A Googler in Kenya
Editor’s Note: Action Against Hunger has been working in partnership with Google Food Services since 2013. To date, Googlers have generously raised nearly $3 million to support our work around the world through employee engagement campaigns and giving. Linda Femling-Nielsen, Google Food Services’ Regional Manager for the Americas, has championed this effort within Google. Linda recently accompanied our CEO, Andrea Tamburini, and Director of External Relations, Alex Cottin, this summer to our field programs in West Pokot, Kenya.
At Google Food, our vision is to use food and food experiences to develop more sustainable lifestyles and communities—within Google offices, the communities in which we work, and the world at large. It’s because of this belief that we’ve supported Action Against Hunger in its work to transform the lives of malnourished children as well as families and communities affected by hunger around the globe. I’ve spent the past three years leading Google’s partnership with Action Against Hunger, and I was excited to see firsthand the programs in Kenya that Googlers have helped fund. It was my first time in Africa, and I was overwhelmed by Kenya’s beauty—and, paradoxically, the harsh conditions under which many Kenyans must live.
West Pokot, Kenya. Photo: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger
We spent four days in the field, after traveling from Nairobi to the remote western region of West Pokot. After several hours traversing bumpy, dusty roads in the back of a Land Cruiser, we arrived in a village called Kamila, where I first witnessed the power of Action Against Hunger’s programs in action and their impact on the community.
It was a shock and a revelation to learn that much of the burden to provide for families falls on the shoulders of women—the whole day is centered around finding food and water, providing for children, and tending to livestock. As a mother who brought her daughter on the trip, I was particularly inspired by the mother-to-mother support groups we met. The Action Against Hunger team is training 4,000 women in practices related to maternal, infant, and young child nutrition and care—empowering them to prevent some of the main causes of undernutrition within their own homes and communities.
Linda and her daughter, Teal, observing a community meeting in Kenya. Photo: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger
It was also a privilege to visit Outpatient Therapeutic Programs (OTPs), which empower families to largely care for their malnourished children at home, instead of having to travel long distances to seek inpatient care in centralized health facilities. Visiting these programs, I learned that Action Against Hunger not only treats children for malnutrition, but also trains more than 150 health workers to manage high-impact nutrition interventions. I also learned how the team’s work focuses on capacity building within communities, ensuring that individuals and families have the knowledge, services, and skills to lead healthy lives long after the organization concludes its programs there.
I spoke with local water committees too, learning about Action Against Hunger’s efforts to improve access to clean water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene. I noted the variety of community water pumps that Action Against Hunger provided, and the gardens that have started around those water points—gardens that are now a source of food security and income.
Linda met local water committees trained by Action Against Hunger. Photo: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger
Much of our focus within Google Food Services has been on tackling malnutrition and supporting the power of community-based treatment programs that use Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) to restore a malnourished child to health. Despite what I already knew, I was amazed to see just how comprehensive Action Against Hunger’s programs are, targeting the underlying causes of hunger. Integrating nutrition, health, water and sanitation, food security and livelihoods—their approach is truly holistic. I left Kenya with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the work that Action Against Hunger is doing to transform entire communities—within Kenya and around the world. I was particularly pleased to see such powerful evidence that the funds Googlers have provided as stakeholders in Action Against Hunger’s work are delivering responsible, sustainable solutions and services to reduce hunger and improve lives.