Welcome to Tanzania!
Karibu sana Mwanza, Tanzania; meaning “you are very wel-come [here],” karibu sana is a Swahili phrase one hears a lot when you first arrive in Tanzania, and it seems like a fitting way to begin my first newsletter from the field. So, welcome to the first of many quarterly updates on my work with CRWRC Tanzania from the city of Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria. Over the coming quarters, I will be writing about my experiences in the communities in which CRWRC is working and stories of lives transformed through the community development work that you are supporting through CRWRC and our part-ners. My hope is that these up-dates will connect you with my work here, as it depends so much on your support and prayers.
Because this is my first newsletter and many of you do not yet know us, let me introduce myself and my family.
I joined the CRWRC team in November 2009, and my family and I moved from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Mwanza, Tanzania in January of this year. My specialization is in rural planning and development, an interest that was fueled from my many years spent growing up (and then later working) in rural Bangladesh.
My wife, Heather, is a physio-therapist and is enjoying having more time to spend with our kids and the chance to learn Swahili. Many missionaries and Tanzanian friends have already requested physiotherapy treatment for their various injuries brought about by driving and walking on rough roads.
Ryan is six years old and is in grade one at the Isamilo Inter-national School here in Mwanza. He has made many good friends that live nearby, and he is enjoying learning how to swim and play soccer and tennis.
Jeremy turns four in July and will be starting preschool at Isamilo school in September. He is learning many words in Swahili, and he has already come to love rice and beans as one of his favorite meals.
Our first few months here have been spent getting settled, find-ing a house, learning Swahili, learning to drive on rough muddy roads, and getting to know the partners and the peo-ple in the partner communities. As Heather and I are building up our competence in commu-nicating with others in Swahili, I am now focusing more of my time on working with our part ner organizations.
The main partner of CRWRC Tanzania is the Africa Inland Church of Tanzania (AICT), and I will be working with the AICT dioceses of Geita and Mara/Ukerewe. Geita is about an hour’s drive west of Mwanza, including a short ferry ride on Lake Victoria. It is a town built around the gold mine there, which brings both positive and negative social and economic changes to the lives of the peo-ple in the area. The Mara and Ukerewe Diocese (MUD) is northeast of Mwanza. The head office of the diocese is in Musoma, a town that is three hours’ drive away from Mwanza and close to the border with Kenya near Lake Victoria. The drive to get there takes you past the gates into the Serengeti National Park, and you can even see some wildebeests in the park from the road as you go past.
For those of you who followed the updates of Steve Michmer-huizen, I will be continuing some of his work with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania Diocese in Buhumbi/Magu and with the Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA) in Sengerema, but they will be graduating from their partnership with CRWRC Tan-zania later this year, so my work with them will be less frequent.
In this region, CRWRC Tanza-nia and our partners are working with the Sukuma people, the largest tribal group in Tanzania and also the least developed or most traditional in their practices. Some of the key barriers faced by CRWRC and our partners in their efforts toward transformational devel-opment in Sukuma land include a high prevalence of witchcraft and traditional beliefs that are blended with their Christian beliefs, low education and entrepreneurship levels among the people, and the socialist expectation of receiving hand-outs from the government or other organizations.
In spite of these obstacles, CRWRC’s partners are seeing remarkable changes in the communities where they are working, as villagers learn about God’s vision for their community and they play an active role in bringing transformational development to their lives.
When government members came to the community to look for widows needing help, they were so impressed by these women that they gave them a grant to build a brick building to expand their poultry business.
Some of the key ways that CRWRC and its partners are working with the communities in the area are:
- training farmers on improved agricultural practices to boost food security.
- building up entrepreneurial skills for villagers to start small businesses.
- training community members how to identify local resources on their own to help meet their needs.
- health pro-grams dealing with HIV and AIDS and community based care and support for orphans.
- justice educa-tion addressing witchcraft-related killings of albinos and elderly women.
- training pastors on the role of churches in development.
My role is to provide training, consultation, and support to the partners to build up their capacity to carry out their programs in the community, and to learn about the key issues in the community that the church needs to address.
I recently saw firsthand the types of transformation our partners are bringing to the community through your support. The widows group in the community of Kasamwa has 12 members. At an AICT Geita seminar at the village church a year ago, the women received training in home-based care (health care for the sick), entre-preneurship, and how to start a group to support one another. The women left this training inspired and formed a group to help each other save money to start their own income-generating businesses, such as raising chickens and pigs. Many of the widows became quite successful in their businesses and were able to generate income from selling eggs and meat from their chickens. When government members came to the community to look for widows needing help, they were so impressed by these women that they gave them a grant to build a brick building to expand their poultry business. The two-room building is now almost finished. The women will use one room to raise more chickens, and the other room will be a shop to sell the eggs or adult chickens. For the women, surprising the government visitors with their empower-ment abilities greatly increased their confidence and sense of self-sufficiency. Their perspective of the future a one as they embark on this big venture together.
I look forward to sharing many similar stories in the future as I work with our partners in the communities around Lake Victoria and see the that God is making in transforming lives and communities. Thank you for supporting us in our work here. We welcome your questions and comments. Just as we start and finish all meetings here in Tanzania, I will close by saying “Bwana Yesu asafiwe” (Praise Lord Jesus).