Christmas does not have the same pressures in Tanzania as it does in North America. Our work with AICT and World Renews partners slows down as many of the people we connect with are preparing to travel to their home villages to visit with family during the holidays. Business slows down and the children have a long Christmas break from school. During December, we found ourselves juggling our work schedules to take the opportunity to support other missionaries we have come to know. You could say that we created our own short term mission trip… right here in Tanzania!
The city of Mwanza, where we live, is the second largest city in Tanzania. The AICT Makongoro Health Centre, where Jannetta is a volunteer, is a private faith based medical clinic. Therefore, the pharmacy usually has most of the medicines needed by visiting patients. If we run out of medicines, we send someone downtown to buy more. The free medicines given by the government are easily available in Mwanza. But it is another story in the very rural areas of Tanzania. We had the opportunity to visit Tabora for a week just before Christmas. Tabora is located 350 km straight south of Mwanza and has a history of being the hub of the 1800’s slave trade ….as its location is directly on the route between the Indian Ocean coast of Tanzania and the inland countries of The Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
One of the missionaries we have come to know has started an HIV/AIDS Clinic in the Tabora region. This clinic shares a piece of land with a small government owned dispensary. When Jannetta arrived at the government dispensary, many people were already lined up to see a medical attendant. During our visit, the first thing Jannetta noticed was that no one was wearing shoes. All present at the clinic had either walked or taken a bicycle taxi over the rough dirt roads or dirt paths that crossed sparsely planted farm fields. We immediately noticed a very ill 10 year old boy whose younger brother had brought the ill boy on the back of an old bicycle. The brother had stopped often to let the sick boy sit and rest on the ground because he was too weak to take the trip in one go. He had a fever, was very anaemic and needed assistance to walk. We informed the staff of this boy but he had to wait like everyone else to be seen when the opportunity came. Jannetta’s missionary friend talked to the staff to see what medicines they had available that day to give to the patients who came. To Jannetta’s surprise there were no medicines in stock and there would not be any available for several weeks!! Our missionary friend was not surprised. The medicines not in stock included anti Malaria meds, antibiotics, antiretrovirals for those with HIV/AIDS and Paracetamol (Tylenol). Government Dispensaries are supposed to provide free medicines to children under 5, seniors, people with Malaria and people with HIV/AIDS. The Tabora area is very isolated and the reality of health care in rural areas is that the care given, if at all, is very poor. Distances for people to travel to a clinic could be in excess of 50 kms. Medical personal and medicines often don’t reach these outlying areas.
Jannetta’s missionary friend is filling a gap in the health care system by operating a private faith based clinic. She is welcoming, assessing and providing needed medical care and medicines to people in this area. Jannetta’s eyes were opened to the difficulty in properly reaching all people with the medical care they need. That day, Jannetta was able to assist with several assessments and was able to witness the difference a small private clinic can make in an isolated area of Tanzania.
Later, our missionary friend went out to find the young boy we had seen earlier. The boy’s father had just arrived on foot and we asked the father to take his son to the missionary’s clinic. The boy’s blood did test positive for Malaria and he was able to receive the needed medications for his Malaria and for his severe anaemia. But he could not walk home or take a bicycle taxi back to his village. We put him and his brother in the missionary’s vehicle and drove him to his village. His father rode the bicycle home.
The missionary is building a new medical clinic in the area of this boy’s village to make health care more accessible for the people. She proudly showed Jannetta the new site and the ongoing construction.
Phil’s activities over the past month have ranged from repairing kettles, tractors, missionary cars and trucks as well as string trimmers, generators, welders, chain saws, water pumps and hedge trimmers. The majority of what Phil is asked to repair has been made in the USA and shipped to Tanzania when different NGO’s (faith based orphanage’s, working farms, mission homes, medical clinics) were established over the years. Repair parts are scarce and often have to be made. Knowledgeable mechanics do not exist in the Mwanza area so Phil is putting his mechanical background to the test as well as enjoying working with the newly refurbished machines on the property where we live. (except for the tractors…bah bah !!). The chainsaw came in very handy as recent heavy rains and winds have caused damage to several mature trees on missionary properties.
Reasons for Thanksgiving:
Thank you to all who sent Christmas cards and email Christmas greetings.
Jannetta’s mother experienced a mild heart attack just before Christmas. She is recovering well after having a stent put into the blocked artery. We were able to stay in frequent contact with Jannetta’s family during this time.
The rains continue. This morning we received a downpour of 2 inches between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. Jannetta could not get to work until 9 a.m. as the road she had to cross was flooded. The good news is that the rains will be very timely for the farmers.
Please continue to pray for…
The Conservation Agriculture Program that World Renew is implementing with funding through the Canadian Food Grains Bank. Two Tanzanians have been hired and a World Renew Mwanza office has been established. The next few months will involve training and the launch of the Conservation Agriculture programming and these activities will take up most of Phil’s time.
Phil and Jannetta