Chakula Uponya: T-shirts for hospital meals


MAASTRICHT. Two years ago, Victoria von Salmuth - currently a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences - won the Student Award for the Shirati Food Programme when she was a student of Medicine. She set up this initiative in Tanzania, which supplies meals for patients in the Shirati hospital, as they themselves don't have the necessary budget. Now she has set up a new project to collect money for the Food Programme.

It all started the evening before Von Salmuth was to leave for Tanzania last spring. “When you help people there or it’s your birthday, you often receive material or clothing as a gift. They are exquisitely colourful prints, but you wouldn’t wear them here so easily. I wanted to do something with them.” She discussed it with medical student Tom Phillips and together they came up with an idea. “The Food Programme partly depends on private donations. I had been playing with the thought of developing a product. I like the idea that people get something for their money.”

The plan emerged of making T-shirts. Simple black or white, but with a breast pocket made from the material from Tanzania. “We found a company to make the basic shirts in India from organic cotton in a very sustainable matter, for instance by using renewable energy,” says Phillips. “My mother in England sews on the pockets and the labels, of course bearing the name we gave it: Chakula Uponya (food heals).”

Two hundred shirts have been made and are for sale at Cato by Cato and With Love Burrito. “Places that many students visit. The only disadvantage is that your shirt smells of food,” Phillips laughs. A T-shirt costs 30 euro, a sleeveless top is 25 euro; of that money 5 euro goes to the good cause.

Von Salmuth and Phillips would like to expand the line. “Surgical masks, telephone or laptop covers, purses, bags,” says Phillips. “There are plenty of possibilities,” Von Salmuth adds. “But we first wanted to see exactly how it worked, setting up a production line. Now that we have the basis, we can expand.”

In the meantime, the Shirati Food Programme continues to grow. While in 2017, only 60 per cent of the patients received a meal six days a week, now this is 75-80 per cent and seven days a week. Von Salmuth: “We also created a sustainable garden that supplies the kitchen with vegetables and fruit.”

Chakula Uponya: T-shirts for hospital meals
The T-shirts on display at With Love Burrito