Since 1977, ZERO TO THREE has helped protect and strengthen babies’ brains through formative family and community connections critical to babies’ and toddlers’ well-being and development. Global Volunteers collaborates with ZERO TO THREE by co-creating media to raise awareness around issues of early childhood, and facilitating teams of volunteer professionals focused on early childhood to serve in communities globally. Here, Lynette Aytch, Director of Leadership Development at ZERO TO THREE, shares how her experience with Global Volunteers in Tanzania significantly expanded her understanding, knowledge, and skills in serving infants, young children, and families both in this specific context and from a global perspective.
By Lynette Aytch
Explaining the Reaching Children’s Potential Demonstration Program
My volunteer service in Tanzania was in support of the Reaching Children’s Potential Demonstration Program (RCP), a child/parent-focused comprehensive initiative intended to by reducing the nearly 50% incidence of childhood stunting. The primary program priorities are:
- supporting the first 1,000 days from pregnancy through the second year of life,
- enhancing nutrition and food supply, and
- improving health and hygiene to minimize transmission of infectious disease.
The RCP program is in the early stage of expanding to the five remote rural villages of the Ukwega Ward in the mountains of south-central Tanzania. I served specifically in three of these villages – Ipalamwa, Lulindi, and Mkalanga. The best way for me to capture this experience is: Breathtakingly beautiful landscape and human resilience in the face of heartbreaking poverty.
“The best way for me to capture this experience is: Breathtakingly beautiful landscape and human resilience in the face of heartbreaking poverty.“Lynette Aytch
My Team in Tanzania
Our volunteer team consisted of 17 members: 12 senior nursing students from St. John Fisher College of Nursing (Rochester, NY); two nursing school faculty; a ZERO TO THREE subscribed member; a lone male (Bill) from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and me. The two weeks of service began with an intensive orientation program and was followed by full days of service, including home visits, health clinic projects, parent workshops, RCP caregiver staff workshops, English language tutoring, and light facilities maintenance.
“It is very difficult to express just how deeply this volunteer service impacted me; it was extraordinary on so many levels.“Lynette Aytch
My service specifically focused on home visits with expectant moms and/or families with children under the age of three. I worked with a caregiver, Anastazia, (one of the local professional home visitors/translators) and accompanied her on all her home visits over the two weeks. We saw about 25-30 families per week. While she focused predominately on issues of maternal/infant health, breastfeeding, food sufficiency, and hygiene, I was able to integrate issues of infant development, positive parenting, and parental social/emotional challenges.
During my second week in service, I facilitated two workshops for the RCP caregivers using ZERO TO THREE resources. I also facilitated two discussion sessions with moms, with Anastazia’s assistance, following workshops facilitated by nursing students on menstrual health, family planning, and sexually transmitted infections. The purpose of the discussion sessions was for moms to reflect with each other on what was learned in the workshops and promote supportive relationships between village moms.
Reflections from My Service in Tanzania
It is very difficult to express just how deeply this volunteer service impacted me; it was extraordinary on so many levels. I got to engage with families in deeply meaningful ways I never expected, establish positive relationships with Global Volunteers staff, and experience a landscape that defies description in its beauty and majesty. The fact that today babies, young children and families are living in this depth of poverty breaks my heart. But the smiles, joy, and resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity makes me see life through a different lens. I will forever be grateful for this experience.
“I got to engage with families in deeply meaningful ways I never expected, establish positive relationships with Global Volunteers staff, and experience a landscape that defies description in its beauty and majesty.”Lynette Aytch
Global Volunteers enables people of all ages fulfill their volunteer goals through worldwide programs. Learn more about our volunteer service program in Tanzania and Chat Online with one of our program experts to get started today!