A collection of journal entries of two students from the University of Western Ontario, Dallas Curow (June-August 2005) and Jonathan Birinyi (June 2005-April 2006). Feel free to read and explore their journey working on the Western Heads East probiotic yogurt nutriontal project in Mwanza, Tanzania, Africa.

Journal – Week of August 22nd

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This marked Dallas’ last full week in Mwanza. We were both surprised that nearly three months had gone by already. Nevertheless, Dallas was excited to be heading back to Western to take part in Orientation Week as an MIT Soph. Because of her imminent departure, the two of us spent the greater part of the week tying up loose ends and planning for our continued roles with the project.

After Monday’s Kivulini meeting, Rita (the new Kivulini intern) fainted in the office. Kivulini staff helped her to our apartment and brought her to Jonathan’s room to rest. Later that day they took her out to get a Malaria test and sure enough she had it – with “a score” of three rings. Rita was in Tanzania for only six days. Dallas was feeling a bit under the weather and decided to get a malaria test as well, but hers came up negative.

Monday’s yogurt production repeated tradition as being a problematic day – no mamas showed up. Later in the day two other mamas came to fill in, but production ran well into the afternoon. Because of this, we decided that we would write notes for the mamas on Tuesday announcing a Thursday afternoon meeting.

Tuesday marked Dallas’ last Swahili lesson at the language school. Dallas thanked Dr. Salalah for all her help learning the language and for her input and feedback on our project. Dr. Salalah was sad to see one of her best students go, but encouraged Dallas to continue practicing Swahili in Canada.

That night the two of us went to Mama Asha’s house to meet her family and for dinner. Her home was in Mabatini, along with many of the other yogurt mamas. Asha showed us around her house, cooked us dinner and showed us many pictures of her family. Before we left, we took a few pictures of our own and gave some gifts to some of the children.

Thursday, Dallas, Jonathan, Rita and Kulwa made the trek up to Buswelu Elementary School - (a rural area about 30 min away from downtown Mwanza). The school is partnered with Tecumseh Public School in London, Ontario and every student in one class at Buswelu is teamed up with another student in a class at Tecumseh. When we arrived, the headmaster toured us around the school grounds and showed us the class partnered with Tecumseh. We handed out gifts and pen-pal letters to the students and teachers in the classroom. Overall, they were very happy and grateful for everything they received. Before we left, the students of the classroom sang a song, thanking us for coming and arranged with the headmaster to return to Buswelu in around 3 weeks time.

Thursday afternoon, Dallas and Rita visited some women who received Kivulini-funded goiter operations, meanwhile Jonathan remained at the apartment and prepared arrangements for the meeting with the yogurt mamas. We decided to hand out a questionnaire about various issues surrounding purchasing yogurt in Mwanza. Some of the questions included:

- Is regular yogurt available in your community (Mabatini)?
- Before working here, did you ever eat regular yogurt?
- Do you know anyone in your community that buys regular yogurt?
- Do you think that regular yogurt is too expensive to buy?
- If probiotic yogurt was sold for the same price as regular yogurt, do you think people would buy it?
- If you were not making probiotic yogurt, would you buy it for the same price as regular yogurt?
o If no, then how much would you pay?
- What are some reasons people might not buy regular yogurt?

During the meeting, the mamas also answered some questions verbally. For instance:

- Where do you keep the yogurt during the day?

There was an even split between the following answers:
1) They eat it right away
2) They pay someone (a store) to refrigerate the yogurt, so they can consume it later in the day/night. [costing approx. 50 TSH (or ~5 cents CDN) for three hours]
3) They eat warm yogurt at night

- Do you eat yogurt on its own or with other food?

There was an even split between the following answers:
1) Depends – On its own or with food. (example: ugali, a starchy porridge like mashed potatoes, but firmer)
2) On its own – (example: as dessert)

- Do you add sugar to the yogurt?

All mamas collectively said, no.

Overall, the meeting was very productive – all of the mamas were very enthusiastic about answering our questions and filling out the questionnaires with their families at home. Our goal for this meeting was to understand, in detail some of the important issues that face the feasibility of the project. We believe that the information we obtained was a good start; hopefully within a few weeks we will have enough data to put together a thorough report.

Friday proved to be a very busy day as well. In the morning we had a meeting with Maimuna to discuss our current situation with the project. The three main topics for the meeting were milk sources, financial support, and future monetary costs. Maimuna was very helpful and understanding of our needs, providing lots of different options to each of our concerns. For example, Maimuna offered us various contacts on local NGOs that are trying to help out small businesses in the Mwanza region – stating that we would have a good chance for qualifying for funding. Later that afternoon, we went with Maimuna and Kivulini staff to the first day of a week-long domestic violence awareness festival held by Kivulini.

Saturday became increasingly frustrating because there was no water or electricity for the apartment the entire day. Therefore, we decided to head down to the festival again and assist Kivulini in taking photos for documentation. When we returned to the apartment later that afternoon, we had a potential donor for our project come and visit. Maimuna introduced us to him and we were told that he was working for an NGO helping build (water) wells throughout the Mwanza region. He said that Mabatini (the site of the proposed yogurt kitchen) will be receiving a well in the near future and that his services could be applied to helping build the rest of the kitchen. We told him we were interested in this idea – Maimuna said that she would pass on any more information when it becomes available.

On Sunday, it was Jonathan’s 21st birthday and most of the day’s plans were associated with celebrating it. In the morning, Rita and Dallas got up early and made breakfast-in-bed for Jonathan. Soon afterwards, the Mama Joyce, Pendo and some of their kids came over to help make food for the party we were planning on having that night (including several kilos of rice and meat). The water was still out, but cooking continued because of storage buckets we had prepared earlier.
While they were cooking, Dallas, Rita, Jenny and Jonathan all headed to the Isamilo pool for a quick swim. When we returned back to the apartment, the cooking was almost done and the party was to begin within an hour. Dallas planned to hold two separate parties, one for the yogurt mamas (that would begin at around 4pm) and a second for Kivulini staff and close friends (for around 6pm). When the yogurt mamas arrived, we played some music on a battery-powered radio and did some dancing!
The party with the mamas also served another purpose, since it would be the last time they would all see Dallas. Before the mamas left, they gave her a special ‘goodbye’ song and a kanga as a gift.
Since we had no electricity, when Kivulini arrived at our apartment, it was dark – instead we used several candles to illuminate the house. Kivulini staff decided to sing three songs in honour of Jonathan, Dallas and Rita. Afterwards we exchanged stories and memories of the past few months well into the night.

August 29-September 4, 2005

From Monday to Wednesday of this week, we spent most of our time preparing for Dallas’ departure. On the side, Jonathan was trying to complete a video slide show about WHE for residence staff training at Western. On Tuesday, we also had a visitor from Kivulini. Mr. Carson worked for a local NGO that helps small charitable organizations obtain NGO or Community Based Organization (CBO) status. Unfortunately, Mr. Carson couldn’t stay long, but he expressed interest in WHE and said that he would be following up with Maimuna in the future.

Wednesday was Dallas’ last full day in Mwanza. She made the trip up to NIMR with Jonathan to say goodbye to the microbiology team and Iddah – one of our milk sources. When we went to Iddah’s office, she surprised Dallas with a kanga, as a gift. That afternoon, Kivulini held a goodbye party for Dallas; complete with another gift…you guessed it, a kanga! Before the party was over, each staff member said their own congratulatory thanks to Dallas and Kivulini collectively sang a song in her honour.

On Thursday, Dallas, Jonathan, Rita, Kulwa, Teddy, Pendo and her son made the trip out to the airport at around noon. Everyone said a tearful goodbye to Dallas – and sure enough the third intern for Western Heads East was on her way back to Canada.

The remainder of the journals will be written in the first person.

After going to the airport, Kulwa dropped Rita and I off at a workshop that was being conducted for Kivulini staff and community leaders. The workshop was on Research Development and Monitoring & Evaluation and was being facilitated by a Harvard University PhD student, named Edith. There was a large focus on balancing qualitative and quantitative data, as well as developing ways to observe indicators and obtain information. I thought that learning these skills would be an essential asset for my time here; therefore, I decided to head back for the remaining two days of the workshop.
That Sunday, I took Rita to the Mwanza Sunday market to grab some veggies and other food items. That afternoon, we also made a stop off at a party being held by one of our friends at NIMR and that night I stayed in the apartment and tried to catch up on some work.

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