In this series, Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) program families in Tanzania explain how their involvement in this demonstration program is improving their lives. The RCP program engages short-term volunteers who help parents deliver essential services to improve Health, eradicate Hunger, and enhance 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 beginning with pregnancy and continuing through the 18th birthday, focusing on the first 1,000 days of life. Read Lenida Nyenza’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Tell us, Lenida, a bit about where you grew up, where you went to school, and how you work together to support the family.
My origin is here in Ipalamwa but my husband is from another village in the Iringa region called Tanangozi. My husband has primary education only, through standard 7 (grade 7, which is the end of primary school in Tanzania). I ended school when I was in form two (ninth grade) because of pregnancy as I was not allowed to attend school anymore. I met my husband when he came to visit his sister who was married in Ipalamwa. So after marriage we decided to settle here in Ipalamwa. We support each other in everything.
Tell us about how the RCP workshops have informed you on sanitation and disease prevention.
At first when we were given the handwashing station, it was difficult for my children and even their father to adopt the practice of washing their hands frequently. I could go to the field and when I left the jug of water was full and I would find it the same when I came back. But I kept on insisting with them by explaining the importance of washing our hands. I even told them that in the water there is a medicine which purifies the water so it is important for them to wash their hands. So later they adopted this practice and now they like washing their hands. My older kids sometimes take their younger sibling to wash her hands, which is encouraging. Even my husband now has adopted this practice and it has become his regular behavior.
I usually make sure that there is soap. Whenever I run out of soap and bleach, I tell the caregiver and get it soon. I use the handwashing station after coming from the toilet, before and after eating, after farming activities, after changing my baby’s diaper, and before and after cooking. Both my children and I have been in better health than before because I have trained my children on using the handwashing station regularly and always tell them of the importance of washing their hands. We used to have a lot of illnesses like diarrhea, stomach fever, regular running nose, and coughing. All of my children were getting sick very frequently, but since we have the handwashing station, we have not experienced these types of illness for a long time now. I always want my children to be healthy, so I usually tell them the importance of staying healthy all the time and that washing their hands regularly is important for this.
“We used to have a lot of illnesses like diarrhea, stomach fever, regular running nose, and coughing. All of my children were getting sick very frequently, but since we have the handwashing station, we have not experienced these types of illness for a long time now.”– Lenida Nyenza, RCP Mom
What have you learned about nutrition through the RCP program?
We always have ugali, rice, sweet potatoes, beans, and vegetables as our lunch and dinner. We always have vegetables every day and sometimes beef, depending on its availability and if we have enough funds to afford to buy it when it is available. We mainly eat avocado as our fruit and barely eat bananas, depending on the availability.
I’m so grateful that we are getting the Rise Against Hunger meals because this has been very important to us. Sometimes we might undergo a scarcity of food in the house so the Rise Against Hunger meals have been very helpful, especially to the little one since other older kids eat twice a day at school. My children prefer Rise Against Hunger meals, ugali, and sweet potatoes. I always add salt and a little oil in the Rise Against Hunger meal. I love Rise Against Hunger meals because I feel much energy after I eat. My children, especially the little one, is now very healthy and is consistently gaining weight. She is very active.
“I love Rise Against Hunger meals because I feel much energy after I eat. My children, especially the little one, is now very healthy and is consistently gaining weight. She is very active.”– Lenida Nyenza, RCP Mom
What have you learned in the Reaching Children’s Potential program and how is your life different now?
Life has been very different because at first my husband did not want me to register for the program. At that time I was pregnant and I couldn’t get enough food in a day. I was going to the farm early in the morning and coming back in the evening. The distance from home to the farm is about two and a half hours walking so I was not able to come back home in the afternoon to prepare lunch. I weighed very low since I was getting mainly one meal per day, which was not enough. After hearing a lot of good things about the program, I was interested. But my husband did not want me to register.
I registered for the program anyway and soon after registration I got fortified porridge. This was before Rise Against Hunger meals. So I was cooking porridge in the morning and going with it out to work in the field. This was very helpful. I was weak and weighed 37 kgs (82 pounds) before the RCP program, but after starting to get porridge, my weight kept on increasing and I found myself having enough strength. When I went to the clinic after starting with the porridge, I weighed 52 kgs (115 pounds) and then 60 kgs (132 pounds) and I delivered my baby when I had 70 kg (154 pounds). The baby was 3.5 kgs (7 pounds 11 ounces) when she was born. With this matter, my husband started to understand and he became interested in the program and now he likes the program so much. He was also very happy with the workshop for fathers which was conducted about STDs. He would like to attend more workshops for dads.
The program has been life changing and has brought positive results. From the program I have discovered that a very little thing can change your life. Washing hands frequently and having nutritious meals is very important to the health of the family.
I just love everything with the program. I was very happy when we were taught about the issue of family planning since I was hearing a lot of mistaken rumors about family planning. One of the rumors was that “injections cause infertility”, something which is not true. So I got to learn a lot of things about that. Workshops helps us to know the truth of things. I also like home visits because I usually feel supported and loved.
“The program has been life changing and has brought positive results. From the program I have discovered that a very little thing can change your life. Washing hands frequently and having nutritious meals is very important to the health of the family.”– Lenida Nyenza, RCP Mom
What can you tell us about the clinic services you’ve received in Ipalamwa?
I wish I could have a chance to deliver at Ipalamwa General Clinic, but I did not have a chance because I delivered my baby before that service was available at the clinic. They have very nice services and qualified professionals who know a lot of things compared to the ones who are in the local dispensaries. My child was sick a few weeks ago and when I took her to the clinic, I was treated very well and my child got better in just a few days. I’m so grateful that there is such a clinic in the community.
Can you tell us a bit about your children, their interests, and their personalities?
Mary is a hard worker. Even at home she helps me a lot. She also loves to read and study science. I suspect that she will be a nurse in the future and I would love that. She is very polite and diligent.
Daudi is not a very hard worker in domestic activities, but he always loves playing with toy cars and pretending he is making them. He also likes making different things apart from cars. His father said he will take him to the mechanic in future if he is still interested.
Keshia is still young and so we are seeing how her personality will develop. All of my children are now very active because they are getting meals in school twice a day. Daudi’s performance in school is moderate, but Mary always performs great.
What are your family’s biggest challenges or struggles? How do you try to address them?
I can’t say everything, but sometimes when we have differences with my husband we just sit and try to settle our differences. It usually works out.
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in the future?
I’m so happy with my family – both with my children and my husband. Seeing all of them healthy gives me peace. In the near future we hope to build another good house and buy a motor bike to use it to go to the farm because it is very far — two and a half hours each way, which makes a total of five hours each day. This is very tiring, so buying a motor bike will be helpful. I would like my children to go further educationally. Our plan with my husband is to try our best to help them reach a good level of education.