Wrapping Up

It’s a few days before the end of my internship, and I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I’ve missed my family and friends very much, but on the other, I’m going to miss the warm sun and relaxed lifestyle of Mwanza. It feels like just yesterday I stepped off the airplane and met Maimuna, and now I’ll be saying goodbye in just a few short days.

This past week was a busy one. Kathy and I wrapped up our nutritional intervention at Foundation Karibu Tanzania. We thanked the staff for the warm welcome they gave us and were happy to know they meant to continue implementing Fiti uji and juice with the children. The best part of that day was playing with the kids. One of them especially took a liking to me and refused to let go, and I was not complaining!

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Lily was one of the first friends we made in Mwanza, she let us use her kitchen to test new Fiti products. Recently, she and her husband Brian invited us over for dinner and she made a delicious meal for us! Lasagna, fried chicken, salad, vegetables, chocolate cake and tiramisu – and she gave us each a kanga, kitenge (patterned fabrics that women here use as skirts or to carry babies) and apron. Lily’s warm welcome and generosity touched me, and I am so grateful to have been able to get to know her. I plan on keeping in touch and hopefully visiting her again!

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From left: Diane, Kathy, me, Anisah, Brian and Lily – I am grateful for our new friends!

As we prepare to leave Mwanza, we’ve been working to ensure our contributions will continue to benefit our host organization. This involves creating brochures and pamphlets that will help with public education around Fiti, training videos that MikonoYetu can use when opening more kitchens, and a compilation of standard operating procedures for all Fiti products. It’s rewarding to know that the work I’ve done will play a part in improving the health of this community. This internship has taught me the value of holistic interventions that target both socioeconomic and health-based issues, and I plan to use this knowledge to improve my own community back in Canada.

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A fabric shop in Mwanza
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Kathy and I with Samwel, our building security guard
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Eating the best soft serve in Mwanza at Alpha restaurant
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A beautiful sunset outside our hotel

 

One more month!

At the beginning of my internship, three months felt like forever. Now that I only have a month left, I feel compelled to work quickly and have been busier than ever.

Our work at Foundation Karibu Tanzania is going well. The children love the juice! They’ve also been gaining weight and none of them have developed fevers since the beginning of the intervention, all good signs.

Most excitingly, kitchens are starting to implement Fiti juice as one of their products. Kathy and I have been visiting kitchens and training them in juice-making. Everyone has been extremely friendly and receptive. At the Ebeneza kitchen, they even served us a delicious lunch of ugali and sardines after the training. And Mama Yusta, who we also trained, showed us her amazing collection of handmade bags.

From left: Kathy, Mama Yusta, myself and Mama Theo

We have also filmed a Fiti training video in Lily’s kitchen demonstrating the proper protocol in making various Fiti products. Once it is translated, it will be implemented as part of MikonoYetu’s training long after we leave. It feels good to know that our work here has been useful and will continue to benefit people. Lily was the first Mama to help us and we will really miss her. She was kind enough to let us cook in her kitchen – I’ve missed cooking!

The plan over the next few weeks is to continue training kitchens in making juice, and to wrap up our intervention at Foundation Karibu. I am excited to go home; I miss my family and friends, but I’ll also miss the friends I’ve made in Mwanza!

Food we cooked at Lily’s house – wild rice pilaf and chicken cacciatore

Yassin, who directs Kivulini Women’s Rights, has a restaurant on top of a hill. He has a great collection of Maasai blankets!

Safari!

This past week of my internship was my favourite by far. We visited Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater! I enjoyed the safari immensely; it was amazing to see zebras, wildebeest, lions, elephants and even the elusive cheetah! Some of the animals were so close we could almost reach out and touch them. The sunrises and sunsets over the plains, with animals and trees silhouetted, took my breath away. The crater was beautiful too – it was a completely different landscape from the savannah. Everywhere you turned, you saw the steep, forested crater rim – it was like being in a giant bowl! We saw several Maasai people with their cattle as well. I think I took more photographs that weekend than I ever have.

After returning from the Serengeti, we got right down to work. I spent most of this week at Foundation Karibu Tanzania, a home for severely abused children that allows them to heal physically while also providing counselling and reintegration to their families. Kathy and I will be implementing Fiti juice and uji (porridge) here over the next month and see how well it’s received by the children. We’ve really enjoyed teaching their kitchen how to make juice. The children usually help out by washing dishes and so on, and they’re very affectionate – my favourite moment was one little boy running up to me and hugging my legs.

We’ve also been helping the mamas at Tukwamuane with their bookkeeping. They have a very detailed system, and the only constructive feedback we had was tracking capital and their own salaries. We hope this way they will be able to track their savings and invest in new equipment.

Last weekend, I got to visit a local church with Maimuna! The topic was “family” – Maimuna spoke about domestic violence and encouraged a discussion about it with the congregation. A few people shared stories of neighbours they had helped through such a situation. It was great to see people invested in finding a solution. Then, Kathy and I spoke about Fiti, its health benefits, and how it allows women to be economically empowered. Most people expressed skepticism at the idea of consuming bacteria for health – clearly, more public education is needed. But once the pastor expressed his support, the congregation was trusting.

Nearly two months of my internship are finished! It felt so long initially, but now time is flying by. I miss home a lot, but we’re starting to put down some roots here in Mwanza as well.

The Day I Ate 50 Mishkaki

This week, we all made a lot of progress with our projects. At the Tukwamuane kitchen, we led the mamas in making pineapple-flavoured yoghurt (maziwa mgando mananasi), and handed out free samples to people from the surrounding community. Everyone seemed to like it, so hopefully this is something the mamas can introduce into their product line. We plan to return regularly to Tukwamuane to track yoghurt quality, which I’ll enjoy doing – the mamas are very welcoming. On our first day, they gave us some delicious chapatti and ginger tea for breakfast.

Something else I want to do is carry out a nutritional intervention in an orphanage or school using Fiti juice and observe the positive effects experienced by the children. We visited the Foundation Karibu, which takes in severely abused children, helping them heal physically and psychologically, and counsels their families before re-integrating them. The children were drinking uji with moringa, which Makachia, who helps direct the foundation, says is the reason they heal so fast – moringa is known to be packed with micronutrients. Hopefully adding Fiti will amplify its effects.

I spent this past weekend in Dar Es Salaam with family friends! It’s a very cosmopolitan city, with a population five times the size of Mwanza. I ate a lot of local delicacies, including fresh cassava chips, choma (grilled meat), and mishkaki. I’ve written about mishkaki in Mwanza before, but it’s different in Dar Es Salaam. At one point, I ate 50 in one sitting – this is not an exaggeration. My friends also took me to the Slipway market, which has a huge selection of souvenirs. Dar Es Salaam is also much more multicultural than Mwanza, so I didn’t feel like I stood out as a mzungu. Overall, it was a fun and refreshing break.

Our time in Tanzania is halfway done. In some ways, it feels like a long time, but we have a lot left to do! It will be a busy and productive six weeks.

Serengeti Kidogo

This week has been one of the busiest since the beginning of my internship. Bob and Jessica from Western Heads East came to Mwanza to visit us! Our days were filled with meetings with Western’s partners, including Education for Better Living, SAUT and MikonoYetu, as well as other local organizations like Health is Wealth and government departments like SIDO (Small Industries Development Organization). It was very educational to learn about the economic challenges that face Tanzania as a whole and our partners in particular. At this meeting, Kathy and I also conducted taste tests of Fiti pineapple juice, uji and ugali. The juice was very well received, the millet and ugali unfortunately less so – but we plan to do some more research on how to make them more accepted.

After the meeting, Jessica and Bob treated us to an excellent dinner at the Hotel Tilapia. I enjoyed catching up with them over dinner and discussing our projects. They have given us excellent advice on conducting taste tests at the Tukwamuane kitchens which I’m excited to implement over the next few days.

I’ve been wanting to explore the land around Mwanza for a while now, and on Sunday I finally got my chance! Jessica and Bob took us to Saanane Island, a small national park in the middle of Lake Victoria. It’s known as the Serengeti Kidogo, or little Serengeti. We did some pretty strenuous hiking around the island. I enjoyed climbing up to the vantage points, despite our guide Silva making fun of me for being slow. The views of Lake Victoria were gorgeous. And we saw animals! Zebras, lions, peacocks, impalas, monitor lizards, and – my personal favourite – monkeys! I can’t wait to see even more animals when we go to the Serengeti, a trip we’re in the process of planning now.

I’m settling into life in Mwanza, which is a good feeling. We’ve found a couple of places around the city we like to hang out in, and established a routine. I’ve also managed to work with Kathy to set some concrete goals for our projects, and we’re making good progress!

Uji – millet-based porridge

Ugali – traditional East African staple made from cornflour

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Resilience

It has been a very eventful week for all of us here in Mwanza. I encountered my first big challenge of the trip – last weekend, another intern and I had our laptops stolen! Upon discovering the theft, we immediately went to the police station and filed a report (which was difficult because no one there spoke much English). We also demanded lockable closets and a security guard from the hotel manager, which he delivered. While it was a difficult situation and I was undoubtedly very upset at first, I surprised myself with how well I handled it, and I am so grateful for the other interns for their support. Playing Uno and Anomia with them every night really helped take my mind off things!

The rest of the week was positive. Something I really enjoyed was visiting the yoghurt kitchens and speaking with the mamas. Kato was kind enough to come along and translate where we needed it. He took us to the Tukwamuane, Vijana Simama Imara, and Tutafiki Yoba Fiti kitchens. It was inspiring to hear firsthand how selling Fiti made a difference in the mamas’ lives; many of them built houses, sent their kids to school, and one mama even put herself through college. Some of the challenges they face are skepticism about the benefits of Fiti. The yoghurt was initially marketed as an intervention for people living with HIV – research done by Dr. Reid at Western shows that it can help increase T cell count. The downside of this, though, is that because of the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, people are hesitant to buy the yoghurt. A next step for us to take is community education about Fiti’s other benefits.

Later this week, I hope to do a taste test of Fiti juice with MikonoYetu staff. If it’s well-received, I’ll try introducing it to the Tukwamuane kitchen! A challenge I’ve faced, however, is finding a lab with the right equipment to test the juice for the presence of probiotic bacteria. The Tandabui Institute of Health Science and Technology was kind enough to allow us to use theirs this week, but unfortunately our plates were contaminated. We have a few other labs in mind; hopefully one of them has the equipment we need.

I’d like to end this blog post by thanking my fellow interns for their company and support. It was an especially difficult week but we all got through it together. Nimefurahi kuwa na wewe! (I am glad to have you!)

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Tutafika Yoba Fiti kitchen
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With Kato, our translator
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Tukwamuane kitchen staff
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At the Vijana Simama Imara kitchen
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Making Fiti juice!

Settling in (and using dala-dalas)

It’s been over a week since I arrived in Mwanza, and I’m starting to fall into a routine. In the morning, I take advantage of the free breakfast – usually a hard-boiled egg, tea, and chapat. Then I buy a huge bottle of water and head out for the day.

We recently had our orientation at MikonoYetu. Mlola came by the hotel to pick us up, and we took the dala-dala (essentially a bus) to Buswelu, a suburb of sorts where MikonoYetu headquarters is located. (Brief commentary on the dala-dalas: they’re often crowded and bumpy, and certainly not built for comfort, but they’re MUCH cheaper than London transit and you really feel like one of the locals!) At MikonoYetu, Maimuna along with many other staff gave us a rundown of what they do, which is much more extensive than I initially thought. Not only do they support and coordinate the probiotic yoghurt kitchens, they also train women on managing their finances, run a school for girls, and are hoping to build a museum to teach people about the strength of African women whose stories have been erased from history. A story she told us that really impacted me was one about the queen of a tribe who died rather than let her people fight for German colonialists during WWII. It was inspiring to hear Maimuna’s passion as she spoke about their mission, and I feel honoured to be part of such a worthy cause.

The next day, we took the dala-dala (by ourselves!) to St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) where two other interns, Diane and Kajan, are completing their internships. At every entrance to campus, a large sign described the dress code – nothing above the knee and skirts only for girls! Luckily, we were all prepared; and I enjoyed walking around campus – it felt a little like being back at Western.

Yesterday, I finally got to try making some Fiti juice! Lily, who makes and sells Fiti yogurt out of her own home, generously opened her kitchen to us. It was very different making the juice in a kitchen setting – I’ve only ever made it in the lab, and I’m excited to visit a lab next week and do colony counts to see how well the fermentation works.

It has been a good week and I’ve learned a lot, not only about MikonoYetu and my project, but how to adjust to such a different culture. My goal for next week is to learn enough Swahili to avoid the deer-in-headlights look that appears on my face when I don’t understand what’s being said!

847b8bf5-6f29-4562-adca-39868949e891The interns enjoying Fiti yoghurt at SAUT! From the left: Diane, myself, Kathy, Kajan, Anisah.

IMG_5019The interns with MikonoYetu staff!

IMG_5058    Mishkaki, my new favourite food

Swahili terms

chapat – a breakfast food, sort of like a crepe

dala-dala – a form of public transport

chino/mchina – Chinese