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 Zakina Kihwele’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Zakina, we’re interested in your daily life. Did you grow up in Ipalamwa? Could you tell us about your normal activities?
Yes, I was born and raised in Ipalamwa. My husband, Abiudi, is also from Ipalamwa. We both finished standard 7 at Fikano Primary School. We support each other in everything. My family’s main source of income is farming, with our major crops are corn and beans. We also grow sweet potatoes, bananas, vegetables, yams, and avocados, but not in large quantities. We have seven children, from ages 22 to 3 years old. The oldest three – Laiton, Lazaki, and Bekamu – all live and work in other cities in Tanzania. Most of my children love to play sports.
How did you select the names for your seven children, Zakina?
I usually chose their names from the Bible, but also from my relatives. My husband helped me in naming the children.
How do you know that washing hands with soap and water often is important for preserving your health?
Before joining the RCP program, I never knew anything about handwashing stations or washing hands regularly. I did not have any idea that handwashing can prevent diseases, but my eyes were opened when we were given education on handwashing and handwashing stations. This turned out to be a very important matter for me and my family. Now I know that washing hands with soap and water removes bacteria which might be on your hands. Since we were provided with the handwashing stations, the frequency of various diseases like diarrhea and coughing has been decreasing in our family.
Most of my children were present when the handwashing station was installed so they were taught both how to use it and the importance of washing hands. So I just continued to insist that they wash their hands to the extent that they are now reminding me to wash my hands, especially when they see me coming from the farm or from the animal coop.
I love for my children to be healthy all the time, so I put much effort into making sure that they practice good hygiene.
How has the RCP program provided you with information on nutrition and affected your children’s development?
Our normal diet has changed since we received the workshop on the importance of including fruits and vegetables in every meal. Now we usually eat every meal with fruits, mostly banana and avocado because we grow them. We usually have ugali, rice, banana, yams, sweet potatoes, beans, sardines, and vegetables for meals. We sometimes eat beef, depending on its availability in the village. I usually make sure we get vegetables and fruits every day in our meals.
When I compare Winner, who is my youngest and is three years old, with other children in their growth, Winner is very different. She has been growing healthier than my other children and her weight has been increasing every month.
I have seen the difference with my two children who are receiving Rise Against Hunger meals at Fikano Primary School, Gift and Shoam, too. Since they started receiving these meals, their understanding has improved not only at the school but also in normal activities when I ask them to do something at home. Nowadays my children understand things much more easily and more quickly than before. Their performance is also not bad at school and I’m glad that they have good behavior. If my children continue that way, they will have better thinking.
What parts of RCP are most important to you and why?
I have changed a lot in terms of how I raise my children. The workshops that we are given have been very helpful. I didn’t know if there were some things that a young child must be receiving in order to be stimulated, like singing to them or playing with them. But from the workshops I have learned something new and it is really working. Since I attended that workshop, I have been singing with Winner and playing with her. I have learned that this could help her brain to grow and think bigger. Sometimes she even does something I didn’t expect her to do at her age. I have realized that I have made a lot of mistakes in raising my previous children, but I’m glad that I have come to correct my mistakes through raising Winner in a different way.
The workshops helps us to know in detail the truth about a lot of things. For example, it was really an advantage for me to attend the workshop about STDs, which opened my eyes. I’m so interested in the program because it teaches us not only about the children’s but also parents’ health.
I really love everything from the program including workshops and home visits. This program is really an advantage for the community. I like home visits because we share different things with our caregivers and they always remind us of what we should be doing as parents to our children.
“But from the workshops I have learned something new and it is really working. Since I attended that workshop, I have been singing with Winner and playing with her. I have learned that this could help her brain to grow and think bigger. Sometimes she even does something I didn’t expect her to do at her age.”– Zakina Mihwele, RCP mom
What can you tell us about the health clinic services you’ve received in Ipalamwa?
The advantage of the Ipalamwa General Clinic is that you can immediately know what you or your children are suffering from since they have all the tools to diagnose patients. In other dispensaries in the village they just treat you according to the symptoms that you have described since they do not have tools. So I’m very grateful for the Ipalamwa General Clinic because when we have health challenges, they are easy to tackle since we have the clinic where we are treated free of charge.
“I have realized that I have made a lot of mistakes in raising my previous children, but I’m glad that I have come to correct my mistakes through raising Winner in a different way.”– Zakina Kihwele, RCP mom
What are you most proud of in your family? What do you hope for in the future?
I’m proud of my family because we live in peace, understand each other, and help each other. My husband and my children are both very supportive in everything as a family. There are always economic challenges, but we usually struggle to make sure we meet our basic needs like having food in the house, despite the challenges.
In few years to come, my husband and I plan to build another good house and I wish to have a business, such as a small store to sell some domestic items and fuel for motor bike drivers. Also, I want to keep chickens and sell the extra eggs.
I hope that my children can reach higher levels of education and even in normal life. I’m very committed to working very hard to make sure my children are able to reach higher levels in their education.