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 Estida Mlengela’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Estida, we’re interested in your background and your daily life. Can you tell us about where you grew up and what a normal day is like for you?
My husband and I were born and raised here in Lulindi. My education level is standard 7. We support each other in everything. I usually wake up at 5:00 in the morning to do some domestic activities and prepare food to take out the field since we always stay there for the whole day. We farm beans, corn, peanuts, avocados, bananas, vegetables, potatoes, and cassava. We fetch water just five minutes from here back and forth. When I get time to relax, I always read my Holy Bible and on Sundays I can have a little time with my friends. There are many services in Lulindi because there is water availability and many shops around, and it also has fertile land to cultivate as many crops as you would want.
What can you tell us about your daughter, Lustika, and what she likes to do?
Lustika always likes to imitate what I do. For example, when I cook, she is also pretending she is cooking with her toy cooking utensils and when I’m doing cleaning, she also wants to do the same. She also likes fetching water and playing around with her fellows.
My child has improved a lot since the program started because I have been learning a lot and applying what I learn to my child. I hope she will be a better person in the future because the way I see her, even her understanding is very wide. She is bright. She has started kindergarten at Mawaki Kindergarten. She is a fast learner and her learning capacity is good. I will work hard to support her educationally so that she can be what she wants to become in future.
Has the fortified porridge been important for your and your child’s nutrition? What other foods does your family eat?
The fortified porridge was very helpful to me and my child. We used to have the porridge twice a day. My child and I became very healthy when we started eating the porridge. Before, my child was a little weak but as soon as we started with porridge, she quickly recovered and her weight was not decreasing. I was very sad when we stopped getting the porridge from the program, but our caregivers taught us how we can make porridge out of grains that we have available. So from there, I decided to make porridge for my child on my own. The porridge I make has a mixture of corns, beans, peanuts, and sardines. So this was a good alternative and my child has continued to be healthy. Currently, she also eats other foods like ugali, beans, vegetables, fish, meat, sardines, bananas, potatoes, cassava, and fruits, mainly avocados and bananas. We always get three meals per day, but sometimes even more for Lustika.
When you learned about hand-washing stations, what did you decide to do at home? How has the hand-washing station helped your family?
When I first learned about hand-washing stations through the hand-washing workshop, I went back home and taught my family about it. My husband agreed and he has been very supportive in this matter to date. At that time, my child was too young to use the hand-washing station on her own. But once she was three years old, I taught her how to use the hand-washing station. She is always very excited to wash her hands at the hand-washing station. If she is not inside the house, then you will find her outside by the hand-washing station washing her hands. She likes using it very much. This is a good practice because ever since we started using the hand-washing stations, we are no longer suffering from stomach fever and diarrhea. Before, we had many trips to the dispensary because of that matter.
“She is always very excited to wash her hands at the hand-washing station. This is a good practice because ever since we started using the hand-washing stations, we are no longer suffering from stomach fever and diarrhea. Before, we had many trips to the dispensary because of that matter.”– Estida Mlengela, 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 you children? What are you doing differently now?
The program has been very helpful for me to change. I learned about family planning methods and especially how to use a calendar. This has been very helpful to me for sure. I never knew whether a calendar could work properly, but after the workshop, I decided to practice it and it has been working very well. I wish we could have gotten this knowledge many years ago.
Also, my family and I have improved so much on hygiene matters, especially hand hygiene, to the point that we are not having regular sicknesses as we were before. I’m very grateful to the program because it has opened our eyes and made us aware of many things.
In what other ways as you educating yourself about improving health, nutrition, and cognition?
I usually make sure that Lustika eats all the meals I have prepared and I feed her a variety of foods. I also make sure she stays clean all the time and sometimes I have time to play with her.
What aspects of the RCP Program have especially helped you in the last year?
The aspect of the RCP Program which has helped me and my family the most was the workshop on handwashing and control of infectious diseases. After Lustika has been out playing with other children, she comes and washes her hands with soap. Also, all members of the family wash our hands with soap and water when we come home after having been out.
“The program has been very helpful for me to change. I learned about family planning methods and especially how to use a calendar. This has been very helpful to me for sure. I wish we could have gotten this knowledge many years ago.”– Estida Mlengela
If you have been using the clinic services in Ipalamwa, how are they different from medical services available before the clinic opened?
The services at the Ipalamwa General Clinic are great because of the professionalism and the equipment they have. Also, they are very welcoming and treat patients well.
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in the future?
I’m very happy with my child and she is always my comforter when I’m depressed. In a few years, I have a plan of keeping pigs and selling them. My hopes and dreams for Lustika as her mother are that she can have good performance in school and if God wishes, later on in life she can become a doctor.