In this series, families in the Reaching Children’s Potential Program (RCP) 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 Jesneda Mtenda’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up, who you live with, and what a regular day is like for you, Jesneda?
I was born and raised in Ipalamwa. My education level is standard seven and I acquired it at Fikano Primary School in Ipalamwa. I live at my parents’ house with my parents and siblings. My parents are my great support in everything.
I usually wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. for cleanliness and other domestic activities. I was formerly working at a restaurant here in Ipalamwa and my family also farms beans and corn. But now I stopped working until my child reaches six months of age and then I will resume my daily activities. I always prepare three meals per day. We get water near our home, just five minutes from here. When I get time to relax, I love sleeping or sometimes telling stories with my friends. What I appreciate most about my village is that Ipalamwa has fertile land where people can grow a lot of crops without using many fertilizers.
What can you tell us about Clara? How did you decide on her name?
She loves laughing so much when she sees people, especially new people, around her. I picked her name from the Roman Catholic Book of Saints. She was born on the day of Saint Clara and that is why I gave her the name Clara. I’m very happy that I joined the program before my child was born because I got to learn a lot about hygiene and keeping my baby healthy. My baby is very happy and healthy all the time because I always practice what the caregiver advises me to do.
I want my child to be a better person in the future. I will do my best to help her reach her dreams even if I don’t get any support from her father. I hope she will have a better job like a doctor, teacher, or nurse. In the future, when she starts to gain understanding, I will start teaching and shaping her to her greatness.
“I’m very happy that I joined the program before my child was born because I got to learn a lot about hygiene and keeping my baby healthy. My baby is very happy and healthy all the time because I always practice what the caregiver advises me to do.”– Jesneda Mtenda, RCP mom
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?
The hand-washing station has been very helpful because my hands are clean all the time. Before I joined the RCP Program and received this hand-washing station, we were using a hand-washing station made from wood, but it was not very effective. My family was not interested in using it, but they just kept it to abide by the government’s rule that every house needs to have one.
When I attended the hand-washing workshop, I decided to teach my family about the importance of washing our hands regularly. We all started to practice handwashing by using the modern hand-washing station provided by the program. Now everyone washes their hands at the station and I always make sure that I put bleach in the water and all the pipes and the jug stay clean all the time. My family is healthy now and we are no longer undergoing stomach fever as we used to experience. Also, my child’s health is great because before touching or breastfeeding her, I always wash my hands with clean water and soap.
“My family is healthy now and we are no longer undergoing stomach fever as we used to experience.”– Jesneda Mtenda, RCP mom
Have the Rise Against Hunger meals been important for your nutrition, especially now as you are breastfeeding Clara?
The Rise Against Hunger meals are very important and helpful because they provide the necessary vitamins for me and my child. When cooking the Rise Against Hunger meals, I only add salt and oil. It has been helpful to reduce our budget for rice because the meals have rice in them. I always eat the Rise Against Hunger meals two to three times per day and I never run out of breast milk. I love these meals so much and I always eat them with tea. Other foods that I eat are ugali, beans, vegetables, sardines, potatoes, rice, and fruits, mostly avocados and bananas.
What are the personal changes you’ve made in your life since joining RCP that have resulted in better health for you and your child?
I am maintaining hygiene all the time, preparing meals in a clean environment, and getting vegetables and fruits as much as I can.
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 Ipalamwa General Clinic are great. I delivered by C-section in Ilula and the wound later got infected. When I went to Ipalamwa General Clinic, they really took a good care of me. They cleaned the wound every day and I was healed within a short period of time. If Ipalamwa General Clinic was not here, I don’t know how I would have gotten to Ilula every day and paid for the services. I’m happy that the clinic has very professional people who treat all patients with love and care.
“If Ipalamwa General Clinic was not here, I don’t know how I would have gotten to Ilula every day and paid for the services. I’m happy that the clinic has very professional people who treat all patients with love and care.”– Jesneda Mtenda, RCP mom
What are your visions for the future and what values from your ancestors and cultures are you trying to maintain?
My vision is to help my child, Clara, get quality education. One of our cultural beliefs in our family is that my father is not allowed to carry my child until she is six months old. Once she is six months old, he will be able to carry her. So up to now, my father has never carried my child.
Also, when a woman gives birth, she needs to have her very own dishes to use only with her baby. No one is allowed to even touch the dishes that are used by a new mom and newborn until the baby turns six months old. After that, we dispose of those dishes and no one else uses them. Only the mother or the grandmother of the new mom can help wash those dishes.
Do you celebrate birthdays?
My child is still very young, but when she reaches one year, I must celebrate her birthday.
What are your family’s biggest challenges? How do you try to address them?
The major challenge I face is misunderstanding with my child’s father. But this doesn’t stop me from working hard to feed my baby and do anything I can to make sure that Clara does not struggle to have her needs met.
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in the future?
I feel so happy when I see my child. She is always my comforter whenever my mind gets disturbed. In the near future, I would like to have a small business selling sardines or have a vegetable garden to sell vegetables.