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 Aika Kiungo’s interview about the RCP Program here.
We’re interested in learning about your normal daily life, where you and your husband are from, and how you earn a living, Aika.
I was born and raised in another village called Boma La Ng’ombe and my husband is from here in Ipalamwa. My education level is Form Four and I acquired it from Ipalamwa Secondary School in 2017. My husband’s education level is Standard 7, but he went to masonry school, also. My husband is supportive in everything. We farm beans, corn, avocados, and bananas, and we also keep chickens and guinea pigs. My husband also does some masonry work.
I usually wake up at 5:00 in the morning and do domestic activities and prepare food for me and my child. When my child wakes up, I help him brush his teeth and I feed him before we go to the farm. I do not go to the farm every day. It just depends on the activities I have planned for a day. When I get time to relax, sometimes I play with my child, tell stories with my friends, or read books.
Can you tell me a bit about your son, Mikael? How did you choose his name?
Mikael likes to play with soccer balls and he also likes dancing when music is on. Sometimes when I’m busy here at home, I just turn on the music and leave him dancing while I’m doing my activities. He also likes to play with his fellow children. I got his name from the Bible because the day he was born was the children’s celebration at church and we usually call it “Mikael”. Also, Mikael is a children’s angel and that is why I decided to name him Mikael. My child’s health has improved since I joined the program. I learned a lot about how to feed him and keep him healthy. All of this has been so helpful to me. I want him to become better economically and educationally. I’m working hard to make sure I provide him with everything he needs to grow better.
“My child’s health has improved since I joined the program. I learned a lot about how to feed him and keep him healthy. All of this has been so helpful to me.”– Aika Kiungo, RCP mom
How have the EarthBoxes helped you supplement your family’s nutrition?
I was very happy when I was informed that I would be provided with EarthBoxes because I would be able to have vegetables and fruits at any time. At first, I had spinach in the EarthBoxes and I benefited a lot from all the spinach we were able to harvest. Later on, I was provided with cucumbers and tomatoes and those are very helpful. I usually water the EarthBoxes every day in order to continue getting good outcomes. Sometimes I make salads with cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. EarthBoxes are very crucial to my family because we can get vitamins and nutrients without struggling.
“EarthBoxes are very crucial to my family because we can get vitamins and nutrients without struggling.”– Aika Kiungo, RCP mom
Have the Rise Against Hunger meals been important for your family’s nutrition?
The Rise Against Hunger meals have been very important to me and my child because when I was breastfeeding, I always had enough breast milk for my child and I felt strong. The meals have also been helpful to my child because he was very weak before the meal program and he was very picky with food. His weight was a bit stagnant, but after starting the Rise Against Hunger meals, his weight has increased. He loves the meals so much and other foods as well now. The meals have been helpful to me because I don’t have to think of what I should cook for the two of us in the morning. Instead, I just cook the meals and eat them with tea. When cooking them, I only add salt and oil. My child and I always eat the meals twice per day. Other foods that we eat are ugali, rice, beans, sardines, fish, meat, potatoes, bananas, vegetables, and fruits. We always get three meals per day but between meals I always make sure that my child has some fruits as snacks.
When you learned about the hand-washing stations, what did you decide to do at home? What did you do to convince your family to practice good hygiene?
I was so excited when I first learned about the hand-washing station because I registered for the program late. That was because Ipalamwa is not my home village. When I moved to Ipalamwa, I really wanted to have a hand-washing station since I had seen them at many houses. I’m glad that I have the hand-washing station because it a very easy and safe technology to use. I shared the knowledge with my husband and insisted my child use the hand-washing station under my supervision since he is still very young so he needs help. Formerly, when someone came from the bathroom, we had to go inside the house and take a bowl to get water to wash our hands, which was not very safe. That is why we used to get diarrhea sometimes. But ever since we started using this safe method of washing our hands at the hand-washing station, we are all healthy and no longer suffering from stomach fever. The hand-washing station is the best way of washing hands without any contamination.
“Ever since we started using this safe method of washing our hands at the hand-washing station, we are all healthy and no longer suffering from stomach fever. The hand-washing station is the best way of washing hands without any contamination.”– Aika Kiungo, RCP mom
What are the personal changes you’ve made in your life since joining RCP that have resulted in better health for you and your children? What are you doing differently now?
The dental workshop has been very helpful to me because I used to brush my teeth once per day, but now I brush them twice a day – in the morning and the evening. I have also started to teach my child to use a toothbrush. Additionally, the menstrual kit workshop has been very helpful because formerly I was just using poor materials which made me uncomfortable sometimes. But now I have the menstrual kit, which is very accommodating and keeps good hygiene.
In what other ways are you educating yourself about improving health, nutrition, and cognition?
I make sure that my child eats on time and I prepare a variety of foods for him. Also, I continue to practice general hygiene for better health.
If you have been using the clinic services in Ipalamwa, how are they different from medical services available before the clinic opened?
The Ipalamwa General Clinic has very good services. First, they speak kindly to patients, and this makes patients feel comfortable and have assurance that they are going to be helped. Second, they offer quality services and professionalism. This clinic is very unique for sure and it is incomparable to other dispensaries in the villages.
“This clinic is very unique for sure and it is incomparable to other dispensaries in the villages.”– Aika Kiungo, RCP mom
What are your family’s biggest challenges? How do you try to address them?
There are always challenges in life and one of the challenges depends on the man. My husband is very good at providing, but I also wish to have things that will increase my income apart from farming only. In the near future, I have a plan to start a business outside my home to sell domestic goods.
What are you most proud of in your family?
I feel so happy when I see my family. When they are happy and healthy, I’m also happy. My child always gives me strength to work hard.
What values from your ancestors and cultures are you trying to maintain?
In this community, people love the local dance “Kiduo”. Whenever there is a celebration, many people like to dance this. Drums are played to give it sound.
What do you most appreciate about your village?
In Ipalamwa there is fertile land and it is easy to grow crops of any kind around here. There are enough fruits and natural foods. When someone works hard, they will not starve.