Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Photos courtesy of Save the Children Jordan

Every Child’s Superfood!

Paediatrician Dr Aseel Jallad with her boy

Like every mother, I want to give my child the best start in life. So while breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to me, I knew that determination would pay off – both for me and my baby. Granted, I had the luxury of giving birth at one of the top maternity hospitals in Jordan, with a lactation consultant on duty to help advise. Even when I went home, I knew she was just a phone call away. 
Now imagine pregnant women fleeing war torn countries, making the dangerous journey across treacherous terrain and giving birth in refugee camps in Jordan. There are on average about 16 deliveries per week in Zaatari refugee camp, home to 80,000 Syrian refugees. 

Fortunately, Save the Children Jordan is working to address the unique healthcare needs of expectant and new mothers, in part through the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Programme. The programme helps pregnant women and mothers overcome significant barriers to successful breastfeeding in order to support: 

*Early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth
*Exclusive breastfeeding for infants under six months 
*Appropriate and timely introduction of complementary food along with breastfeeding after six months

While breastfeeding seems like a personal matter, the reality is that it has far-reaching implications and should be a concern for us all – in Jordan and all over the world. After all, breastfeeding has little to no cost and can have a profound effect on health globally. 

The Hard Facts
Newborn deaths represent nearly half of all the seven million child deaths under five years of age (mainly from preventable causes). Immediate breastfeeding (putting the baby to the mother’s breast within an hour after birth) significantly reduces child mortality. Yet, less than half of the world’s newborns benefit from early breastfeeding and even fewer are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. If all women around the world breastfed their babies immediately after birth, the lives of almost one million babies a year could be saved. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months could save even more lives!

It’s hard to believe that so few women breastfeed when it has a profound impact on a child’s survival, health, nutrition and development. Breastfeeding gives children the healthiest start in life and is one of the simplest, smartest and most cost-effective ways we have of ensuring that all children survive and thrive. 

Breastfeeding Saves Lives
In an emergency setting, limited access to clean water, sterilised feeding bottles and appropriate and timely health services can have devastating effects on children. Thus, breastfeeding, even under difficult situations like political conflicts and natural disasters, is known to be the safest way to protect infants and young children from an increased risk of infection, malnutrition and even death.

Breastfeeding can prevent:
*Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
*Childhood illness 
*Health problems (allergies, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, respiratory infections)
*Chronic conditions later in life (obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, childhood asthma and childhood leukaemia)

Breastfeeding can improve:
*Growth and physical development 
*Brain development 
*Cognitive performance 
*The special bond between mother and baby (this is important for a child’s sense of wellbeing and security well into adulthood)

Breastfeeding can protect a mother’s health:
*Helps reduce the risk of bleeding after delivery (responsible for around 25% of maternal mortality worldwide)
*Reduces breast, uterine and ovarian cancer

Breastfeeding has even more benefits for women: 
*Help the uterus return to its normal size more quickly
*Helps in losing the pregnancy weight
*Is more than 98% effective as a contraceptive method during the first six months, provided that breastfeeding is exclusive and amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) persists
*Is convenient, always clean and at the right temperature and available anytime, anywhere!

For more information about the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Programme or other initiatives, contact Save the Children Jordan by calling +962-6-5662012 or emailing

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A+ for Effort!

We assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability (along with confidence in that ability) is a recipe for success. Research findings suggest, however, that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves us vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to see or work on our shortcomings.

When we tell our children they’re smart, we think we’re helping to boost their self-confidence. We all know the importance of self-confidence for doing well not just academically but in life. I grew up with a low-esteem which meant I found challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. Research suggests that those who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. I was paralysed with self-critical thoughts such as "I'm no good" or "I can't do anything right” and became passive, withdrawn and even depressed. Faced with any new challenge, my immediate response was "I can't." 

And it wasn’t because I didn’t get enough praise but perhaps because of it. When my parents, teachers or others would praise me for being “smart”, I quickly got the message that I’m only smart when I get the grade, accomplish the goal or produce the ideal result — and that was a lot of pressure to live up to. I worried more about keeping up the appearance of being "smart" rather than trying to learn new skills. Now studies show that when we tell kids they’re smart after they’ve completed a puzzle, they’re less likely to attempt a more difficult puzzle after. That’s because kids are worried that if they don’t do well, they will no longer be regarded as “smart.”

Now that I have children of my own, I avoid generic, sweeping comments and instead:

*I tell them that I appreciate their effort – “Wow, you really tried hard on that!” By focusing on the effort, rather than the result, I’m letting my children know what really counts. 

*I tell them that intelligence is something to be developed through hard work. This way, my children can take increasingly greater risks in order to learn. Thus, when they make mistakes, they can work hard to learn from them.

*I tell them that we never stop learning. We all have the ability to learn and grow and this process never ends, regardless of who we are, how “smart” we are, how old we are. 

*I tell them the importance of perseverance. I think we falsely over-value intelligence as a predictor of life success. We can all tell stories of "book smart" people we know who struggled to take risks and walked away when a project turned difficult. On the flip side, we have also seen the power and success of perseverance, a strong work ethic and persistent effort. 

*I tell them about the achievements of others, including so-called geniuses whose gifts are typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that came automatically. Mozart, Edison, Curie and Darwin were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline in school, at work and in life contribute more to achievement than IQ does.

*I tell them that challenges and mistakes are opportunities for improvement. When they encounter difficulty, I want them to continue to strive, learn and hone their skills. Instead of dwelling on their failures, I want them to think of mistakes as problems to be solved, and transform insecurities into motivation, strength and wisdom. 

*I tell them it’s okay to admit errors and confront and remedy deficiencies in school, at work and in relationships. When we are unwilling to admit mistakes, we pass up the opportunity to correct them. There are plenty of “smart” people in the world who ignore constructive criticism and advice but we all need feedback to improve. 

*I tell them that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use and that learning prompts neurons in the brain to grow new connections. Thus, my kids can begin to see themselves as agents of their own brain development. 

Sirsa Qursha, Child Development and Parenting Specialist and consultant to Family Flavours magazine, recommends praise for the specific process a child uses to accomplish something. This fosters motivation and confidence by focusing children on the actions that lead to success. we can commend effort, strategies, focus, persistence in the face of difficulty and willingness to take on challenges. The following are examples:

*You did a good job drawing. I like the detail you added to the people's faces

*I like the way you tried a lot of different strategies on that maths problem until you finally got it

*That was a hard assignment, but you stuck with it until you got it done. That's great!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Grand Hyatt Amman Helps Us Celebrate 
9 Years of Family Flavours 

On the sweet side, breakfast of course has to include doughnuts in the shape of circles to complement our Family Flavours circles. These are coated with dark chocolate and pistachio. Berry crumble, red currant muffins, chocolate croissants, kiwi fruit danish, hazelnut twist, poppy seed breakfast cake and freshly made pancakes with all the toppings is anniversary sweet heaven for us.

But you won't find Pastry Chef Norbert Stanni of Grand Hyatt Amman by the pastries on this particular morning. Taking us back to his roots, Chef Norbert gives us a taste of his assortment of dark bread made with rye flour (sunflower, pumpkin seed and cereal - the variety of grains is fun for this Master Baker) and his favourite, braided semi-sweet bread. Moist and soft, it's perfect with butter or honey although I like it even on its own. For the health conscious of the bunch, Chef Norbert assures them that bread is good for you; it's what you put on it that matters. 

Top left: Chef Norbert waiting for the muffins to cool down a bit with Al Marji' Publications' Publisher & Managing Director Hind-Lara Mango
Bottom right: Chef Norbert offering Hanin Odeh, Director General of the Royal Health Awareness Society, bread and warm hospitality

Here, the team enjoying a well-earned break while Sous Chef Bilal Abu Hamida fills us in on the savoury selection, which includes cold cuts, roasted flank steak, salmon (and all its condiments), mixed green salad, and an assortment of cheeses, including goat cheese, some coated with parsley and some with sumac.

While Chef Bilal is here for our anniversary 11:00 breakfast gift, it was only recently that he worked a breakfast for a wedding party at three in the morning. Yes, breakfast is now evolving to provide more opportunities for the gracious hosts and hostesses of Jordan. Why end a wedding party at three when you and your guests are probably ready for breakfast after all that dancing!
At Al Marji' Publications, our experts and clients are truly an extension of 
our team

Top left: Hind with Amal Younis (BabyCord Jordan) and Pediatric Dentist Dr Mai Tayeh. Top right: Chef Norbert Stanni, Bailasan Badwan Public Relations Manager at Grand Hyatt Amman, and Hanin Odeh, Director General of the Royal Health Awareness Society

More of the team and partners, including Life Coach Samar Sabha (bottom left) and ARDD-Legal Aid Gender and Media Unit Manger Lana Zananiri and Media & Communications Officer Hani Okasheh

Team members, experts, partners, including Grand Hyatt Amman's chefs, sign our guest book

Executive Chef Thomas Brosnan takes a few minutes to write us a few uplifting words. Our nine year anniversary is a memorable one for him as well. Nine years ago was Chef Thomas' first year joining the Hyatt family, first in Dubai. "Joining such a large hotel coming from a small restaurant background, I was like a fish out of water," he recalls. "But I never looked back." As we witness Chef Thomas at work with his team, and his rapport with us, it's clear that his small restaurant background is precisely what the large chain hotel needed.

Thank you Grand Hyatt Amman and thank you to team members, experts, partners, clients and readers who give us a reason to celebrate year after year!

Monday, September 14, 2015

"A Blessing in Disguise" 

As Family Flavours celebrates turning 9 this month, I look back at some of my favourite magazine covers. This December 2012 cover of the Qushair family is special to me as they share with us that “having a child with special needs in your family is a blessing in disguise”. 

Diagnosed with Global Development Delay (GDD) at just 8 months, Rakan inspires all those around him. “Having a child with special needs in your family is a blessing in disguise!,” say Rakan's parents Serene and Ramzi Qushair. “We see it as a positive journey that is full of experiences, people and a new appreciation of life.”

As active members of SANA For Special Individuals, a non-profit organisation providing support to families affected by disabilities, Serene and Ramzi firmly stand by the idea that raising awareness and acceptance of children like Rakan is crucial to their integration into society.

Yanal enjoys playing guitar for his brother Rakan, who is a budding music-lover,
while Yasmine enjoys reading to Rakan

One of the ways that Family Flavours is unique in the realm of magazines locally and worldwide is in its embracing of diversity, including children and adults of different abilities and disabilities. While magazines typically Photoshop images to erase wrinkles, bulges and scars, Family Flavours portrays families as they really are.

Lina Masri, national coordinator of Faith and Light Jordan, tells Family Flavours, “Everywhere now, people have to be intelligent, attractive and strong to be loved," Lina once told me. At Faith and Light, people are loved as they are and have the opportunity to recognise and use their gifts and discover the joy of friendship.

In June 2015, Prince Mir’ed bin Ra’ad, President of the Higher Council for Affairs of People with Disabilities (HCD), tells Family Flavours, “Inclusion is important for all of us – people with disabilities and people without.”

The International Community School is a pioneer in inclusive education in Jordan. According to former Principal John Bastable, whose term in Jordan just ended, "Schools play an important role for people with and without disabilities. We learn from the challenges of others. School is about much more than reading, writing, maths and science. It’s about learning to be a decent human being.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

What Does Family Mean To You?
I posed this question to experts in different fields, all regular contributors to Family Flavours magazine which celebrates its 9th year this month. Their reflections are testament to the powerful influence family has on who we are. 

Taken in 2005 when Sally's parents lived in Cairo

"Their smiles, hugs and habibtees break through any barriers"
Sally Hurst

Private Chef & Food Blogger

My family and I are very close because we grew up living in different countries around the world, moving every couple of years. We depended heavily on each other to be the one constant in our lives. Friends might change, apartments would be different, the languages would be unfamiliar, schools would be new, but my parents and sisters (and a few special pets) would always remain the same. My two sisters and I were so lucky to have such a unique upbringing – it's like we're part of a secret club!

Now, even though I'm in Jordan and my family is in the United States, we make an effort to stay in touch several times a week through Facetime and Skype and keep those bonds strong. I love being able to watch my nephews and niece grow older and technology thankfully allows us to stay close and lets me bear witness to their adorable quirks and new tricks. When we're together for holidays, there's nothing I enjoy more than preparing sumptuous feasts for us all to share. It’s my own very personal way of showing my love and affection for them.

My dear husband's Jordanian Circassian family has embraced me warmly and with enthusiasm! I'm included in their outings, learning more about their unique and special culture. I'm still adjusting to certain customs and trying desperately to learn Arabic so I can speak to each and every one of them, but their smiles and hugs and habibatees break through any barriers that might exist. I'm so lucky to have these lovely people to add as new members of my family while my one back home gets to enjoy my stories and know that I'm being well looked after.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Taking caring of a baby is physically exhausting. Young babies need almost-constant care, require rituals to get them to eat, stop crying or fall asleep and then there is the never-ending supply of dirty diapers and soiled clothes. 

Now that Omar is seven years old, all that is a thing of the past so I thought it’s smooth sailing from here. But now he’s entering the stage of life where’s he’s having to deal with all kinds of emotions, including all those that come with facing peer pressure and rejection. 

When I found him in bed crying at bedtime last night and he didn’t have the words to express himself, I knew right then that we are entering a new phase of parental challenges – and this one is mentally exhausting

Some children, like Omar, are sometimes unable to express their emotions verbally because they are shy, are too emotionally overwhelmed to use the needed vocabulary or are afraid of expressing their feelings. So here’s what I'm working on: 

Giving permission to feel and express emotions: It’s very tempting when my child expresses a negative feeling to say “You shouldn’t feel that way” or to downplay it and attempt to shift focus to a positive feeling. It’s important though for children to feel they are safe in feeling and expressing negative emotions. 

Using art: I encourage my child to draw, colour or sculpt his feelings.

Encouraging writing: The simple act of writing down feelings is a powerful way to express emotions. Older children may even use poetry, song writing or short-stories.

Being a role model: This is something I’m really working on as it’s quite tempting in the hectic pace of life and through the struggles of parenting to lose my temper and lash out. I often take brief “time outs” throughout the day just to breathe and remind myself that whatever I’m dealing with in that moment is not worth taking it out on the kids (or anyone else). Practicing responsible emotional management is a fundamental part of teaching children the life-long skill of handling emotions.

Different phases in our lives bring different challenges. Part of my role as a parent is to help equip my children with life skills, like how to process and manage their emotions. Instead of drowning in the face of life’s difficulties, I want them to be able to ride the hurdles like a wave!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Work Life at Al Marji' Publications

I've always been fascinated by the inner workings of any organization, company or even marriage. In Family Flavours' 9th anniversary edition (September 2015), readers get a glimpse into our working lives and our flavourful times as a team. 

Of course we're all smiles here - you won't see the occasional heated debate or the days when we're looking tired, worn out and half asleep from looming deadlines and unforeseen challenges - but you're still getting a pretty good authentic view of what it's like to work at Al Marji' Publications...and be a part of the Family Flavours family. 


Above is Family Flavours work by day: meeting with our Publisher & Managing Director to go over corrections and plan future editions

Below is Family Flavours work by night: in my PJs at home reviewing the blueprint 

This card below is one of the many beautiful and special cards I've received over the years from our Publisher & Managing Director, Hind-Lara Mango. I've kept them all.