In this series, Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) program families in Tanzania explain how their involvement in this demonstration program is improving their lives. The RCP program engages short-term volunteers who help parents deliver essential services to improve Health, eradicate Hunger, and enhance 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 beginning with pregnancy and continuing through the 18th birthday, focusing on the first 1,000 days of life. Read on for Rebecca’s account of the project’s benefits.
When 28-year-old Rebecca Mbilinyi became pregnant with her third child in 2017, she hoped that joining the Reaching Children’s Potential Demonstration (RCP) Project would improve the health of all her children. The project focuses on preventing stunting by eliminating malnutrition, decreasing the incidence of infectious disease, and promoting education for pregnant mothers, infants and children under age two, and their families.
Early in her pregnancy, Rebecca attended workshops on key topics for maternal and infant care. She learned how to use a home hand-washing station to improve hygiene, gained access to prenatal care from the new Ipalamwa General Clinic (IGC), and participated in weekly visits from her RCP caregiver, Deborah.
Over time, Rebecca’s confidence as a mother grew and she felt ready to deliver her son, Freddy, in July 2018. Freddy was born at 3.1kg (6.4 pounds) and grew quickly. Rebecca believes that what she learned as a part of RCP and the support from her caregiver, Deborah, the staff and the volunteers, contributed to her son’s growth and good health. When comparing the growth trajectories of her children, Rebecca says that she can see a clear difference between Freddy and her older two children. Her first child, Imelda, is nine years old and is in third grade at Fikano Primary School in Ipalamwa. Rebecca says she is so happy to see that Imelda is learning English words and how to pronounce them correctly with the help of Global Volunteers in the classroom. Her second child is Patrick, who is 7 years old and in kindergarten.
Rebecca says the nutritious porridge and RCP workshops on controlling infectious diseases have benefited her family the most. Further, the hand-washing station installed by the RCP program has been life-changing, as is the practice of boiling the family’s drinking and cooking water. She said she’s grateful for Deborah’s home visits, because the two women have built a relationship that allows Rebecca to feel free to ask questions and reinforce the program lessons.
As a result of her willingness to learn and embrace new ideas, Rebecca is seeing improvements in the health of her entire family, not just Freddy. She says that all family members have adopted healthy practices and “stomach disease in her house has become a history now.”
Rebecca’s journey through the program has followed the first 1,000 days of Freddy’s life: that critical period in a child’s development where providing the essential nutrients and care for cognitive and physical growth of children is vital. As he continues to grow and thrive, Rebecca can look to the future. She hopes that her son will be “a good father, be knowledgeable and helpful in society.”