In Tanzania, if you want something done right you ask a woman to do it. Women take part in VSL groups (Village Savings and Loan groups) and many women come out to the World Renew’s agricultural teachings. We were again humbled this past month by a great group of Mwanza women from different denominations who came together to pray, to worship, to sing and just have fun celebrating International Women’s Day.
The Matron at the AICT Makongoro Health Centre is on the executive committee of this group. She is very involved in the organizing of this important day for the Tanzanian women. Phil and I, for as long as we have been in Mwanza, have been invited to celebrate this annual event with the women. My involvement started the week before the actual event. I was invited, with about 100 Tanzanian women, to visit a poor village about a 45 minute drive outside of Mwanza. There is a government institution in this village that takes care of 100 elderly people who have been shunned by their families. As younger people, they had leprosy. The stigma and shame from relatives and friends continued even after they received treatment from this crippling disease. The Catholic Church originally set up this small institution to take care of these elderly people as well as some of their grandchildren who for various reasons, such as the death of their parents, needed to live with the grandparents. The institution was handed over to the Tanzanian government and is now a government institution. This group of seniors became the recipients of a generous donation from the 100 women. It took 4 dala dalas (local taxi vans) and a few cars to get all the women and the donations of food, clothing and toiletry articles to the village. Residents crawled out of their dormitory rooms, used their crutches, wheeled their wheelchairs, or for those who still had feet, walked across the dusty courtyard to enthusiastically greet our group.
Women arriving by dala dala. Residents from the government institution arriving for the service
The women took out the donations from the dala dalas and set the items on tables and on the ground. We went into the buildings to get chairs for the residents and other guests to sit on. We had a short service of thanksgiving and a choir of older women sang. It was a very meaningful afternoon sitting under the mango trees in the courtyard watching and listening to way the women honoured the seniors.
As you know by now, it has been a difficult time in northwestern Tanzania because of the poor harvest or no harvest in the past 8 months due to the lack of rain. Even with prices for food going up in the local markets, the executive of the women’s group was able to raise enough money to purchase items needed by the residents. The donation include 100 kgs of rice, 60 kgs of corn flour, 25 kgs of sugar, 2 dozen 1 kg packages of salt, a 20 kg bag of wheat flour, 50 kg of dried beans, 10 litres of cooking oil, clothing, 4 large bars of laundry soap and more. Even in these difficult times the women found a way to help the seniors and their grandchildren.
The March 3rd International Women’s Day of Prayer celebration began with an ecumenical church service. The 1000 participating women, dressed in matching patterned material, paraded along the main street into Mwanza. In a park they celebrated with singing, plays, choirs and a children’s program. I’m thankful for the excellent example the women are setting in Mwanza. Pray that their work will be effective in transforming lives and attitudes towards the disabled in this area.
We promised an update on the construction of the new AICT Makongoro Health Centre. Recently a Service of Dedication was held and attended by the staff, AICT Health Department officials, guests and some of the patients who came to the outdoor service. Currently we can only open 12 beds out of 31 beds. The septic system is not complete yet. For the time being the women and children share one large ward room. We have three beds available in the outpatient department (OPD) for men who may need to be admitted. This causes a challenge for the staff on the night shift as it means walking over to OPD from the new building to monitor the men. We make it work but it is not ideal. The old hospital wing is already undergoing renovations for office space for the AICT Headquarters. The Health Centre is located on the AICT Headquarters property.
The Service of Dedication for the new Hospital building.
Jannetta was recently informed by the Matron- in- charge at the Health Centre that she will be retiring in June. One of the present staff members has been selected to be her replacement and has started to take on some of her duties in this time of transition. Jannetta has a good working relationship with the new Assistant Matron. There is enough work to keep all three of us busy at this time. We are thankful for the doctors and nurses at the health centre who are very committed to providing good health care in spite of the challenging circumstances.
The new hospital building The Women’s’ Ward
Reasons for Praise:
The World Renew Country Coordinator Jim and his wife Josephine have now moved to Mwanza. By the end of June we plan to be operating all our programing out of the new World Renew country office in Mwanza. Two other partner programs in other parts of Tanzania will be graduating and we will start to look for other partnership opportunities in the Lake Zone area. Please pray that employees, who will stay in Dar es Salaam after the Dar office closes in June, will find new and meaningful work outside of World Renew. Please pray also for new partnerships.
We are getting more consistent rainfall in the Mwanza area now that the long rainy season seems to have started. Praise the Lord. There are food security issues. The issues appear to be taken care of by the Tanzanian Government and do not involve outside organizations such as is happening in northern Kenya, South Sudan and southern Ethiopia. Farmers are planting their seeds and agricultural areas north of Mwanza are becoming green again. We do need the rain in the March to May long rainy season.
We will be enjoying the company of friends and family from Canada in the next month. Please pray for safe travels and meaningful time together.
Phil and Jannetta,
World Renew Tanzania
World Renew Tanzania Team