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 Machelina Nyamoga’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Machelina, we’re interested in your background, how your family earns a living, and who you live with.
I was born and raised in Ukwega so this is my home place. My education level is secondary school education. I had my primary school education at Ukwega Primary School and secondary education at Ukwega Secondary School. Currently, I am a single mother living with my parents and siblings. My parents are my great supporters.
I have a business where I sell a variety of things like samosas, pastries, rice, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, green peppers, and many other small things. My parents are farmers and they mainly farm beans and corn. They grow some other crops for their own consumption. I appreciate Ukwega because it is a fertile land! We are able to grow a lot of things on this land.
What is a normal day like for you?
I usually wake up at 5:00 a.m. and start domestic activities like cleaning in the house. I make breakfast and prepare my children for school. Later, I continue with my other activities, especially for my business, like cooking samosas. I usually spend most of my time on my business. I can get water very close to home – just about three minutes walking distance. I like reading story books and sometimes newspapers when I get time to relax.
What can you tell us about your children, Machelina? What grades are they in and how are they doing in school? How did you choose their names?
Both my children are doing very fine in school and that’s something which impresses me and makes me happy. Suzan likes to read. After she comes home from school, she always stays outside the house and reads and writes what they learned at school. She is not very interested in sports. She is much more into reading and writing. Suzan was number six out of 80 students in her class in her last yearly report in December. Johnson recently started kindergarten and he is a very fast learner. He learns very easily and as quickly as his sister. I’m expecting that they should both study very hard so that they can have a bright future ahead of them.
Johnson was named by my father and I don’t know how he chose that name. I named Suzan. I chose her name after reading a story with a child named Suzan. She did not have parents and was raised by her relatives. She had good ability and confidence in class. I admired Suzan and that is why I chose that name for my daughter. My child’s performance at school is also good because she can already read and write names.
All I need for my children is for them to study hard and become great people in the government of Tanzania. I want to raise them to become whatever they want to.
The program has been helpful to me in that I have learned how to help my children eat well and reach where they are now. They have become very active. And I have seen that they have peace of mind and are happy all the time. The program has played a big role in making this happen.
“The program has been helpful to me in that I have learned how to help my children eat well and reach where they are now. They have become very active. And I have seen that they have peace of mind and are happy all the time. The program has played a big role in making this happen.”– Machelina Nyamoga, 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?
My children and I ate the Rise Against Hunger meals and we enjoyed them so much. The meals are very important because there is variety of foods that have been packed in the packet and they all seem to be important to people’s health. Just one month after we started eating the meals, I had already seen the positive impact on me and my children. Both Johnson’s and my weight had increased. He had weighed eleven kilograms (24.2 pounds) for about six months with no change, and soon after we started eating the meals, his weight had increased to 12.3 kilograms (27 pounds). This is something that I hadn’t expected. I think the meals have helped a lot. My children love the food so much. When I cook the meals, I usually add onions, garlic, carrots, green pepper, ginger, tomatoes, a little oil, and salt.
We no longer receive the meals at home because my children are older now, but they were eating the Rise Against Hunger meals and now fortified porridge provided by Global Volunteers twice a day at school. Both my children love the Rise Against Hunger meals so much. The meals at school have impacted my children greatly, especially since a hungry child cannot manage to think properly in class. Therefore, the meals in school have helped the children to have calories, which can help them to think clearly and to be tireless. Before the provision of meals at school, Suzan was very tired after school hours.
I also have porridge flour to make porridge for my children at home. It’s a mixture of corn, rice, peanuts, millet, and sesame seeds. Other foods that we eat are ugali, beans, rice, meat, sardines, fish, peas, cassava, vegetables, and fruits, like bananas, avocados, and oranges. My children usually get four meals per day along with fruits in between. But for us, the rest of the family, we get three meals per day. Johnson loves to eat. If he is not eating, it’s because he is not feeling well or he is full.
Also, getting the meals at home helped us to minimize our budget because I would cook the meals two or three times per day. That was a great help with food supply.
“Both my children love the Rise Against Hunger meals so much. The meals at school have impacted my children greatly, especially since a hungry child cannot manage to think properly in class. Therefore, the meals in school have helped the children to have calories, which can help them to think clearly and to be tireless.”– Machelina Nyamoga, RCP mom
How has the hand-washing station helped your family? How often do you use it?
I use hand-washing station regularly like after using the bathroom, after serving animals, after coming from the field, before/after eating, and after doing some activities here at home. I have taught my whole family how to use the hand-washing station and I’m happy that all of them are using it. I usually do follow-up with the younger ones to make sure they wash their hands, especially after using the bathroom. My younger child also likes to use the hand-washing station, but he is not able to on his own so I help him when he needs to use it. He knows all the steps of handwashing, it’s just that he does not have enough strength to pull down the jug. We all love the hand-washing station and I never had any difficulties in using it in the beginning.
There have been a lot of changes since we started using the hand-washing station. We have even been asking ourselves why we are not experiencing stomach diseases nowadays, but we discovered that it is because of practicing handwashing with clean water and soap. We are no longer suffering from stomach diseases now at all. My children and the whole family have become healthier in general.
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?
Before the program, the situation was very hard, especially in expenditures. But when we started receiving the meals, that truly helped us. I’m also happy with the free services at the clinic because it helps us even more. I have learned a lot from the program, especially on the matters of hygiene, specifically handwashing and how to raise our children with good nutrition. I joined the program when my younger child was eight months old and I have seen that he is growing differently from Suzan. Johnson is growing very well compared to how Suzan grew. The program has come to add value to the parenting issues that we never knew before. That is why Johnson’s growth is better than Suzan’s was. Now I know a lot of things to help my children grow well.
What have been your favorite parts of workshops and home visits?
I love the workshops because the things that they teach, they always touch our realities in our community. That is why I love attending the workshops. I can learn more. I also love home visits because the caregiver helps me to remember a lot of things that I have already learned, and also helps me to create trust in the program. If the program were established without any follow ups, I couldn’t be interested.
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 and all people there are great. There are also professionals and equipment which can detect what a person is really suffering from. In that matter, we are always provided with the correct medication and they cure us. It is different from other dispensaries where they just give medicines without a diagnosis, which leads to a worse situation for the patient.
What are your family’s biggest challenges? What are you most proud of in your family?
There are challenges in your daily life, but it is hard for me to share the challenges that I have. All in all, I always solve them because life has to go on as usual.
I’m proud to be a mother of two and being a mother is being respected. I’m proud of my children because they have given me respect. In the next few years, I have a plan of repairing our house or building another one.
“I love the workshops because the things that they teach, they always touch our realities in our community. That is why I love attending the workshops. I can learn more.”– Machelina Nyamoga, RCP mom
What aspects of the RCP Program have especially helped you in the last year? What have you learned and implemented at home?
The aspect of RCP Program which has helped me is the mental health workshops, which I attended last July. These sessions have helped me very much. I have even managed to be a positive thinker in my daily life. It has helped me very much to solve some of my mental issues on my own.
The last year has been a wonderful year for me. I have learned a lot from the workshops, and, like I said, especially the mental health sessions. I didn’t know whether children could also face depression due to some of the practices either at home or in school. This has helped me so much to avoid some practices with children due to the fact that they can result in depression. This is the thing I learned a lot and I have seen some improvement with the practices in my own family.
What values from your ancestors and cultures are you trying to maintain?
There are many cultures, but I follow none of them since I believe in God in everything. Many things that I was prohibited from doing when I was pregnant, I was doing them and nothing bad happened to me. I safely delivered my babies. So I’m not following any of the cultures.
What are your hopes and dreams for Suzan and Johnson?
My hope for Suzan, and what I pray for, is that she can fulfill her dreams. I insist that she study hard because she hopes to be a doctor when she grows up. I hope Johnson will become a great man and to fulfill whatever he dreams as well.