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 Yunisi Chusi’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Tell us, Yunisi, a bit about where you grew up, where you went to school, and how you and your husband work together to support the family.
I met my husband here in Lulindi, and we got married here as well. We have both completed primary education, which is through standard 7 (grade 7 in Tanzania, which is the end of primary school). My husband supports me in everything. Actually, we support each other, because we work together to make sure our family meets its basic needs.
We are a farming family. We mainly farm corn and beans, but we also grow other crops in small quantity like avocados, banana, pineapples, peas, lemons, yams, potatoes, and vegetables. We always sell the surplus. When there isn’t rain, we grow most of those crops in valleys or we do irrigation farming.
How has the RCP workshops informed you on sanitation and disease prevention?
From the workshops, we learned that washing hands with soap and clean water removes all the bacteria and provides prevention against diseases. Formally, we knew that we were supposed to wash our hands, but we didn’t know the importance of it, so we were not consistent with it and decided not to do it. But the hand-washing workshops and the hand-washing station have helped to prove that we can stay healthy by simply washing our hands.
I was not in the RCP program from its beginning, but when I saw the hand-washing stations my neighbors had, I was convinced to register for the program. My children were even going to the neighbors’ to wash their hands because they liked it. I was very happy when I was registered for the program and was given a hand-washing station, because my children no longer went to the neighbors. Instead, they washed their hands at home. I’m so grateful to Global Volunteers that they thought of this because now my older children are very active in maintaining the hand-washing station by filling the water and putting bleach in it.
I use the hand-washing station regularly, especially after coming from the toilet, before and after eating, before and during cooking, after coming from the farm, and after serving animals. My toilet is a little far from the kitchen. I had the Global Volunteers hand-washing station outside the kitchen, but I thought there might be a need to have a hand-washing station outside the toilet. I decided to build my own local hand-washing station outside the toilet so that when someone comes from the toilet, they can immediately wash their hands instead of going outside the kitchen to do it. I ensure there is soap and water at that station, too.
Truly, I have seen the reality of this because since we started to faithfully practice all the procedures for hand washing, life has been different, because we do not experience regular sickness as we did before. We used to experience stomach fever frequently, but now we don’t. Apart from washing hands, I always insist on cleanliness and hygiene in my family, especially boiling drinking water and keeping it in a safe place. This has also helped the health of my family.
“Truly, I have seen the reality of this because since we started to faithfully practice all the procedures for hand washing, life has been different because we do not experience regular sickness as we did before.”– Yunisi Chusi, RCP Mom
What have you learned about nutrition through the RCP Program?
Truly, before the workshops, we were just eating the food so that our stomachs could be full, but not to help the body. That is why we were just eating the food sometimes without vegetables or fruits and we thought it was ok, but it was not. So now we personally know the importance of a nutritional diet.
For me personally as well, my breast milk production has increased since I started the program, and now I have enough to nurse my baby. I notice a difference in my body after I eat meals. I breastfed my youngest, Irene, for six months exclusively. But with my other children, I started solid food just weeks after delivery just because they were not getting enough breast milk.
My daughter Irene, who is 19 months old and in the RCP Program, and I both eat Rise Against Hunger (RAH) meals. The meals are very helpful because my baby is becoming healthier and her weight keeps on increasing. Irene is very different from the rest of my children because I can observe that she has the ability to “think bigger” than my other children when they were the same age. Though I have also noticed the difference with some of my children who are at the primary school, since they are also fed at school. Now they look active and happy all the time. Their understanding is also different from before they received the RAH meals.
“Truly, before workshops we were just eating the food so that our stomachs can be full but not to help the body. That is why we were just eating the food sometimes without vegetables or fruits and we thought it was ok but it was not. So now we know the importance of eating vegetables.”– Yunisi Chusi, RCP mom
The RAH meals are very helpful to both of us, and my daughter likes them so much. I usually cook the meals with a little bit of oil and salt to make it more tasteful and we eat them with beans or vegetables. My older kids like the meals, too, and they are very sad that the schools are closed now since they are not getting the meals.
Apart from the RAH meals, we always eat ugali, rice, bananas, yams, potatoes, beans, peas, sardines, and vegetables. We get vegetables every day and fruits like bananas and avocados, but meat depends on the availability in the village. We usually eat meat twice a month. My children always appreciate the food that we provide them.
I have an EarthBox given to me through the RCP Program. I grow green peppers and now they are in the stage of being harvested. So I usually add green pepper almost in every food that I cook and the food becomes tasteful with good smell. I did not harvest all of them at once — I only harvest them when I need to use them. Vegetables are very important to our health because they help our bodies to fight against diseases. I want to also learn how to raise chickens through RCP, because my chickens always die and I fail to keep them.
What else have you learned in the RCP Program. Is your life different now?
Before the program, we were behind in so many things. We did not know about things that are important to our health, but we are grateful that the program was brought here and that it has opened our eyes to things that we didn’t know. One of the great things that has helped me is the workshop on the menstrual cycle. We were taught how to use a calendar as a family planning method and we were given beads to help us count. That has been very helpful to me since I now know my days and everything is going great with my menstrual cycle.
Also, I love the RCP workshops because I get to learn something new in every workshop. I also like RCP home visits because visitors are a blessing. I love to be visited because I can get new ideas when I talk with the RCP caregiver.
I like everything about the program. And I pray that it continues because it is very helpful to our community.
“I love workshops because I get to learn something new in every workshop. I also like home visits because visitors are a blessing. I love to be visited because I can get new ideas when I talk with the caregiver.”– Yunisi Chusi, RCP Mom
What can you tell us about the health clinic services you’ve received in Ipalamwa?
There is a big difference because in our local dispensaries, they just cure according to the symptoms that you have expressed, but they do not diagnose anything. But at the Ipalamwa General Clinic (IGC) there are good services. We can get all the services there.
Also, there was a period when there were dentists at IGC. I was very happy and grateful because my teeth were extracted without any pain or problems. Some of my teeth had been weak for years. When the dentists came, we got the service for free. It was amazing. We wish that the dentists could come back because we are still in need of them. I’m so grateful to Global Volunteers.
“When the dentists came, we got the service for free. It was amazing. We wish that the dentists could come back because we are still in need of them. I’m so grateful to Global Volunteers.”– Yunisi Chusi, RCP mom
Can you tell us a bit about your children, their interests, and their personalities?
All of my children love to study and read and some of them like farming activities. Olida, my first born, loves hygiene, serving the Lord, and decorating the house. RCP has already been helping my children who are at the primary school since they receive RAH meals. This helps them so much and I have started to see the results. Their performance is also good at school. I wish my children to reach the university level in their education and I usually insist that they study, even when they are at home. I’m grateful because my children are hard workers and love to read.
What are your family’s biggest challenges or struggles? How do you try to address them?
Financial issues are the biggest challenge, but working hard is the only solution that always helps us to overcome this challenge.
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in the future?
I’m proud of my husband and my children. I just feel very happy to see them healthy and happy all the time. My plan in the next few years is to keep fish. I have already started to dig the dams for fish keeping. I hope I will be able to get enough fish and sell them. People don’t sell fish often in Ipalamwa, so I find this to be an opportunity.
I hope my children will have better life than their father and I do. We are currently living in hard conditions, but I do not want this to be generational. I don’t want my children to live the life that we are currently living. I want them to be in higher levels in everything.