CHAMPs are champs at sharing nutritional messages with Kenyan women

By Haley MacKenzie

Hi again – this is Haley, one of the nutrition students. I wrote this blog Jul 21 but it didn’t make it onto the Farmers Helping Farmers site till now. (Prof Jen apologizes for the delay!)  

I am excited to tell you that we have finished up our last school feedback report and our fourth women’s group of the summer! This leaves us with just one more women’s group to interview (15 women) and one school assessment. This week, we also held a second CHAMPs nutritional seminar.


Photo 1: Julia, Dorcus, and I with our five Gatima CHAMPs! 

Last month, Julia wrote a blog about our first CHAMPs session with the Gatima women’s group. To recap, we taught five women from Gatima women’s group about nutritional messages, gave them laminated copies of the messages, and asked them to teach them to their group via a nutrition seminar and cooking session. We had thirty participants join us to learn the messages and help to prepare ‘super’ githeri and ‘super’ chapatti: both of these staple foods have added vegetables from the women’s kitchen gardens. These women did such a wonderful job that we invited them to teach these messages again, this time to a new women’s group called Upendo Safi.

This time around was a bit different, as we did not have our professor Jennifer Taylor to help us with the planning. Julia and I had to set up a meeting with the Gatima CHAMPs to confirm their interest, set up a meeting with the Upendo Safi executive to determine if this was possible, organize a time and location, decide which food would be made, who would buy it, and who would bring it, how the women would be transported, printing, gifts for participants and CHAMPS, and much more. Nevertheless, we successfully planned the session with only a few minor hiccups.

We decided with the Upendo Safi group that we would have the event on Friday at 11:00am, and that we would be cooking super githeri and super uji. We would prepare the githeri (stew) with maize, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, onion, carrots, and pumpkin leaves and the uji (porridge) with a flour mixture of whole grain maize, finger millet, and millet, with grated carrots. Julia and I also cut up fruit for the women to eat for a dessert (this provides vitamin C which increases iron absoription). We learned from our last session that we should consider the weather, so we ordered a tent and chairs from a nearby church. We expected twenty women to attend, so we brought certificates and necklaces to gift the participants.


Photo 2: Helping to set up the tent for the seminar

When we arrived Friday morning, we found that the women had soaked the maize and beans and were already cooking the githeri! We began to peel, grate, and chop carrots, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and pumpkin leaves. Our driver dropped us off and left to pick up the Gatima CHAMPs. About an hour after arriving, the CHAMPs and some members of Upendo Safi were helping to cut vegetables and men had arrived to put up a tent. I expected that the tent and chairs would arrive in a pickup truck of some sort, so Julia and I laughed when a boda-boda (motorcycle) arrived carrying long poles, the tent, and twenty chairs! We realized that it was getting close to 11:30am, which was the time that we thought we would begin teaching, but nearly half of the participants hadn’t arrived yet. We asked the chairlady of the group where everyone was and it turns out they thought it was starting at noon, so we didn’t end up starting the session until 12:30pm. We used this extra time to chat with the women, greet the cat and dog, and play with the women’s children.


Photo 3 : Our CHAMPs cutting carrots for the githeri


Photo 4 : Julia cutting pumpkin leaves the Kenyan way

The participants arrived one by one and jumped in to help prepare the food. Kenyan women love to cook! When everyone had arrived, we directed them to sit in the chairs in the tent and the CHAMPs took turns teaching and checking on the githeri. The CHAMPs did a great job of delivering the messages, very similar to the previous CHAMPs event. The participants were very interested in the messages and asked Julia and I many questions, some we did not even know the answers to! The women were curious about healthy eating and were inquiring about other Kenyan foods that we are not familiar with making; luckily, Mwenda was present to translate and answer questions about these foods using the nutrition knowledge that he has accumulated from working with FHF.


Photo 5: The Gatima CHAMPs delivering the nutritional messages


Photo 6: Session participants trying super githeri!

All in all, the CHAMPs session went very well. We were happy to have the opportunity to share our messages with a group outside of those that we are working with this summer and it is always fun to cook with the women! After the session, the participants were so thankful for the messages, meals, and gifts that they began to sing to us. You can see that we are all smiles in the picture!


Photo 7: Group photo of all participants and CHAMPs



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