, and a weakened immune system.

Sister Eva, the president of Vitamin Angel’s partner organization, and preschool children during a supplemental feeding in Navatos City. Sister Eva and her organization distribute vitamin A and de-worming treatments in Manila.

Vitamin Angels’ strategy to combat this is to distribute vitamin A and de-worming treatments to children under five every four to six months. I observed two vitamin A distributions and interviewed a number of families during my week in the Philippines. For the interviews, we would travel to villages, called barangays, on two different islands, and ask the mothers questions about their lives. These communities had been receiving vitamins for 4 to 18 months. Even in that amount of time, the overwhelming consensus was that the vitamins were making a noticeable impact. Mothers told us that their children had better appetites, gained weight, and had more energy after receiving vitamin A.

With Vitamin Angels in Peru: A Journey of Mothers and Daughters

We had the opportunity to ask pretty intimate questions during our interviews. One question that we asked almost everyone was, “What is your biggest hope or wish for your child?”, to which almost every mother responded, “That they finish school and have a better life.” Vitamin Angels is making this possible by supplementing children in their first 1,000 days (from conception to age two), which is a critical period for physical and mental development.

Powlet de los Reyes (28) and her daughter, Kimjeca (2). Powlet told us that she went to school for 2 years after high school and studied computer science. She was working for a major cell phone carrier, Globe, when she got pregnant. Her dream is to go back to school to become a veterinarian, but she doesn’t have anyone to take care of her daughter.

The work that Vitamin Angels is doing is amazing and the success they have had inspiring, but they don’t work alone.  They work closely with local governments as well as local non-profit groups. It was awesome to see multiple organizations come together to fight malnutrition, decrease cyclical poverty, and improve the health of entire communities.

Coming back to California was quite an adjustment. My heart ached for the families we talked to. Most importantly, I felt the stark contrast between their situation and mine. I take the clean water and healthy foods I have access to daily for granted. My week with Vitamin Angels has reminded me to be thankful for all the things I have in my life, most notably my health and the number of opportunities I have been given.

Three generations outside a home on the island of Coron Palawan in the Philippines.

Most importantly, my trip to the Philippines has renewed my sense of purpose. As a proud partner of Vitamin Angels, SmartyPants makes a 1-for-1 nutrient grant for every bottle sold. To date, we’ve made over 4.7 million grants and helped children in over 50 countries. I am so proud to be part of a company that supports companies like Vitamin Angels and is focused on real health for the real world, all of it. Vitamin Angels is on a mission to eradicate child malnutrition with the help of people like you. Let’s do this.

Jielhiane (5) and me on the island of Culion, Palawan in the Philippines.

(Visited 392 times, 1 visits today)

Posted on December 11, 2017