MSc Entrepreneurship and Innovation student, Tracy Ahumuza, won the ‘Best Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Initiative’ at the University’s Inspire Launch Grow 2024 awards. A personal tragedy in April 2021 led her to establish the ATTA Breastmilk Community in Uganda, which supports breastmilk donation to frail, newborn babies. Tracy tells us her story.
Tracy Ahumuza receiving award from Professor Colm Harman, Vice-Principal Students
Tracy Ahumuza receiving her award from Professor Colm Harman, Vice-Principal Students. Credit: Callum Bennetts, Maverick Photo Agency

In April 2021, a personal tragedy transformed my life and ignited a mission within me. My firstborn, Alyssa, passed away only three days after her birth, a heartbreak that revealed a critical gap in my country’s healthcare system - the lack of a formal, structured system for breast milk donation.

This realisation led me to establish the ATTA Breastmilk Community with a vision to ensure equitable access to safely donated breastmilk for all newborns who need it, particularly those born too soon, too sick or too small.

Named in memory of my daughter Alyssa, ATTA is an acronym combining her initials and mine, and it sounds like a derivative of the word ‘amata’ which means milk in Luganda, a widely spoken language in Uganda.

The journey so far

The journey began with understanding the dire need for a safe and sustainable solution to milk sharing, which, until then, occurred on an informal and ad hoc basis. This informal system posed risks to vulnerable infants.

In the past three years, our focus has been on raising awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and the critical role of donor milk banks.

Through sharing my story and the impact of ATTA, we have collected and dispensed 600 litres of donor human milk to over 400 newborn babies with the help of financial donations from individuals and organisations.

Every potential donor is rigorously screened for diseases that could transfer through human milk to ensure the safety of the milk provided to the infants most in need. This process not only supports the health of the babies but also aligns with the World Health Organisation and national infant feeding policies.

Courier on motorbike in Uganda
ATTA’s courier, Shaban Mukiibi, with human milk (liquid gold)

We are currently working towards setting up the country’s first community-led donor human milk bank. We engage the public through educational social media posts, health workers, and peer mothers' training on how to support, promote and protect breastfeeding.

The ATTA team is comprised of healthcare professionals and parents with lived experiences of loss and milk donation during times of grief and birth trauma, including a neonatologist, physician, lactation consultant, counsellor, and paediatrician. They work tirelessly to support donor and recipient families.

Our commitment extends beyond health; it touches on fostering diversity, equality, and inclusion. By providing a platform that supports all mothers regardless of their socio-economic status, we hope to break barriers to healthcare access. ATTA actively promotes inclusion by ensuring that every mother who wishes to donate or needs donated milk feels welcomed, valued, and supported.

Choosing Edinburgh

I had been looking for scholarships for a while since starting ATTA. I knew I needed to expand my knowledge to help ATTA grow and hopefully get it on a trajectory to outlive me.

I also wanted to go to a country with a history of human milk banking with thriving banks. I was ready to go into healthcare management or economics if necessary but funding was the most important factor and I had little interest in studying things I wouldn't enjoy.

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program with its climate leadership approach at the University of Edinburgh resonated with my vision and I was drawn to the MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Business School as it felt like it was carved out for me to solve my conundrum.

I knew I could always hire the medical practitioners but as a vision bearer, it had become rapidly clear that my role was to find the funds, figure out financial viability of non-profit work and learn how to lead the team into areas even I knew very little about. The fact that there are about 14 milk banks in the UK with one just a short train ride away in Glasgow was also serendipitous.

Learning on the MSc

The entrepreneurial courses on the MSc have been so helpful in helping me simulate business creation and start-up. We also had a course called ‘Management Consultancy in Practice’ which involved us working with external organisations. I had mentioned to the Programme Director Dr Hajar Mozaffar that I was keen to work with the NHS so was delighted that they were secured as a host organisation.

I'd already learnt a lot about financial sustainability and fundraising but the NHS project was really helpful in giving me access to the Human Milk Bank in Glasgow and the chance to meet wonderful people in the field of milk banking.

With my studies coming to a close this summer, I am currently working on my dissertation for which I am exploring the sustainability of non-profit milk banks.

Tracy Ahumuza speaking on stage at the University of Edinburgh's Inspire Launch Grow 2024 awards
Tracy Ahumuza. Credit: Callum Bennetts, Maverick Photo Agency

I am immensely grateful to all at the Business School for the support I have received during the MSc, the fellow students I have worked with, and to Edinburgh Innovations for recognising my achievements with this award. I now feel equipped with a much greater knowledge and networks to further grow ATTA Breastmilk Community in my home country.

ATTA Breastmilk Community

Edinburgh Innovation’s Inspire Launch Grow 2024 awards

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Edinburgh