In this series, families in the Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) Demonstration Program in Tanzania explain how their participation improves their lives. Global Volunteers’ RCP Program engages short-term volunteers to help parents deliver essential services improving health, eradicating hunger, and enhancing cognition – with the goal of eliminating child stunting in the Ukwega Ward and throughout Tanzania. Through RCP, families obtain the nutrition, health care, knowledge, technology, and encouragement needed to combat stunting, and to ensure their children can realize their full potential. The RCP Program is a child-focused, parent-driven, family-centered, and community-led comprehensive effort. It begins with pregnancy, and continues through the 18th birthday, with a focus on the first 1,000 days of life. Read on for Agness Tula‘s interview about the RCP Program.
Agness: What can you tell us about your life in Ipalamwa? Were you born and raised here? Did you attend school in the village?
My husband Neto Makongwa and I were born and raised here in Ipalamwa and we had our primary education at Fikano Primary school. My husband is the one who is supporting me in everything. We have six children together. Our oldest son, Halodi Makongwa, is 20 years old and lives in Dar with one of my relatives. My second son, Rashid Makongwa is 15 years old and just completed standard 7 (Grade 7). My oldest daughter, Happy Makongwa, is 14 years old and is in form one at Ukwega Secondary School. Another son, Stephano Makongwa, is 12 years old and is in standard (grade) 4. My second daughter, Anna Makongwa, is 10 years old and is in standard (grade) 2. My baby, Meshack Makongwa, is one years and two months.
My oldest children are hard workers, they love sports and studying. Nowadays the ones who are at the primary school have become more active since they started to receive the Rise Against Hunger (RAH) meals. Their performance is also good, and I hope they will keep on being that way. I wish my children could reach to the higher levels of education and be better people who will help me when I’m old. I am working hard to make sure I provide for all the needs my children have. Challenges are always present, but as parents we usually make sure that everything is on point especially on the matter of food to the family. We farm together, and we grow beans and corns and other crops like sweet potatoes, yams and vegetables.
What have you learned from the RCP Program?
Since I joined RCP in September, 2018, I have learned so much like how to get rid of diseases such as diarrhea and coughing. For instance, at a workshop I was taught how to treat a cough using the steam of the Eucalyptus leaves. Since I treated my child this way, he is no longer suffering from coughing. I’m always ready to leave all other activities when I hear about the workshops. Home visits too are important to me because we are reminded of the things that we are supposed to do. The way my last child, Mashack, is growing is very different from other children that I have. I was raising the previous ones without great knowledge that we have now. In that matter, I find that my baby is growing very well compared to others.
“I find that my baby is growing very well compared to others. I thank God that the program has come to our village.”Agness Tula
I thank God that the program has come to our village. Our lives have been assured to some extent because we can get great health services quickly. Formerly, we were just thinking of going to Iringa for the birth of our children, which was very costly and high-risk, because most babies were delivered on the way, and sometimes mothers or babies die. But since the program is here, we are benefiting from a lot of services and for free. The services are great at the Ipalamwa General Clinic (IGC). Even in Iringa, where we usually pay money, there are no great services as here. The reception is also the best and the clinic have the professionals which is also a benefit. Whenever I go to IGC, I feel comfortable and satisfied with their services.
How important is the hand-washing station in your everyday life?
We have got a lot of advantages from the hand-washing workshop and hand-washing station because formerly we didn’t consider the importance of hand washing, which resulted in the attack of diseases like coughing, fungus, diarrhea and stomach fever. When I attended the workshop, I learned that we were supposed to be washing our hands after many activities. Now I know it works because as soon as we started to practice, the rate of diseases went down.
Now I use the hand-washing station after coming from the bathroom, after changing my baby’s diapers and before/after eating and cooking. At the beginning, it was difficult because we were not used to the behavior of washing hands regularly. It was also difficult to train my children, but I kept on insisting them to do it for their health. Now it has become a habit of the whole house, and everyone knows to wash hands frequently.
“I pray for the coronavirus to end so that we can receive more volunteers!“Agness Tula
How important are the Rise Against Hunger (RAH) meals to your family?
The meals are very important to us because first of all they reduce hunger. My baby is usually full and his weight keeps on increasing. As soon as he started to eat that food, he became healthy and active all the time. Meshack loves the meals and ugali so much! I always add salt and oil in the meals and we usually eat with beans or vegetables. We also eat cooked bananas, potatoes, beans, vegetables every day and fruits like avocados and banana. All of my children are not picky so they eat everything that we are providing. The RAH meals have been impacting me so much because I have been experiencing the heavy flow of enough breast milk.
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in the future?
I feel very happy and peaceful whenever I see my family. They have been very helpful to me in so many ways and I hope they will still be in the future. In few years to come, we have a plan of building another house since the one that we have now is small compared to the number of my family members. But for now, I am satisfied and I look forward to learning more about caring for my family. I love everything about the RCP Program, and I wish I had joined the program since the beginning when it started. I benefit from the volunteers who usually come and present the workshops. They have been very helpful. I pray for the coronavirus to end so that we can receive more volunteers!