By Michron Robinson
The call is getting louder for school children all across Barbados to ditch sugary beverages and drink more water.
Making that call, and answering it as well, on Monday, was the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados and the Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, which donated a water system to the St Lawrence Primary School in partnership with the Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies.
Fusionz partly sponsored the water cooler and representative Muhammed Ali Kothdiwala recalled his experience with battling diabetes saying that sugary drinks are not worth it.
“Water is the most precious gift. We often take it for granted. It is the pure and healthy alternative to the many sugary drinks which are negatively affecting our youth. I was diagnosed with diabetes almost 40 years ago. I am almost 72 years old now. I have been able to bring my diabetes under control after all that time. Take it from me, sugary drinks are not worth it,” he warned.
Kothdiwala said he hopes the children would embrace the new cooler.
“We admire the entities fighting the non-communicable disease crisis – those making sure our children operate in a healthy environment, in body, mind and soul. We hope that the children will make use of the water cooler. Water is your lifeline,” he urged.
Meanwhile, Principal of the St Lawrence Primary School Lorraine Gittens said that with the increase in cases of childhood obesity, the water cooler will become an important element for her students. “The donation of this water cooler is yet another integral tool in our arsenal in the fight to ensure our students are and remain healthy. It is timely, as water is not only a wonderful alternative to the sweetened beverages, which our children love to consume, but it is beneficial to the effective functioning of the body,” Gittens reminded.
The gift of the cooler, the Principal added, can even go so far as to stave off the prevalence of childhood obesity. “We thank you for your thoughtful, relevant, and vital contribution to our school. It will be one of the major elements needed and utilised to curb childhood obesity.”
During her remarks, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Michelle Daniel said that the reality is that there are more children presenting with hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes at the Foundation. It is for that reason she said that changes must be made environmentally. “There is a very solid reason why civil society organisations and governments are working together to [make] a change in our environments, starting with school environments such as this one.”
She said the school nutrition policy is not to be seen as a punishment but as a golden light for children to be able to live a long life. “Each of you has a responsibility in making change. This policy is on paper, but if we believe in the positive outcomes of it, we must be prepared to put our hands to the plough in order to assist with implementation.”
The CEO also reminded the audience of the benefits of water. “Water is life – don’t waste it. Water is the best natural remedy. You can drink your way to better health. There’s a Slovakian proverb that says pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.”
During her brief remarks, Senior Education Officer representing Nursery and Primary Schools, Dr Christina Morris, recalled the work that the Ministry of Education is doing across the board to ensure health and wellness is at the forefront. While pinpointing the big step of the recent launch of the National Nutrition Policy, Dr Morris said that she is looking forward to even more partnerships with the private sector. “I am sure the water cooler will complement all the other initiatives you have here and I want to encourage you to make water your beverage of choice on a daily basis,” she said.
Representing the Association of Muslim Ladies (BAML) was Khadija Bakharia, who urged the students to embrace the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Drink More Water campaign. “We support the importance of access to clean drinking water… Our association is very concerned with the statistics that one in every three children and teens aged two to 19 are considered overweight – with sugar sweetened beverages contributing to this epidemic. The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Drink More Water campaign should be embraced by all of you. We invite everyone to play their part in this campaign,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, a fit break was delivered by youth advocate Matthew Bourne, who led a short exercise session in stretching, running on the spot, squats and other fat-burning moves.
Also in attendance was programme officer with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Francine Charles, youth advocate Taahir Bulbulia and Chairman of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition Suleiman Bulbulia.
Headboy and Headgirl of St Lawrence Primary, Amari Hutson and Khristal Dhranraj, respectively, were on hand to receive the cooler. (MR)