Western Heads East: Message from President Alan Shepard

In 2022 we came together to celebrate 20 years of changemakers! With the inception of Western Heads East in July 2002, we introduced Africa's first probiotic yogurt. Since then, this grassroots program which combines global partnerships with local leadership, experiential learning, research, teaching and service, has made an incredible impact on lives in Africa and Canada.

English as Second Language Program

Azadeh Odlin, 4th-year student in Arts and Humanities, collaborated with Mikono Yetu during summer 2021 facilitating English as Second Language to a group of young girls’ part of the Eagles group and a local channel, Msichana TV. Azadeh assisted Mikono Yetu on establishing this as an ongoing program to benefit a more girls during the academic year.

Raising awareness on mental health

Caitlin Goodman, Master's student of Management of Applied Sciences (MMASc) specializing in Global Health Systems, collaborated with Aga Khan University (AKU) Hospital Network during Summer 2021 as health management intern. Caitlin worked with the health management team and psychiatric department to work on initiatives that focus on destigmatizing mental illness and decriminalizing suicide within Kenya.

Fiti probiotic recipe book

Jessica O'Flaherty, 4th-year student in Nutrition and Dietetics at Brescia, collaborated with Mikono Yetu during Summer 2021 to develop a recipe book to gather recipes that the yogurt mamas have created around probiotics. Jessica also worked with Maimuna Kanyamala to include local recipes from the Tanzanian culture.

ADLG Kitchen Video

The Action for Democracy Local Governors (ADLG) organization empowers women, girls and youth in democracy, accountability and entrepreneurship. They believe when health is improved, the ability to work and earn income will also improve. ADLG launched their Fiti probiotic yogurt kitchen nearly two years ago as an entrepreneurial project and have already trained several more women to open up their own kitchens too, thereby enhancing their health and economic power.

Foundation Karibu Tanzania

Foundation Karibu Tanzania (FKT) is a non-governmental organization in Mwanza, Tanzania that aims to eradicate child domestic violence and advocate for children’s rights in Tanzania through housing and rehabilitation for abused children. FKT started producing Fiti probiotic yogurt in 2017 and include it within their centre to combat child malnutrition.


Hida Fermented Foods Enterprise is a small Fiti probiotic yogurt factory owned and operated by Hida, an independent entrepreneur. Established in 2017 while she was working in a bank, Hida has since transitioned to making her yogurt full time and has plans to expand into a larger factory in the future.

Kaneza Milk Group

The Kaneza Milk Group is owned by Freddy, affectionately known as Mr. Kaneza, or “Mr. Shine” in his neighborhood. Through his probiotic yogurt kitchen, Mr. Kaneza has also been able to train women in his community to curate yogurt. He believes once a woman is trained, she will train other women too and they will be able to improve the health of their entire families.

Ebeneza Women's Group

Mama Betty is the founder of Ebeneza Women’s Group and Bethel’s Food Production. As a successful entrepreneur, she strives to help empower other women. She trains women and youth for free, sharing her knowledge and experience in order to uplift her community.

Vijana Simaa Imara

The Vijana Simaa Imara kitchen is operated by Mama Joyce Stephano. Having produced Fiti probiotic yogurt for over a decade and helping establish the very first kitchen in Mwanza, Mama Joyce opened one of her own, the Vijana Simama Imara, meaning “youth, they should stand on their own”. Mama Joyce uses her kitchen as an opportunity to support and empower children rescued from child domestic labour.


In 2004, the Tukwamuane Women’s Group started the first community probiotic yogurt kitchen in Mwanza, Tanzania. They named the yogurt ‘Fiti’ and its legacy is still alive today in hundreds of other kitchens across East Africa. As pioneers of the probiotic yogurt movement, Tukwamuane has improved local health and inspired dozens of other women to open their own kitchens too. 

Youth Enterprise

The Mikono Yetu Youth Enterprise Kitchen in Mwanza, Tanzania was launched in 2016 as a vehicle for youth empowerment through Fiti probiotic yogurt. Meet Sandra, Stephano, Devota and Jessica, four of the youths who help to run the Youth Enterprise Kitchen.

Kitchens of Freedom 

A 14-minute documentary about the Western Heads East Fiti probiotic yogurt program in Mwanza, Tanzania, as seen through the eyes of local women’s groups and their community.

Western Heads East & YOU partnership

Western Heads East and Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) in London, Ontario, have joined forces to bring probiotic yogurt to the YOU Made It café. The goal is to empower youth with an innovative social enterprise to bring healthy and affordable food options to vulnerable people in London.

Western Heads East Program

With East African partners, Western University faculty, staff and students contribute to increased health and sustainable development using probiotic food.

Western Heads East's training on how to make Fiti Probiotic Yogurt

Western Heads East has developed a Swahili training video focused on the process of making Fiti Probiotic Yogurt. 

Western Heads East Student-Led Fundraising & Education Committee

Students at Western University share about their involvement with the WHE Fundraising & Education committee, and how the student-led committee on campus contributes to the overall program.

Asante Bob!

By Toby, WHE Intern, Tanzania 2017

So which bacteria did you eat today? 

An animated story of two probiotic (good) bacteria and the challenges they face on their journey through the human digestive system. 

Ivey in Africa: St. Augustine University of Tanzania (2017)

Ivey Business School students collaborated with one of our partner universities, St. Augustine University of Tanzania, and worked briefly with our intern, Toby Le, as part of Ivey in Africa program. 

Africa Western Collaboration Day 2015: Panel Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals

Western faculty discuss the UN Sustainable Development Goals during Africa-Western Collaboration Day in 2015, as part of Western’s International Week.

Video Testimonials on Impact of WHE Program

Ellena Andoniou, PhD Student Global Health and Development, sheds light on her research experience with the Western Heads East in this short video.

The 'messy realities' of internationalizing university curricula – Reflections by Kate Grantham, doctoral student affiliated with Western Heads East 

A 5-minute video of Kenya recipients of the probiotic yoghurt sharing their stories.

A 14-minute video from the WHE Program partners and recipients of the probiotic yoghurt in Oyugis Kenya was submitted to World Bank July 2010.

A 3-minute video of Mama Paskwalina, Chair of the Tukwamuane Women's Group, Mwanza, Tanzania.


Start Awareness Support Action (SASA): SASA is a video about the relationship between AIDS and violence against women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mama Joyce, one of the yoghurt mamas with Tukwamuane Women's Group, is featured in this video to bring awareness and a call for action to prevent violence against women and HIV infection.

Video credit to:  People's Picture Company  and  Raising Voices