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About Us

Western Heads East is a collaboration between Western staff, students, faculty and African partners using probiotic foods to contribute to health and sustainable development.

Largely through probiotic yogurt social enterprises, the program is established in highly underserviced areas of Sub-Saharan Africa to address HIV/AIDS, health, empowerment of women, and economic development.

The probiotic yogurt is based on the research of Dr. Gregor Reid, Scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Surgery, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University. Probiotics are live microorganisms otherwise known as "good bacteria" that deliver health benefits to their host. Dr. Reid collaborated with Dr. Sharareh Hekmat of Western's Brescia University College and developed a probiotic yogurt strain to address the HIV/AIDS symptoms in Africa by:

  • Alleviating a risk factor for HIV infection in women

  • Developing lower mortality and morbidity rates from diarrhea in patients with AIDS

  • Building stronger immune systems

  • Treating urogenital infections & bacterial vaginosis

The community kitchens are owned and operated by the local women and youth groups. The project’s African teams are comprised of local women’s groups (‘Yogurt Mamas’), research institutes, hospitals, universities, and NGOs. The yogurt kitchens also act as community hubs for lay counselling, centres for disease awareness and as hubs for social support and entrepreneurship. In essence, this grassroots program has empowered women to contribute to the health of their communities, draw an income for their families, stimulate significant economic development, and has become a source of prosperity for their communities. African and Canadian partners collaborate on program and research goals.

The project holds promise and considerable benefits for all those involved, such as:

  • Improving the health and economic status in communities

  • Improving maternal health and general nutrition

  • Providing campus awareness of, and involvement in, collaborative international efforts and research

  • Developing ethical and civic responsibilities with students

  • Providing experiential learning opportunities

  • Increasing globalization of Western activities

  • Cross-discipline collaboration

To learn more about our mission or to read the journals of past interns, visit https://international.uwo.ca/whe/