September 3, 2010
Brescia student returns from Africa determined to live what she learned from ‘yoghurt mamas’
Brescia University College student Kathryn Morgan (front left) was inspired by the ‘yoghurt mamas’ in Mwanza, Tanzania to share her education and experience with the world.
London, ON – Third-year Brescia University College student Kathryn Morgan returned from Mwanza, Tanzania on August 28 with first-hand knowledge of the value of probiotic yoghurt in Africa and with a commitment to share her education and experience with the world
“My personal goal for my experience in Africa before leaving was to come away feeling that I had made a difference in these women’s lives…In reality I think I brought back more from the ‘yoghurt mamas’ than I left behind. These women live for the day. All the women I worked with are living with HIV/AIDS and the strength they have to come in every day is inspiring,” Morgan said.
The yoghurt was developed by Dr. Sharareh Hekmat, associate professor in the Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Brescia and one of the original members of the Western Heads East (WHE) steering committee, in collaboration with scientists at The University of Western Ontario (Western) and the Canadian Centre for Probiotic Research at the Lawson Health Institute in London. Morgan’s internship was made possible through the Students for Development program, managed by the Canadian Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.
Hekmat has been working on the development of probiotic dairy products for more than 20 years. She continues to modify the recipe at Brescia to enhance its nutritional status and adjust its sensory characteristics to meet the needs of various communities. The yoghurt contains micro-organisms effective in treating and preventing urogenital infections in women and in improving the nutritional status of people living with HIV/AIDS. Her recipe has been introduced to African women via the ‘yoghurt mamas’ project and she has trained more than 25 interns (from Brescia and Western) who have helped to create the sustainable mini-dairy plant in Tanzania.
Morgan’s primary goal as an intern was to transfer skills. “I am studying Foods and Nutrition so one of my goals was to do quality control and food safety with the production process of the probiotic yoghurt. We really wanted to enable these women to use the skills they learn once we are gone rather than do the work for them.” Morgan’s African experience has inspired her to pursue a Masters in community health with an international focus after she earns her B.A. at Brescia and becomes a Registered Dietitian.
Both Hekmat and Morgan have been inspired by the yoghurt mamas. “The women in Tanzania feel empowered and have taken ownership of this project. They are producing the yoghurt, distributing it, and community members are either purchasing the yoghurt or receiving it free of charge,” Hekmat said. She is pleased that the women running the second African site in Kenya, recently opened and now in full production, are having a similar experience.
“Our hope is to expand the project to other African countries, like Zimbabwe and Rwanda, and in India. Funding and human resources are required to expand the project,” Hekmat said. The WHE team is also working with health and academic officials in Rwanda to expand the partnership, which may include student exchange programs and academic credits for WHE interns staying in Rwanda to work on the probiotic yoghurt project.
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Brescia University College, Canada’s premier women’s university college, is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. The 1,100 women registered as either full or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room at http://www.brescia.uwo.ca/media/index.html
To set up an interview or to collect more information, please contact:
Kathryn Morgan, Foods and Nutrition student
Phone: 705-789-2537 (until September 8)
Note: Kathryn returns to London on September 9.
Dr. Shari Hekmat, associate professor in the Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences