Oct 2016 visit by Dirk Juttner
Hapa kazi tu
Get down to work!
Just after my visit last year a new President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, a Christian took office, following a Muslim, as has been the custom in Tanzania.
"Hapa kazi tu" is the slogan with which he came to power. This slogan, "Get down to work", has already brought about some radical changes in the country. He arrives early in the day, unannounced, at government offices, and if any members of staff are not there or sleeping they are sacked. Hundreds, if not thousands of ‘ghost workers’ have disappeared from pay rolls, and the rush hour is now one hour earlier in Dodoma, the capital! A public holiday has been cancelled and the money saved being used to buy hospital beds. There are many other examples like fighting corruption vigorously, and imposing a work ethic based on his slogan.
The new president is also keen to make Tanzania more self-sufficient. His policies are now starting to 'bite'. For example, with the price of sugar almost doubling, people will think twice about the four spoons of sugar in a mug of tea that so many have. The government is also cutting down on imported goods in an effort to achieve self-sufficiency within the country.
However, the introduction of import taxes (mostly 20%) on goods destined for charities is a big blow to many NGOs.
This is the background against which the sisters are working. The president's plan to cut imports to encourage self sufficiency will be good for the country, but the resulting rise in prices will be hard for the sisters and other charities and NGOs, as will the new import taxes.
As I began my visit it was clear that the CMM Sisters are working hard, as ever, and achieving much, in spite of setbacks like the poor harvest this year due to the lack of rain. This has created big problems in many areas. The rainwater harvesting tanks not only at CMM houses were only partly filled.
I visited the CMM Sisters' Health Station in Sayuni in South West Tanzania with the Swiss doctor, Dr Fluckiger. We saw the new MCH Unit (Mother and Child Health Unit), which was in its final stages of building. We were also able to witness the progress in many other areas of treating patients, especially those with Aids. This project, supported by the Old Catholic Churches for five years, has now ended. However, we did not get the Health Centre Status recognition by the Government as expected, because the requirements for this recognition have recently changed drastically. The new regulations require a 'Health Centre' to be almost a hospital, with a fully equipped theatre, surgeons and anesthetists to perform operations, which is clearly beyond the means of the CMM Sisters.
At the school for blind children, which can be rather depressing, I was delighted to see a little Albino boy taking his blind friend by the hand to run to their class. Albino children, especially in Tanzania, are in danger of being kidnapped and used for witchcraft.
Visiting the school for mentally handicapped children I was, as usual, given a hearty welcome by the children and their teachers. I was asked if I could provide dolls and toy animals so that the staff could teach the children the names of the parts of a body and the names of the animals.
The generous gift of chalices, patens, ciboria, candlesticks and other items of church ware from a closed church in the UK were gratefully received and immediately put to use at the services in the Covent chapels and churches. This need demonstrated so clearly that in Africa Christianity is growing at a fast rate. Gloria Deo - Glory to God, or as they would say in Swahili, Tumshukuru Mungu!
The number of orphans assisted by the Sisters is ever increasing, not only in the schools. They took me to see an elderly couple looking after twins, the mother having died at birth. The sisters supply them with milk for the babies daily. These two boys, now eight months old, looked really well fed and happy.
At another house, the sisters had taken in a baby, which the mother had abandoned in a rubbish dump directly after birth. A passerby heard the cries of the baby, which has been called Anna after the lady who found her. Anna has now been with the sisters for several months.
The girls hostel, which I opened last year, is full of happy and contented young girls, relieved to be in a secure place at last, getting a chance to study and enjoy life at school. Several of these girls however, come from very poor subsistence farming families, and their parents cannot afford to pay for their daughters to have breakfast before walking the hour it takes to reach the schools. The Sister in charge hope to start a vegetable garden, and to keep some chickens as well, so that she can sell the eggs and the produce to fund the feeding of these girls.
I hope we can start a bursary fund to support the daughters of the poor subsistence farmers in this hostel to ensure that they do not become a financial drain on the limited resources of the CMM Sisters.
On a Sunday morning a group of girls from various backgrounds sang and danced in a traditional manner during the service. They had planned and performed on their own without any help, which is impressive.