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 Veronika Kikoti’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Veronika, can you tell us a bit about where you grew up, who you live with, and what a regular day is like for you?
I was born and raised in Makungu village. My education level is a secondary school which I acquired from Ukwega secondary school. I live at my parents’ house with my parents and my siblings. I met my child’s father here in Makungu since he also lives here in the village. He is very supportive almost in everything. My parents are my big supporters as well.
I always wake up at 6:00 in the morning to do domestic activities and prepare breakfast. Later I head to the farm. I spend most of my time in the field. We farm beans and corn. To get water for our house, it’s about an hour walk from here. It’s very far for sure. When I get time to relax, I like spending time playing with my child or telling stories with friends.
What can you tell us about Jerryson, Veronika?
Jerryson is only a year old so he likes imitating what other children are doing. He does everything that he sees other people doing. His father chose his name. My child’s health is very good because I joined the RCP Program when I was pregnant and I learned a lot about healthy pregnancy and nutrition. All that information has been helpful. I would like my child to become very educated and be a doctor when he grows up. But I will do my best to support him and help him reach his dreams no matter what he wants to become in the future.
“My child’s health is very good because I joined the RCP Program when I was pregnant and I learned a lot about healthy pregnancy and nutrition.”– Veronika Kikoti, RCP mom
Have the Rise Against Hunger meals been important for your family’s nutrition?
I love Rise Against Hunger meals so much. My son and I both eat the meals, and I share them with my younger siblings. We usually eat the Rise Against Hunger meals twice a day. Since we started eating the meals, we all feel stronger and more energetic all the time. Jerryson likes the meals so much. I also produce enough breast milk for him. Other foods that we eat are ugali, beans, potatoes, yams, meat, sardines, vegetables, and fruits, mostly avocados, bananas, and mangos.
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?
My family and I use the handwashing station as many times as we can because we have seen that it is very helpful to be healthy. Since we started using it, we have not gotten stomach fever as much as we used to. Right after I attended the workshop on handwashing, I taught my family how important it is to wash our hands with soap and water. They were all very receptive and when we got the hand-washing station, we all started to use it. Before, we had a locally made hand-washing station which was a little hard to use because it was not durable and broke many times. It was discouraging to try to wash our hands, but this modern station from the RCP Program is very durable and everyone is convinced that using it frequently is good.
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?
I learned a lot about healthy pregnancy and good nutrition. I’m lucky that I learned this during my first pregnancy. I learned that eating a variety of foods in a day, and not just one kind of food, is important. In Makungu we have a lot of foods, but we are used to eating one kind of food. This is because of a lack of knowledge about the importance of a variety of foods for the human body. Ever since I learned that in the workshop, I have been trying my best to get a variety of food for me and my child.
I am also trying to maintain cleanliness all the time in order to avoid unnecessary sickness.
“I learned that eating a variety of foods in a day, and not just one kind of food, is important. Ever since I learned that in the workshop, I have been trying my best to get a variety of food for me and my child.”– Veronika Kikoti, RCP mom
If you have been using the clinic services in Ipalamwa, how are they different from medical services available before the clinic opened?
The services are great and professional at the Ipalamwa General Clinic. I was able to deliver my baby at the clinic and the services were wonderful because even meals are provided. Also, I like the way they care for patients and don’t isolate anyone.
What are your family’s biggest challenges?
One of the biggest challenges has to do with farming because sometimes when there is too much rain, we get very few crops and we don’t have enough to sell. In that manner, our economic situation becomes hard. But I’m grateful that we always have food to eat.
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in the future?
I feel so happy to see my child growing healthy. In the near future, I hope I will be married to my child’s father and that we will have started to build a house that we will live in together. That is a top priority.
What are your visions for the future and what values from your ancestors and cultures are you trying to maintain?
Formerly, pregnant women were not allowed to eat eggs, but now we eat them as usual and nothing happens to us. Paying a dowry is an obligation before getting married.
What do you most appreciate about your village?
Makungu is a very beautiful place with very good weather and a lot of fruits and fresh foods.
Do you celebrate birthdays?
I celebrated my child’s first birthday last month so I prepared a special meal and drinks and then I invited other children from around here so that we can celebrate to congratulate my son. I will be doing this every year as long as I can afford it.