Sleep, Milk and an Education: An Interlude with Lidia from Tanzania

March 10, 2017

Originally published October 7, 2016

Our time with Lidia, a mother from Tanzania, was brief, but the thoughts she shared about motherhood, education and health are timeless.

We stood quietly, surrounded by cows, manure and flies, until Lidia stepped outside of her home and invited us indoors. She apologized for the delay – women in her community have many chores that keep them on a tight schedule every day, so even a brief visit made a notable hiccup in her regimen.

Keeping this in mind, we expressed our gratitude for her grace and willingness to give a pocket of her time to us. She smiled in return as she bounced her baby on her lap, a small fire crackling in the divide between us. As flames cradled a pot of food, smoke billowed out of a small hole in the side of Lidia’s home. Her visage was illuminated by the limited light from the hole and the flickering ribbons of orange and yellow.

At 35 years old, motherhood is a familiar friend to Lidia. Her oldest child, Baraka, is 10 years old; his siblings are 7, 5 ½ and 2 years old. Raising four young children is enough to keep Lidia busy, but is only one of the many duties she manages on a daily basis. Given how many of her hours are devoted to running her household, Lidia is grateful for both the direct and indirect benefits provided by vitamins.

 “When I started taking this medicine, my two babies were more active. [Now] when it’s time for them to sleep, they sleep nicely until I finish my chores at home,” she shared. Chores aside, Lidia also praised the power of vitamins for how drastically they improved her ability to produce breastmilk.

“There’s a big difference compared to now,” she said, in reference to her earlier pregnancies. “I saw a big difference…when breastfeeding. When I go somewhere and leave my baby at home, I have to come home quick because my milk starts to drip!” To ensure that other mothers have the same opportunity, Lidia is vocal about the benefits of prenatal vitamins. “Some said, ‘We didn’t receive this medicine, were they good?’ I said they were good because they gave me more milk for my babies,” she said.

The visible benefits of today are indicative of a path towards a brighter future for her children. “Good health for my children is eating well and with no diseases, where you can tell from looking at them that they are healthy,” Lidia said. Ultimately, she believes that greater health for her young children will help them do better in school, which will eventually lead them to become successful workers.

“I want the kids to be active and in very good health. I wish all my children to get education…when they are educated enough, they can manage themselves and help me also,” she said. “My dreams are to have all of my children go to school and run their own life. I would love for them to have houses, goats and cows.” Her words allude to the revered symbolism of cattle in the Maasai culture - a traditional prayer demonstrates just how high a standing livestock hold in their lives: “May the Creator give us cattle and children.”

Beyond working in the field, Lidia asserted that education, in particular, is instrumental to her children’s prospects.

“It’s important to have cows, but what is more important is if a child is educated,” she said. “Because when I have cows, I will be able to educate my child and later they will increase the number of cows [by earning more money]. Education is wealth.”

Health. Education. Wealth. These are dreams that moms all over the world share, and ones that are often made possible starting with a simple vitamin.

View the original piece and full photography at

Photo credit: Matt Dayka for Vitamin Angels