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 Sesiana Duma and her family’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Tell us, Sesiana, a bit about where you grew up, where you went to school, and how you work together to support the family.
Both Tidali and I grew up here in Ipalamwa and attended Fikano Primary School through standard seven (sixth grade). We did not have a chance to go for further studies. But it is our wish that our children go further educationally and become better people than us. Currently we do whatever we can to make sure we provide them with all they need.
We are a farming family. We mainly grow corn and beans, as well as some fruits such as avocados. In May when rainy season begins, we start irrigation farming to grow vegetables. We consume these vegetables as a family and sell the surplus.
My husband supports me in everything. He can sometimes cook for the children and help with other things in the family. We usually go together to the farm with all our children. When my husband and I are working, our children Immanuel and Livaeli play with their younger sister, Faith. And because we stay at the farm for the whole day, we have a small house at the farm so we use it to cook lunch.
Tell us about how the RCP workshops have informed you on sanitation and disease prevention.
We have seen a huge difference since we started using the hand-washing stations. I use the hand-washing station after coming from the toilet, after changing my baby’s diaper, after I come from the farm, and before and after eating. When I’m cooking in the kitchen, I usually don’t use the hand-washing station since the hand-washing station is far from the kitchen but near the toilet. Therefore I usually use a small basin and a jug with my own soap in the kitchen as to reduce trips outside the kitchen often when I’m cooking.
We did not encounter any challenge in adopting this practice because we were given education before receiving the hand-washing station. So the workshop gave us light on how we should properly wash our hands and the importance of it. So since the beginning we were curious of getting the hand-washing stations and we started using it immediately after we received one. It was a little bit difficult for our children to adopt but we kept insisting them and now they have adapted. Also the other challenge is that the soap is always eaten by the goat when we have gone to the fields but currently we usually take off the soap from the hand-washing station when we are going to the fields and return it when we are back.
Before we had a hand-washing station, the trips to dispensaries were endless within a short period of time. We were given a lot of medicines to cure the diseases that our children were suffering from and it was mainly stomach fever, running nose, and coughing. We had two children when we were registered into the Reaching Children’s Potential Program and they were both weak. But when we were given a workshop on hand-washing and given the hand-washing station, we have been very faithful in using them and train our children to wash their hands frequently ever since. We have not experienced any type of sickness since then and thus we discovered that hand washing with clean water and soap is very important to everyone’s health.
“But when we were given a workshop on hand washing and given the hand-washing station, we have been very faithful in using them and train our children to wash their hands frequently ever since. We have not experienced any type of sickness since then and thus we discovered that hand washing with clean water and soap is very important to everyone’s health.”– Sesiana Duma, RCP Mom
Washing hands with soap and water is very important to everyone regardless the age since we have seen it true in our lives and our family in general. Formally we didn’t know the importance of washing hands especially with soap, but now we know the importance and because we have access to soap and clean water then everything is just simple. Truly, there is a big difference from how we raised Immanuel and our other two children. When Immanuel was born, the program did not exist, but the other two children have grown with the directions of the RCP Program. It is much easier for Livaeli and Faith than it was for Immanuel. We usually tell our children the importance of washing their hands frequently and that it will help them be healthy all the time. We lead by example for our children.
What have you learned about nutrition through the RCP program?
Vegetables are very important because even before we were told about the importance of vegetables from the workshops and then we were given the garden box. We know it was important and we usually make sure our children don’t miss vegetables every day. During dry season, vegetables are very scarce but we usually make a garden and take responsibility of watering it every day. So we always have enough vegetables throughout the year and when we have surplus, we sell it to other people in the village.
We have an EarthBox and we are growing green peppers, but we have not yet harvested them though it is now in a good stage. We are expecting to harvest and eat them very soon. We had a challenge at the beginning that the seedlings became weak, but we informed our caregiver and she helped with spraying with nutrient water and now everything with the garden box is very good and we are just curious to harvest them.
The Rise Against Hunger (RAH) meals have been very important to our family, especially our children. Their health is continuing to nourish and we observe this when we go to the clinic each month that their weight is very good. Our little baby is also getting enough breast milk all the time. The whole family eats the RAH meals. Immanuel usually eats the meals at the school but the rest of us eat them at home. We usually add vegetables, salt, and a little oil to the meals. The children love the meals so much and they enjoy having them every day. Our children are now look healthier, happy all the time and active compared to how they were before. Now when Immanuel comes home from school, he looks much more active than before.
Apart from the RAH meals that we are given, we eat yams, potatoes, breads, and tea in the morning and rice, ugali, beans, vegetables, beef, fish, cooked bananas, or sardines for lunch and dinner. We usually don’t eat the same thing we ate at lunch at dinner. We get vegetables every day and meat depends on the availability in the village but it is usually once in a week. Between meals we give our children fruits like bananas, avocados, and pineapple if they are available, depending on the season. Our children love all the foods that we are giving them, but the Rise Against Hunger meals are their favorite.
To continue improving our nutrition, we just need education on how we can effectively keep chickens because most of our chickens are dying which leads to not having enough eggs and chickens to sell or eat as a family.
“Our children love all the foods that we are giving them, but the Rise Against Hunger meals are their favorite.”– Sesiana Duma, RCP Mom
What have you learned in the Reaching Children’s Potential program and how is your life different now?
Life has never been the same since RCP. The way we have raised our youngest two children is very different from how we raised the first one. Our first born, Immanuel, was very weak when he was a baby, different from Livaeli and Faith who have grown with the RCP Program. It’s been very easy and smooth to raise the last two with the instructions that we are given from the RCP Center.
Another important thing we have seen is that a father sometimes is helping a mother to take the children to the clinic, which is very impressive.
“Life has never been the same since RCP. The way we have raised our youngest two children is very different from how we raised the first one. Our first born, Immanuel, was very weak when he was a baby, different from Livaeli and Faith who have grown with the RCP Program. It’s been very easy and smooth to raise the last two with the instructions that we are given from the RCP Center.”– Sesiana Duma, RCP Mom
The most important thing I have learned since joining the program which has helped me a lot is breastfeeding your baby exclusively in six months and slowly starting to introduce solid food. This has been very helpful. Faith, my youngest, was very tiny when she was born, but I breastfed her faithfully and exclusively for six months and she is now very healthy and big. I used to tell even my friends and neighbors to do the same because I sometimes see that their children are very weak and they give them solid food in early stages. So I have been spreading the word to other people that it is very important to breastfeed exclusively the first six months.
Meeting my fellow women and exchanging different ideas is my favorite part and also gaining new knowledge is very important for me and my family. Home visits too have been my favorite part. Seeing the caregiver at my home every week I feel encouraged and valued and I feel like I have someone helpful that I can share a lot with.
“Seeing the caregiver at my home every week I feel encouraged and valued and I feel like I have someone helpful that I can share a lot with.”– Sesiana Duma, RCP Mom
What can you tell us about the clinic services you’ve received in Ipalamwa?
I delivered my last-born, Faith, at the Ipalamwa General Clinic (IGC). The services are just amazing. The way I was treated made me feel less pain compared to other pregnancies. And truly I tell you I don’t know even how I delivered the baby, I just found that I had the baby. There are really very nice professionals and all the people are very caring and calm. This made me feel safe all the time. I would always choose Ipalamwa General Clinic and nowhere else.
Tidali added, “Sometimes when I’m at IGC, I find myself healed before even getting a service because of the environment and how everyone in there treats the patients. Also people are coming from very far villages outside Ukwega ward to be treated at the clinic. This shows how effective and accurate the work they are doing is. Many people prefer to go to IGC rather than go to a local dispensary.”
Can you tell us a bit about your children, their interests, and their personalities?
Immanuel is the first born and he is now in the second year of kindergarten at Fikano Primary School. He loves observing things, especially mechanics. When we have someone to fix some things in the house, he will always stay with him and observe. He also loves sports so much.
Livaeli is not at the age of going to school yet, but we wish when she grows up she will become a nurse. She usually likes to pick some grasses outside the house and act like they are medicines, telling her father to eat them as a medicine.
What are your family’s biggest challenges or struggles? How do you try to address them?
Sometimes funds to provide everything that our children would need and to use in farming activities. But we usually play with the priorities like food and making sure they are healthy every day. Because we have farms, so we just eat what is available for that time.
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in the future?
I’m proud of my husband because he is very helpful with everything but all in all my children makes feel happy all the time. We are having a plan of building another good house to create a good living environment. We also have a couple of farm acres that we have a plan of planting trees for timber and fruit trees. Our plan is to sell them in the future so that we can pay the school fees of our children to whatever level of education they will reach. I hope to see them happy all the time, healthy and reach far educationally.