travel bursary reports
The organisation I went with is called GOMAD Tanzania (Go Make a Difference in Tanzania), who run the trip in conjunction with Tearfund. GOMAD was set up by Graham and Irene McClure, who are based in Blackheath, England (St. Johns Church), with a vision to firstly make a real difference to the lives of the people they serve in Tanzania, and secondly to give volunteers like me the opportunity to be changed by the experience. Graham gave up the running of a successful building firm in order to go out to Africa and serve God, and so is an amazing example to follow in terms of giving worldly things up for God.
My team was made up of 8 girls and 6 guys to make 14 in total. All but two of us are 18/19 having just left college. The other two were 30 and 31 – it was a real help having older, wiser heads out there with us, especially as they were both involved in running youth groups at their home churches. We were split into 2 sub-teams of 7, in which we spent most of our time. I made some lifelong friends on the team, and it was a pleasure to go through such an unforgettable experience with such amazing people. It was also immensely encouraging to see how so many people from so many different backgrounds could all share the same love for Christ and all want to serve him in Africa.
I spent the three months in a place called Bweri, which is effectively one of the outer suburbs of the town of Musoma in northern Tanzania. With over 100,000 inhabitants, Musoma is one of Tanzania’s largest cities, yet it still has massive physical and spiritual need. The majority of the work we did was in some of the town’s surrounding villages called Kamajorge, Mikaringo and Nyambasi
We spent the whole trip in Eagle Lodge, GOMAD’s volunteer guest house. It was designed by Graham who also oversaw its construction. The house is fantastic, especially by East African standards, yet it was still very different to the UK. For example, drinking water had to be retrieved from an outside water tank before being put through filter systems to make it safe to drink. There were also no warm showers, and electricity/mains water supply often failed with little warning etc. It all added to the experience!
Living with 13 others definitely posed many challenges (E.g. it was almost impossible to have any personal space as there were people about all of the time!). However, I got to know my team so well, there was always fun to be had/someone to talk to, and I have missed the communal living very much since coming back from the trip.
Perhaps the main thing we did was building projects. As a team we built a Church, four water tanks, a large chicken shed, a goat shed and a toilet. The church was for the community at Kamajorge, who previously met to worship in a school classroom, and before that under a tree. The water tanks were for people in general who had no access to clean water. The lack of access to clean water was one of the things that impacted the team most. It was hugely humbling to witness how many times the scenario was repeated throughout the villages we worked in where hundreds of people would have to walk long distances just to get to dirty, disease-ridden ponds which they would use for washing, cooking and cleaning. It was brilliant to be able to give families clean water, and an amazing experience to serve in such a practical way.
The animal sheds were for the Rafiki Group farmers’ co-operative, which was set up by Graham to give local farmers some sort of income. The chicken shed will eventually house up to 300 chickens which will be sold to local retailors’ and the profits given to the Rafiki Group. We also bought three goats to add to the existing flock the Rafiki group have, from which they get milk and occasionally meat.
The toilet was for a lady called Mkame who I will talk more about later on in the report.
Another major part of what we did was in the area of health. We were able to take hundreds of sick men, women and children to clinics for diagnosis and then purchase of medicines and hospitals for check-ups and operations. This part of our service also had a huge impact on the team. The sheer numbers of people with HIV, malaria, typhoid, bilharzia and a range of other illnesses was staggering, and it has really made me appreciate how easy it is to get medicines in the UK. We were also fortunate enough to be able to help two little boys with sickle-cell anaemia. The boys are called Charles and Lameck. Charles is 5 while Lameck is 7 and both have been diagnosed with sickle-cell anaemia, a condition which means without a balanced diet (which is impossible to get for a family in their position), that they are likely to die before they reach the age of 20. We grew very close to the two of them during our time there, and were able to pay for Lameck to have a blood transfusion when he got really ill, to the point where any movement was extremely painful for him. I had a very surreal experience with them while sitting on their hospital bed waiting for the blood transfusion in the children’s ward of the Musoma hospital. Very ill children were sharing beds, there were over 60 patients in one medium sized ward, and they were asked to line up by the nurses in order to receive their drips and injections. Once more, it has made me hugely thankful for how privileged I am to be born in the UK where things we so take for granted such as medical care are easily accessible. Children’s Work
We were privileged enough to spend a good amount of time helping out at Musoma children’s home which is an orphanage run by a reasonably elderly Swedish couple who have been there over 20 years. I was touched by helping out at the orphanage more than I expected to be. The fact that none of the kids had homes to go to at the end of the day was an alien concept to me, and it was hard to see how such sweet, loving children could have to grow up without parents or a loving home. The team also taught regularly in a local primary school of one of the villages we worked in, along with painting two encouraging Christian murals on the outer walls of two school-buildings. It was great to see how much the kids everywhere we went appreciated us being there and even just playing with them – in African culture no-one plays with the children, they are simply left to play amongst themselves. Juliana, Juma, Joseph and Esther
Juliana lives in Nyambasi with her three children Juma, Joseph and Esther. She is HIV positive, and her husband left her when she contracted the disease. GOMAD has helped her tremendously in coming back from the brink of death a few years ago, and we were able to help her get to appointments etc. as part of her AIDS programme. All of her children are lovely, but it is her youngest son Joseph I remember the most. A couple of weeks after we got to Tanzania, we went to check-up on Juliana and discovered Joseph lying almost motionless on the floor. We rushed him to a testing clinic where it was confirmed he had malaria, and his blood count was almost twice what is thought to be deadly. He was admitted to hospital, and after 5 days there had recovered enough to be able to go home. After just two weeks it had hit us hard just how fragile life in Africa is. We spent quite a lot of time with Joseph and his family during the trip and it was really hard saying goodbye to him when we had to go come home. Mkame
Mkame is most likely in her forties (although many of the villagers don’t keep track of how they old they are), and has sever cancer of the stomach. It has meant her stomach has become very bloated (as if she is heavily pregnant) because of excess fluid build-up. Her illness is terminal, so she doesn’t have many years left. Her husband left her when she got sick, so she lives with her only son, who farms a little plot of land to try and survive. She has absolutely nothing, and probably wouldn’t be able to survive without the help of GOMAD and her friends with donations of food. We asked her whether she would prefer us to build her a toilet or a water tank. She didn’t care about clean water (because she had gotten this far without it), and just wanted somewhere to go to the toilet in private for the last years of her life (previously she had gone into the middle of a field and relieved herself in a hole in the ground, as do most of the villagers). It was a huge privilege to build her a toilet, topped by the fact she said she felt like she meant something to the world now we had taken the time to help her. Also, despite having nothing, she is totally on fire for God. She loved praying with us, and it was a massive encouragement for me to see a lady with so little be so reliant on and in love with Christ. Charles and Lameck
As mentioned above, Charles and Lameck are two boys with Sickle-Cell Anaemia. It was simply amazing to spend time with them and their family, and to help them get to hospital when they needed to and to buy them medicine when they got sick. Again, it really hit me how fragile life is in Africa, and they were very hard to say goodbye to knowing that if I ever go back, they might not be there anymore. Highlights
When you spend three months, all day, every day with a group of people it is usual to get to know them fairly well and I made some friends for life amongst those I went with. It was really great working and living with them every day, I had a lot of fun with them, grew a lot spiritually because of them and had a really hard time saying goodbye to them at the airport. Safari
We were fortunate enough to get to take a couple of days off in the middle of the trip to go on safari in the Serengeti National Park. Very rarely have I marvelled so much at God’s creation. Simply driving in an open-top 4x4 was an amazing experience, but the animals we saw were astonishing, and we really witnessed what a mind-blowing country Tanzania is! Communities
What made the trip were the communities we worked in. It was so good to see so many smiling faces every day we went to work, with people genuinely happy to see you. The language barrier was difficult at first, but our translators (we had two called Freddy and Jackson) were fantastic, and I picked up quite a bit of Swahili so could have small conversations with the villagers and interact well with the kids. It was really hard saying goodbye to all the amazing people we met in and around Musoma. We were blessed to be able to serve such amazing people.
I simply cannot thank you enough for your donation towards my trip. It allowed me to have the best three months of my life, in which I grew to know God a lot more personally, and experienced things that I will never forget. Moreover, I can’t put into words how much of a difference your money made out in Tanzania. Firstly, we were able to do amazing things for people with massive physical need. Giving clean water to a family is a uniquely special thing, which also addresses numerous health issues which are so prominent in the area. I also wouldn’t be able to put a number on how many lives we saved simply by being there to take them to hospital, pay for medication, or even just buying mosquito nets for people. Secondly, both the team and the communities we worked in were changed spiritually and personally partly through your donation. Every single person on the team was changed by God while in Africa. We also saw Mikaringo church choir start up again, encouraged a variety of local churches in living their lives for God, and simply showed the love of Christ to people who often feel abandoned and lost. I pray that God will bless your trust, and continue to help you in the work that you do helping to change the lives of so many. Thank you so much.
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