I was speaking with an orthodontist the other day who was telling me that there can be different treatment options children and adults have for the same issues. One of the main reasons for the difference is that adults come to her seeking help whereas children are generally brought by parents who see current or future problems for their children that the young patients are not yet aware of.
By virtue of the fact that they are seeking help for an issue they already acknowledge, adults tend to fully engage with the process and carefully undertake any tasks they need to perform in order to get the positive outcome they desire. So, if they are having braces and need to brush their teeth in a special way or avoid eating certain foods, adults are likely to do as they are told. If a child is given the same instructions, the onus is mainly on the parent to ensure the directions are followed – with the child often fighting the annoying interference in their life.
This same message has come up several times recently. No matter what good intentions you may have, there is no point in trying to offer a solution to someone when they either don’t see a problem or have no hope that the problem could ever change. When working with communities in Kenya we have always tried to work in partnership together with them and we are still learning how to actually achieve this. For example, if a charity wanted to build schools, investment in school classrooms would be wasted if children don’t go to school because education is not valued. The charity would have to start by working with community leaders and parents to promote understanding of the benefits of education.
At Feeding Futures, we are focussed not on promoting education for children through building classrooms but the breaking of poverty through education in general. Education for children – through provision of meals at school to promote attendance, health and ability to concentrate – and education for parents – through provision of accessible training in sustainable agriculture with business skills, health, gender equality and other issues.
As we bring education to others, we ourselves need to learn how to build the foundations of partnership when working with communities; bringing respect and humility.