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 Faunista Mhadisa’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Faunista, 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?
I was born and raised in Ukwega. I completed my secondary school education at Ipalamwa Secondary School. I grew up with my parents and we had a normal life. I appreciate Ukwega because the environment is favorable to everyone and there is fertile land and many crops can be grown here. But, personally, I hope to have the chance to live somewhere else to experience a different life and learn how other people love their environment.
My husband is originally from Pommern, but he moved to Ukwega when the government offered him a teaching job at Ukwega Primary School. He studied through secondary school and then he went to teaching college. He is very supportive in everything concerning me and our children. I farm for a living, mostly beans and corn. We also have bananas and avocados.
I usually wake up at 6:00 in the morning to conduct my day-to-day domestic activities before going to the farm. I spend most of my time in the field. I fetch water very close to my house – it just takes me five minutes back and forth. When I get time to relax, I usually spend time with my children and sometimes I sleep. I do not have much time with friends because most of the time we are all busy with the work in the field.
What can you tell us about your children, Faunista?
Ebenezer likes to play with her younger sister. She likes her so much. She is in Standard Five and her performance at school is very good. She is always in the top five students in her class. I’m proud of her for that. She is almost always number one in the examination results. She knows how to read, count, and write very well. My children have become very healthy in the RCP Program because through workshops I have been learning how to keep them healthy. I am very happy to see them healthy all the time. Ebenezer always tells me that she wants to be a pilot or a doctor. I encourage her to study hard to realize her dreams. My husband and I are also working very hard to make sure they go to good schools for better education and are able to realize their dreams in the future.
“My children have become very healthy in the RCP Program because through workshops I have been learning how to keep them healthy. I am very happy to see them healthy all the time.”– Faunista Mhadisa, RCP mom
Have the Rise Against Hunger meals and fortified porridge been important for you and your children’s nutrition? What other foods does your family eat?
The Rise Against Hunger meals have been very important to me and my children. When cooking the meals, I only add onions, a bit of oil, and a little salt. For me personally, when I was breastfeeding Ester and eating the meals, I always produced enough milk for her. When Ester was young, she liked breastmilk more than solid food. I felt stronger when I ate the meals and they are very delicious. The meals were so helpful in that regard. The other foods we eat are ugali, potatoes, meat, rice, cooked bananas, vegetables, and fruits. Ebenezer likes vegetables a lot, so I give her vegetables at every meal. She always gets three meals per day. I still make porridge at home. We take corn to the milling station to get it made into corn flour, and we use that for porridge.
Ebenezer also receives two meals at school each day. She likes the Rise Against Hunger meals so much and since she started eating them, she has become very active. The meals at school have had a significant impact on Ebenezer because when students eat meals – either the Rise Against Hunger meals or the Global Volunteers porridge – before they start their studies, students can be attentive in class rather than thinking about their empty stomachs.
When you learned about hand-washing stations, what did you decide to do at home? How has the hand-washing station helped your family?
The hand-washing stations have been very helpful and important to my family and me. I was very happy when I learned about handwashing and the hand-washing stations at the RCP Center because I discovered that I was not doing things right. Before the workshop, we took washing our hands as a minor issue. We used to suffer from stomach fever almost every month and we couldn’t discover the reason for it, but in the workshop, I learned why that was. After attending the hand-washing workshop, I shared the knowledge with my husband at home and I started to teach Ebenezer as well. Ever since we started using the hand-washing station, we stopped experiencing diarrhea. I also use the hand-washing station to clean my little one when she gets dirty so that she can be aware that she has to be washing her hands many times. This is a very good practice for everyone in the community to adopt.
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?
I have learned about dental hygiene and I have changed from brushing my teeth once to twice per day. I have trained my family to do that as well. Also, I did not know the importance of vaccination timing, but now I am aware and I vaccinate my children on time. With my older child, I was sometimes delaying so much with some of the vaccinations, which was very dangerous. But I have changed this as well. I currently boil drinking water, which I didn’t use to do, either. Also, with Ester, I give her some fruits or something light to eat in between the three meals per day. I always maintain cleanliness and make sure that my children eat all the foods on time and I take them to the clinic as soon as I notice any unusual changes.
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 they always give out the appropriate medicine since they diagnose the illness before prescribing any medication. This service is not available at our dispensaries.
“The meals at school have had a significant impact on Ebenezer because when students eat meals – either the Rise Against Hunger meals or the Global Volunteers porridge – before they start their studies, students can be attentive in class rather than thinking about their empty stomachs.”– Faunista Mhadisa, RCP mom
What are your family’s biggest challenges? How do you try to address them?
Financial challenges are always there, but we work hard to make sure we provide for all the family’s needs as we are supposed to.
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in one year? In 3 years?
I’m very happy when I see my family because we are living peacefully. In the next few years, I would like to learn tailoring so that I can also earn money through designing other people’s clothes. I would like to be a famous businesswoman in the village and outside the village and be a good tailor and designer.
What values from your ancestors and cultures are you trying to maintain?
When a man wants to marry a woman, he needs to submit a letter through his messenger to the woman’s family to express that he wants to marry their daughter. Then, if the letter is accepted, the man needs to pay a dowry before marriage. Also, we help each other in case of any events like funerals and celebrations.
What aspects of the RCP Program have especially helped you in the last year? What have you learned and implemented at home?
In the last year my family has been doing great without any health concerns. We are really thankful for the education we have been receiving from Global Volunteers concerning health as it has helped my family very much. I share everything I learn with my family and this has affected them positively.
Home visits have been very helpful to me since if I have any problem, I normally communicate with my RCP Caregiver for help. Also, the Ipalamwa General Clinic has been helpful to my family since we get free medical services.
I have been learning about hygiene and control of infectious diseases through the practice of handwashing at home. This is the thing which greatly helps me and my family to be healthy since it has reduced the occurrence of diarrhea in my family.
What are your hopes and dreams for Ebenezer and Ester?
I hope Ebenezer will always be as bright as she is now and is able to go further for higher studies so that she can become a lawyer. I hope Ester can study very hard and become a businesswoman in the future.