Around the world, parents, especially mothers, play a critical role in preventing malnutrition and supporting the growth and development of their children. Before birth, mothers’ nutrition, health practices, and mental well-being impact the development of their babies in utero. In infancy and childhood, by supplying nutritious food, modeling good hygiene habits, and supporting cognitive development via play and stimulation, parents can ensure their children reach their full potential. Although the RCP program provides instrumental support and education to improve health and nutrition outcomes in the Ukwega Ward, it is a parent-driven effort – impossible without the enthusiastic participation of RCP mothers and fathers!
Supported by RCP Caregivers and volunteers, parents are the primary implementers of the RCP program components. They attend educational workshops, prepare nutritious food for their children, and use and maintain household technologies like handwashing stations, Earthboxes, chicken coops, and fuel-efficient stoves. Involvement in the RCP Program requires significant time and effort, but parents enjoy participating in the program and are enthusiastic about the positive changes they have experienced. RCP parent Inueni Ngalembula from Mkalanga village reported that she regularly participates in RCP activities like home visits, monthly weighing of her baby, preparing nutritious meals, and caring for the RCP technologies. When asked about her favorite RCP activities, Inueni said “I enjoy participating in [workshops] because I learn a lot of new things that have grown my capacity, ability, and knowledge on childcare and parenting as well.” Inueni has also seen a positive impact on her children and mentioned that nutrition education, healthcare, and technologies “…have positively impacted our ability to get vegetables from our home garden and has made it easy for us to get food…it has helped my children be in [a] good health condition.”
RCP mother Angela Ngalembula from Mkalanga feels that the RCP Program has “…enabled me as a mother…through seminars which I have been attending at the RCP Centre as well as home visits where I receive knowledge transfer from caregivers. The seminars have been so good to my family [especially] nutritional education…I did not have the knowledge before regardless of all the nutritional sources that are found within our localities and how to use them it was a challenge to me but through Global Volunteers’ education offered through workshops has [improved].” Angela’s favorite RCP activity is the monthly measurement because “…it helps me to know the progress of my children in whatever stage they are in and where to put [the most effort] to make sure they truly meet their full potential.” She also reports that educational workshops on hygiene have helped her family to be free from stomach diseases and that the practice of handwashing has had a positive impact on their life.
Jenifa Kikoti from Mkalanga regularly attends home visits, workshops, and monthly measurements and is responsible for maintaining her family’s RCP household technologies including a chicken coop, Earthboxes, and a handwashing station. Jenifa stated “I have enjoyed all RCP activities but the most enjoyable activity to me is taking care of technologies because it’s a direct impact you can see. I take care of the earth boxes by watering them. I’m enjoying the vegetables…as well as the chicken coops. I know sometime later I will be harvesting protein from chickens.” Jenfia also described the impact of the RCP Program on her children “…using the knowledge I acquire from the workshops, especially that of hand washing and hygiene to improve sanitation around my home has reduced the frequency of illness for my children…my newborn has fewer visits to the health facilities because he doesn’t have stomach illness like his [older] brothers.”
Parent participation in the RCP Program has a positive impact on children’s physical health but it also can support children’s mental development and form positive habits and emotional health. Global Volunteers’ RCP Caregiver Supervisor Thekla Mushi highlighted this important role saying, “It is important for the parents to be involved and participate in the RCP Program…both fathers and mothers can provide consistent and positive messages to their child. This can help a child to have a sense of security and support, which can accelerate the child’s overall well-being. Parents’ involvement is very important at every stage of child development for the betterment of future generations.”
Parents in the Ukwega Ward have already made incredible progress. Since the beginning of the RCP Program in 2017, stunting prevalence among RCP children has dropped from 37% at baseline to 16% – a 57% reduction in the number of stunted children. By volunteering in Tanzania or donating, you can support the RCP Program and provide RCP parents with the resources and support needed to continue the challenging but rewarding work of transforming their children’s futures.