Staff at the Housing and Ancillary Services at Western University initiated the Western Heads East Project in 2002 as Western’s Community response to HIV/AIDS epidemic in east Africa. Since, the project has grown and evolved into a sustainable development project wherein Western staff, students, faculty and African partners collaborate using probiotic foods to contribute to health and sustainable development. Western now acts as a central hub for research, knowledge sharing, fundraising, assisting communities with the initial set up of yoghurt kitchens, best practices for probiotic yoghurt production, establishing quality control procedures, sustainable business education among other things. Program partners from the Western University include:
Management Committee: The Western Heads East Management Committee is comprised of founding faculty and staff and oversees implementation, governance and strategic planning of the Western Heads East Program to develop a sustainable community development program based on probiotic foods to contribute to health and sustainable development.
Western International: The Western Heads East Program is a part of Western International. Western International directs and supports the university's international strategy, while acting as a resource to both international partners, as well as faculties and departments across campus. Western International is dedicated to fostering international learning opportunities; recruiting and supporting international students; and enhancing overall global activity and awareness.
Western Heads East Fundraising and Education Committee: Led by concerned and globally-minded leaders, this group of students works with WHE interns to promote awareness about the AIDS pandemic in Africa and conduct fundraising initiatives in the London and campus communities to support the program. You are invited to join the committee.
The researchers at Brescia University College, in collaboration with researchers at the Canadian R&D Centre for Probiotics at the Lawson Health Research Institute, have developed a new probiotic yoghurt which a survey showed to be comparable in taste and texture to commercial yogurt. It contains high levels of beneficial microorganisms. Western Heads East's nutrition interns also receive their training at the Brescia University College. Probiotic research and development at Brescia is led by Dr. Sharareh Hekmat, Associate Professor Food and Nutritional Sciences. Dr. Hekmat has spent over 20 years developing dairy products containing probiotics. So far, she trained more than nineteen interns for the project which has helped to create a sustainable mini-dairy plant in an outlying communities of Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda. The interns educate the community about the health benefits and preparation of probiotic yogurt. For more information, please visit Dr. Hekmat's faculty page.
The Lawson Health Research Institute is the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care, London. As one of the largest hospital-based research institutes in Canada, Lawson is committed to furthering scientific knowledge to advance health care around the world. Lawson is home to the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotics Research, a key partner with the Western Heads East program.
The Western Heads East program has facilitated a twinning project between the Tecumseh School in London, Ontario and the Buswelu Elementary School in Mwanza, Tanzania. Since 2005, the Tecumseh Public School has contributed to the building of desks and has raised funds to support other needed supplies.
In 2008, Clarke Road Secondary School in London also twinned with the Mtoni Secondary School in Mwanza. Clarke Road has also raised funds for Mtoni building projects and school equipment. Mtoni is located right by the yoghurt kitchen. The yoghurt mamas often go to cook the students breakfast and the school staff are frequent visitors to the kitchen for some yogurt!
Fundraising efforts of the Clarke Road High School and Tecumseh Public School create a great impact on the schools in Mwanza. The letters and funds provide not only much needed supplies, but a sense of hope - that others in the world care. The transfer of letters and gifts between students helps them relate to each other and become friends. When the London students are fundraising they know exactly who will benefit and what the impact of their efforts will be.