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 Tumsifu Mbata‘s interview about the RCP Program here.
Tumsifu, please share a little about where you grew up and attended school, and how you met your husband Freifas Kaywanga.
We grew up in Ipalamwa and attended school together through standard 7 (seventh grade). Afterwards, we got married and started our family here as well. We have one son, Abimeleki Kaywanga, who is one year and seven months. Our families live in this village, and we’re farmers. We grow corn and beans, mainly but also have other crops like avocados, oranges, Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes.
How has the RCP Program impacted your lives?
First of all, in life you may think that you know a lot of things but it is not true. I was first interested to get into the program after hearing my colleagues around the village talking about the workshops that are usually taking place at the RCP center, and from there I started to be interested. I was registered in 2018 when I was five months pregnant. I learned how to stay healthy for the rest of my pregnancy, and up to now the program has been helpful. My son was born healthy at 4 kilograms in weight which I couldn’t expect before RCP. Through this program I learned how to take care of myself and my baby before he was born, and also about hygiene, prevention of STDs and how to avoid other diseases.
“The RCP Program has helped me raise my son to this point, and I hope it will help me to help him reach his dreams.”Tumsifu Mbata
I like everything about the program. I admit it was a little difficult to adopt new practices because I was sometimes forgetting to wash my hands. I was not used to this kind of behavior and when water was not available, I was not filling the jug just because I didn’t make it a priority. But later, my fellow RCP mothers and my RCP Caregiver were insisting that I do that. When I decided to be serious, that’s when I started to see great results on our health. I like workshops because I learn new and helpful things and also I like home visits because I get new ideas from the caregiver. Also, the Global Volunteers Ipalamwa General Clinic is unique and great in its services because you can be diagnosed and obtain correct prescriptions. In local dispensaries, they just give medicines without diagnosing your condition, which makes people stay sick.
What have you learned about the importance of hand washing?
I use the hand-washing station to wash my hands after coming from the bathroom, before cooking, before and after eating and after I’m done with farming and other domestic activities. I know it’s very important to wash hands with soap and clean water because I have noticed that I can be prevented from diseases with my family. Truly, before attending the hand-washing workshop, I didn’t know the importance of washing hands with soap and water – especially after using the bathroom. I used to not wash my hands after using the bathroom or sometimes I would just wash them without soap. At that time, the whole family was suffering from diseases like stomach fever and diarrhea frequently and we couldn’t discover the reason. After getting a workshop about the importance of washing hands frequently with soap and water, and being provided with the hand-washing station, everything has changed to positive results. Our sickness frequency suddenly decreased, and now we are no longer suffering from those kinds of diseases.
“When I decided to be serious, that’s when I started to see great results on our health.”Tumsifu Mbata
Moreover, I have built another local hand-washing station by the kitchen because the one we received from the program is by the toilet. It was difficult to use that one when cooking since the toilet is far from the kitchen. So now we have two hand-washing stations, one by the toilet and one by the kitchen. I make sure that the station by the kitchen also has soap all the time. I’m grateful to the program for teaching me this.
How have the Rise Against Hunger prepared meals supplemented your diet? Have you seen an improvement in your health?
These meals have been very important and essential to me and my child. Personally, when I eat the food, I feel full and get heavy breast milk, which is very important for my son. He is increasing in weight whenever I go to check-ups at the clinic. It is very helpful because before receiving meals, my child was weak and he couldn’t talk, but after the meals, he has improved even in his speech. We usually add salt and oil when I cook the meals and we eat it with beans or sardines. Other food we eat is cassava, sweet potatoes, rice, beans, sardines, meat and fruit like avocados, banana and oranges. We always eat vegetables every day once or twice per day.
What more can you tell us about your family and your dreams for the future?
I’m proud to be a mom and I feel very peaceful when I see my family. Our plan is to work harder to make sure that our children are growing in a good environment. One of the things that we will engage in is a tree farm so we can sell timber. In farming sometimes, when the rain is heavy, we get very few crops which becomes a challenge. So then we have to work on someone else’s land to earn money. I hope my son Abimeleki will be able to reach higher levels of education so that he can be the best person. I chose his name from the bible, because I wish him to be the servant of God along with any other job that he would like to have. I will work hard to make sure that he is reaching his dreams. The RCP Program has helped me raise my son to this point, and I hope it will help me to help him reach his dreams.