Brescia student returns from Africa determined to live what she learned from ‘yoghurt mamas’

September 3, 2010

Brescia student returns from Africa determined  to live what she learned from ‘yoghurt mamas’

mwanza

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                       E-mail: kathrynmorgan8@gmail.com                       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                       E-mail: hekmat@uwo.ca