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!)