The seven caregivers for the Reaching Children’s Potential Program (RCP) are essential to families adopting new practices in the areas of health, nutrition, hygiene, and education. They each work one-on-one with parents on Tanzania community health initiatives, with an emphasis on sustained behavior change. In this team interview, the caregivers describe their backgrounds, daily work, and shared passion for their important work.
(Pictured left to right: Elkana, Sifuni, Amilia, Anastasia, Deborah, Asha, and Regina)
In the Ukwega Ward in Tanzania, RCP caregivers engage volunteers and local mothers together in varied strategies to provide the 12 Essential Services. Focusing on active learning together, they present workshops on health, nutrition, and some 30 related topics, and conduct weekly home visits with each mother to reinforce the workshop lessons on community health initiatives.
Each caregiver maintains a caseload of families, keeping records of every child’s growth and development, translating RCP workshops from English to Swahili (when presented by volunteers in English), and offering support and encouragement for practicing at home what parents learned in workshops. They monitor the adoption of new technologies such as boiling drinking water and washing hands with soap and water at the hand-washing stations provided to RCP families, and they routinely discuss the importance of hygiene and health practices and regular check-ups at the Ipalamwa General Clinic.
Tanzania volunteers work alongside the caregivers during home visits, sharing their own expertise, and providing practical advice for adopting new behaviors with their children.
Education and Training Prepared RCP Caregivers for Village Careers
Among them, the caregivers cover a breadth of education and experience for supporting pregnant women, mothers and fathers, and children in participating villages.
Debora Joshua earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) in the Mwanza region. She was born in the Njombe region of Tanzania and raised in the Iringa region. She has four siblings. Debora says she is very proud of her siblings, although they do not all live close. She belongs to the Kyusa tribe from the southern highlands of Tanzania. Debora is single and doesn’t have any children.
Sifuni Mdegela earned her bachelor’s degree in Community Development from Tumaini University in Iringa. Sifuni grew up in the village of Ipalamwa, our Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) Demonstration Program site in Tanzania. She attended Fikano Primary School in Ipalamwa, where volunteers now serve as part of the RCP Program. She has six siblings, although one of her sisters passed away in 2008. Her father also passed away in 2020. She is single and has a four-year-old daughter, Aika.
Regina Mhagama earned a bachelor’s degree in Community Development from the University of Tumaini in Iringa. She was born in the Ruvuma region of Tanzania. Regina previously worked with Women Against Poverty (WAPO) and with the Evangelical Lutheran in the office of Bishop Mdegella, where she heard about Global Volunteers. She is married and she and her husband have a daughter, Doreen, and a son, Daniel.
Anastazia Mhanga completed her bachelor’s degree in Community Development with a concentration in participatory project planning and management from Tengeru Institute of Community Development (CDTI) in Arusha before earning a master’s degree in Development Studies from the University of Dodoma. She was born in the Iringa region of Tanzania and is the eldest of four children in her family. Anastazia is married and has a beautiful baby girl named Charity.
Ashura Mohamed earned her bachelor’s degree in Community Development with a concentration in Participatory Project Planning and Management from Tengeru Institute of Community Development (CDTI) in Arusha. She was born in Iringa and her family continues to live there. Ashura is married and has two beautiful daughters: Heavenlight (age 4) and Briella (18 months).
Asha Ngweta earned her certificate in community development from Ruaha Community Development Training Institute and then her ordinary diploma from Rungemba Community Development Training Institute in the Iringa region. Asha was born in the Iringa region and has two siblings. She and her brother and sister were orphaned when Asha was six years old. Asha says she must work hard to help her siblings, especially her younger brother.
Elkana Valence Chaula earned her bachelor’s degree in Adult Education and Community Development from the University of Dodoma and her master’s degree in Social Linguistics from Open University of Tanzania. Elkana’s father’s family is from Iringa and her mother’s from Njombe and she has a large extended family. She was born and raised in Iringa and has four siblings. Her father is a pastor. Elkana is recently married and she and her husband, Dr. Benjamin Makafu, plan on starting their own family.
In a virtual interview with Maggie Bjorklund, the seven caregivers shared more about their work with the Reaching Children’s Potential Program and Tanzania Community Health Initiatives:
What do you think is important about the role of caregivers in the RCP Program?
Elkana: As a caregiver, I try to live my life in a way which will impress RCP mothers to adopt practices from me. In short, I practice what we teach in the program: I always avoid smoke in the kitchen, boil water, and wash my hands. I think it is important for my own life to be an example.
Sifuni: We reinforce workshop materials with the families during home visits, encouraging the parents to implement new knowledge they learn through workshops and home visits so that they can improve their lives. It’s wonderful to work with volunteers whenever they are in the village, especially in home visits and workshops.
Ashura: We facilitate and inform village women of upcoming home visits, social activities, Parents’ Club meetings, and workshops, and encourage their attendance. We also work with volunteers and assist them in taking a lead role to raise awareness about child and mothers’ health and involve them both in home visits and workshops.
What encourages you about your work with Global Volunteers?
Regina: The RCP Program truly touches human life. Global Volunteers’ work is so compelling for me because they work with the community directly to initiate positive changes. For example, those activities/technologies delivered by RCP such as meals, hand-washing stations for hygiene, EarthBoxes, and interactive workshops to build women’s capacity and import more knowledge are so incredibly important.
Elkana: Apart from this work being aligned with my career and allowing me to socialize with the community, Global Volunteers works for the well-being of children, which impresses me so much. I like to invest in children because they are the generation of today and tomorrow.
Sifuni: I work with Global Volunteers because I want to see behavior changes in my community. It’s a process, but through what Global Volunteers works with, I have seen changes already. And I have great hope for more changes in my community.
Asha: I love learning new things and coming up with creative ideas to improve the behavior of the community. I love working as part of a team.
Anastazia: I am eager to see changes in the community, and Global Volunteers works directly with the community. The families in Ukwega Ward have requested support in improving their health issues and working with Global Volunteers I feel like I am carrying out an important role as an ambassador of the RCP Program. Global Volunteers is key in creating a better future for both this generation and hopefully many to come.
What is one aspect of your job you most enjoy?
Elkana: I like home visits because that’s when I get to spend one-on-one time with children and their moms, and I can have more intimate discussions with moms about what they are learning in the program and any difficulties they are having.
Asha: Definitely home visits. I feel happy when I go to talk to mothers about health, pregnancies, and nutrition. My favorite thing about my job is the opportunity to work alongside people who have more knowledge than me and can help me gain new knowledge. I love learning from the volunteers. I like working with RCP families because I get a chance to share knowledge about healthy pregnancies with expecting moms and seeing that the mom gives birth to a healthy baby is so rewarding.
Sifuni: In the Ukwega Ward, people are passing through different hardships in their lives and they need external support to change the situations, so working with Global Volunteers gives me a chance to share what I have so that they can improve.
Regina: I love conducting home visits and interacting with children. I enjoy this so much. Through home visits I have a great chance to see, learn, and interact with the moms and children on community health initiatives. We talk about different issues and I am able to give them more direct support when I am at their home. It is rewarding to feel helpful and supportive. It’s also a good opportunity for me to watch the children in their movement, interact with them, and reinforce their growth by focusing on the first 1,000 days. Honestly, my favorite part is to apply what knowledge I have and learn what families have available to them to work together to eliminate stunting.
Ashura: I like doing home visits because it’s not only a part of my job, but it gives me great pleasure to spend time with moms. We have a great time together and in many cases even become very good friends. Home visits is where the moms and me get a chance to share a lot of different stories concerning our lives in general, discuss different matters, and advise each other especially on matters of family, marriage, and health.
How important are volunteers in your community?
Elkana: Moms and children love to see volunteers. They always want to learn how volunteers live and so when they come to the community, moms and children love to be able to visit with them and ask some questions. They have fun with them and learn from them.
Regina: When volunteers spend a week or two in our community, they contribute a great deal to helping families. Every single volunteer has something to add to society. They teach us caregivers many things, and they share their practical experience with us. I love it when they assist us in home visits.
Sifuni: Volunteers can share their experiences with us caregivers and the families we serve, learn different lifestyles from those families, and also see and hear from families who are truly in need.
Ashura: Volunteers are the very important people in our community. They help in impacting new ideas. Families always do their best when caregivers visit them, but when it comes to volunteers’ presence, families are even more dedicated to showing how they have implemented the program! Volunteers’ presence in our community also refreshes us caregivers through training, and the families as well during home visits. They help so much to make community change within a short time, and the moms very eagerly ask when the volunteers will come again.
“Volunteers can do so many things here and I have seen how much they enjoy their service in the community…And they can experience many different things from the community like culture, lifestyle, and how women raise their children. They can have a wonderful experience serving and learning.“– Debora Joshua, RCP Caregiver
What satisfies you about your work with the RCP families?
Regina: I love working with RCP families, to learn from them about their culture, and to help them with what I know and have learned from RCP. I am so happy to work with families to be part of the change in the community I serve.
Elkana: I feel so good to work with RCP families in the Ukwega Ward because it is the right place to spread the knowledge I have. The Ukwega Ward is far removed from a big town where knowledge is easily accessible, so being part of the program helps me to be one of the people who helps spread knowledge in the villages.
Ashura: Living here in the Ukwega Ward has given me the opportunity to experience a new culture, make new friends, and exchange different ideas about life in general.
What is it like for you to work with the Reaching Children’s Potential Program and volunteers?
Debora: Working with the Reaching Children’s Potential Program gives me the opportunity to share the knowledge, skills, and experience I have with others in order to effect change in the community. Working with volunteers has helped me share different experiences on child development and learn new ways to carry out my work.
Regina: It is my passion to help families as well as my fellow women. And I love working with volunteers. I feel so happy and supported because they inspire us in different areas by sharing their experiences, skills, culture, and time.
Sifuni: As RCP focuses on the first 1,000 days of life, it is building a very strong foundation for the coming generation. Having a healthy and educated community is the key to development.
Ashura: It feels good since the program seeks to change the lives of many, especially children, so they can have a better tomorrow by helping them to reduce the problem of stunting. Also, the volunteers impact the program significantly as they give new ideas and health tips. Sometimes when the families see volunteers, they put much focus on the technologies that RCP has given them.
Would you like to share a special moment in the program?
Anastazia: Some moms were having difficulty understanding the information in the introduction of the program. We had to work harder to explain the concepts in different ways and spend more time with them one-on-one in home visits. Then, it was so rewarding to see that they understood the first concepts of the program, and they accepted them because they showed us and told us about certain behavior changes they had carried out. They persevered and it was so wonderful to see that.
Ashura: There are a lot of experiences I have had, but mostly this role has given me the opportunity to learn to be patient. This is true when we need to bring new ideas or technologies. This is a gradual process. Moms have had their culture and lifestyle a certain way for their whole lives in many cases, and so when it comes to adopting new behaviors, it takes time. The parents do a great job. It just takes time to see changes, and that gives us the opportunity to practice patience.
Regina, what do you enjoy most about working with your team of caregivers as supervisor?
Regina: I love working together as a team with all the caregivers. The caregivers I supervise are well trained and educated and most of them have a background in social work. I am confident they add value to the families. That makes it very easy to work with them. I especially enjoy the fact that sometimes we share skills and knowledge that we have for the sake of helping RCP children. The caregivers are committed to their job and we work hard to make sure our program is running well.
What has been your experience with volunteers?
Anastazia: I loved doing follow up with families in Mkalanga to ensure families had received fortified porridge after finding that there were moms and children in critical condition. We did this follow up in home visits with volunteers and it was wonderful to see that the families were getting more nutrition and feeling better and getting stronger.
Ashura: Most of the volunteers who come to our community have taught me so much about love. They truly have a feeling of helping and caring — so often I can feel and see it. They do their volunteer work based on their profession or experience, but I also can see love in what they do and that’s what can make things change. When it comes to the matter of serving the families, and more broadly, advancing Tanzania Community Health Initiatives, it becomes very easy as love touches everyone’s life in one way or another.
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