Moshe, Tanzania: May 14, 2006: Just out of Moshe, in a village called Sanya Juu, the Holy Spirit Sisters Convent operated a large dairy business. On the 1000-acre farm they had also developed a very unique “piggery.” Additionally, hundreds of acres were planted in maize and other crops. Fruit orchards and garden vegetables seemed to grow abundantly wherever they planted a seed or pushed a stick in the ground. They even grew my favorite variety of short, sweet bananas there.
The thing that impressed me about the pig operation was, first of all, how clean they maintained the facility. But, secondly, they had figured out how to cook their own maize crop, which they fed to the pigs to enhance their digestion and ultimately their growth rate. They also had it designed where the pig excrement was scraped into closed pits, and they were able to capture the methane gas and pipe it for use in cooking the pig food and also on into the kitchen for other heating and cooking needs. I was pretty impressed.
The enterprising sisters ran the entire operation themselves and hired local villagers to help with the heavy labor and planting and harvesting of the crops.
Another part of their operations included running schools and maintaining a parish for the locals. Of course, the sisters had their own chapel as well.
Our tour lasted right up to dinnertime. Most of the sisters ate at tables in their regular dining hall area. But the sister superior and some of the leadership joined us in a guest dining area. As we finished our meal the drumbeat started again and into our dining area came the happy sisters dancing, clapping, bending, and swaying to the steady cadence of the nun pounding on the Guernsey cowhide.
The sleeping room that had been assigned to me was clean but decorated in an “extremely sparse, monastic motif.” I was, however, thankful that it offered a candle and mosquito netting that I carefully draped over the rack frame above the bed and meticulously tucked in along the edges of my one-inch-thick foam rubber mattress.
Monday, May 15
I was up at 5:15 a.m. Consistent with the monastic motif, I bathed myself in the corner of the “bathroom” by dipping a cup into a five-gallon bucket of cold farm water and pouring it, a dipper at a time, over my head to wash out the shampoo and over my body to wash off the soap. I kept promising God as I was gasping that I would never complain again about simple things like lack of desired water pressure or height of the shower head whenever I was afforded a regular hot shower. By the time I finished and dressed, the whole rest of the community was involved in prayers and mass in the chapel under the direction of the returned priest, Father Jim.
After breakfast, the van, driven by the dignified and unflappable Sister Elizabeth, delivered us to the Magadini Health Center also run by the Holy Spirit Sisters. The facility was also known as the Kilari Clinic. It too was part of the Sanya Juu complex, and the 40-bed facility served about 25,000 of the local population.
The sisters were doing a lot with what they had available, but they needed almost everything to just keep up as a 40-bed health center. Their ambitious goal was to expand the present facility and build it into a 100-bed hospital. For that expansion they would desperately need Project C.U.R.E.’s help with donations of supplies and pieces of necessary medical equipment.
After I had finished the needs assessment questions and tour of the facility, we were served tea in a conference area. Down the hallway I heard the soft steady drumbeat of a sister pounding on the bottom of a five-gallon plastic pail. We were in for a surprise! The musically inclined nurses had written a couple of songs especially for Father Jim and Dr. Jim, their two guests.
About 25 of the sisters, most in their nurse uniforms, swayed and clapped and sang. They were so appreciative that we had come to see if we could help.
They had remembered when, two years before, they had thought we were to arrive but the trip had not been possible. Now we were here.
Father Jim spoke and explained how he had become acquainted with Project C.U.R.E. He related how he had come to Denver to visit his brother, Dick McCormick, who was a childhood friend of Mr. Dick Campbell, who had served on Project C.U.R.E.’s board of directors for a long time. So Dick Campbell, Dick McCormick, Father Jim McCormick, Douglas Jackson, and I all met for a breakfast meeting in Denver. There we had decided to investigate the needs of the community of Holy Spirit Sisters in Tanzania.
After Father Jim had talked awhile, he asked me to speak. I referred back to the previous afternoon when we had taken our tour of the farm and we had seen all the big stones that had been removed from the farm’s fields as they plowed the ground for the crops.
I recalled how they had taken those same stones and used them to build walkways and retaining walls and even memorial gardens where some of the sisters who had passed away were remembered. They had chosen to take those stumbling blocks and make them into helpful and functional things of beauty. Then I quoted to them one of my favorite bits of poetry:
Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
And clowns who caper in sawdust rings,
And common folks like you and me
Are builders of eternity?
For each is given a bag of tools,
A piece of stone and a book of rules,
And each must form ere life has flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone. (1)
I congratulated them on their work at Sanya Juu and especially the Magadini Health Center. The sisters clapped and “trilled” their unique sound of high-pitch and rapid tongue movement.
I’m certain that the announcement had nothing to do with our being there at that given time but it certainly was a unique serendipity to experience. While we were at lunch with the medical sisters the announcement came by telephone from the health minister’s office that the application had been approved for the Magadini facility to be upgraded in its official designation. They could now build their 100-bed hospital! You could only imagine how that had “supercharged” those joyful sisters!
Our final destination for Monday was Rauya Marengo near the Tanzanian city of Moshe. There the Holy Spirit Sisters had another large Catholic enclave that did not include a dairy farm or a “piggery.”
On the way to Moshe, Father Jim wanted us to stop and complete a needs assessment on a government hospital at Kibongoto. During his time spent in the Kilimanjaro area, Father Jim had become acquainted with the people at Kibongoto. Often, the sisters would need to take cases that were too complicated for their facilities to the hospital in Kibongoto.
If it were possible that Project C.U.R.E. could also include the government facility in the future, Father Jim felt that it would be a great gesture of friendship. He also understood that for any medical facility to be able to receive help from Project C.U.R.E. there needed to be an official assessment completed.
Our meeting with the director revealed some changes that had taken place since Father Jim had returned to the US. The health ministry was trying to change the status of the Kibongoto facility. During the assessment I suggested to Father Jim that I really didn’t think that the hospital would be ready for Project C.U.R.E.’s involvement until the government had formalized their plan for the future of the place. He agreed completely and we quickly brought the assessment to a halt and courteously got back into the van and continued toward Moshe.
The next facility that Father Jim had formally requested for Project C.U.R.E. to help was also on the way to Moshe. The facility was a district hospital run by the government in an area called Bomangombe. Following the assessment and a lengthy discussion with the director and his assistant, I suggested to Father Jim that I would approve of the Bomangombe facility receiving help from Project C.U.R.E. because they had a good plan for expansion and could really use our help. But, I suggested that our immediate concentration should be on the facilities of the Holy Spirit Sisters and perhaps an x-ray unit or other token items could be included in a container load headed for the Catholic institutions. Once the designated items had arrived they could be taken out of the load and transferred to the government facility. We would leave the option open in the future to further concentrate on the government facilities at a future time. We were in complete agreement. There certainly was no question as to the desperate need of the government facilities, however.
Finally, we reached the Rauya Marengo enclave near the city of Moshe. It was a beautiful sunset but we had exhausted the hours of daylight for Monday. We would be staying at the Rauya facility for the balance of the time. I would be with Father Jim. We would simply travel to the other nominated areas and return to stay there.
Rauya Marengo was where Father Jim had spent the majority of the 18 years he had served in Africa. It was like “old home week” for him and for Betty Jo and Dr. Cathy. They were enjoying sharing what they had only heard about over the many years regarding the famous Kilimanjaro area of Tanzania.
Next Week: Overwhelming Medical Needs of Tanzania