Generous gift offers more opportunity for Yogurt Mamas

December 20, 2011

London, ON – Brescia University College’s Dr. Sharareh Hekmat has a little more celebrating to do this Christmas. With a generous $1.06 million gift given to University of Western Ontario, her two starter cultures using donated probiotic will produce more yogurt that will be able to provide disease-fighting nutrition to more people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The Western Heads East program, which was started in 2003 by a group of Western students, faculty, staff, and Brescia’s Dr. Hekmat, is based on the goal of teaching and empowering East African mothers – affectionately called “Yogurt Mamas” – to produce Hekmat’s yogurt. The probiotic strain helps to improve the nutritional status of people living with HIV/AIDS, and also alleviate the signs and symptoms associated with this disease.

Thanks to Western professor Marianne Larsen, a Western Heads East chair who made the generous donation, the Yogurt Mamas will see an immediate upgrade to four existing yogurt kitchens in Tanzania and 16 new kitchens throughout East Africa. This translates into increasing capacity to feed 1,100 people each day living with HIV/AIDS over the next ten years. Working with product donated by Chr. Hansen and Lawson Research scientist Dr. Gregor Reid along with Dr. Hekmat, the Western Heads East kitchens utilize their ground-breaking work, and produce yogurt enriched with probiotics that help fight infections related to the disease.

“Professor Larsen’s generous donation will enable us to expand the Western Heads East project by establishing new kitchens in more African communities. This expansion will both help us reach more people in areas of need and offer a greater number of life-changing internships to Brescia and UWO students.”

For more information, please visit


For more information please contact Colleen Aguilar, Communications, Marketing & External Relations Officer, at 519.432.8353, ext. 28280 or

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