March Highlights from Tanzania

March Highlights from Tanzania

March came and went with lightning speed it seemed, and yet so many good things got crammed into those 31 days.  We invite you to rejoice with us as you read through some of these highlights!

March 1:     Work began today on the foundations for our kindergarten building at Madisi.  Our goal will be to give the little kids in our village a "head start" before they start primary school -- as well as to give our Madisi students opportunities to serve in another meaningful way in their community. 

March 3:     We met with the Regional Educational Officer in Iringa and got his rather enthusiastic approval for moving forward with our plans to open our leadership training college in 2012.  We've registered and accredited so many secondary schools in this country that we feel that we have that process down pat, but this being our first college it is an entirely new process for us -- and it's a bit daunting.  His promise to help us gives us great hope of succeeding in the Ministry of Education in a reasonable amount of time.

March 6:  Little Odi (age 7) was back at the government cancer center in Dar es Salaam getting treatment for the cancer caused by her lack of immunity.  We were quite discouraged when she was sent home to die last year before Christmas, but the ARV's and Dr. Leena's antibiotics gave her enough strength to start chemotherapy on this trip.  The doctors were all surprised to see her back at the hospital.  Odi is even walking now, something she wasn't been able to do for over a year! 

March 11:     Our Madisi students spent the whole day working together to plant over 6000 saplings on the college land to reforest areas which were burned during the forest fire last year.

March 13:    We arrived late for our open-air village AIDS meeting in Iyegea that was supposed to take place right after church.  As a result, the meeting place was moved from grounds outside the village office to the grounds outside the village bar.  It turned out to be a beautiful place for my four friends -- all Christians -- to share their testimonies of living with HIV/AIDS and God's work in their lives.  Our purpose was to give hope, eliminate fear and organize people to get tested to get treatment.  A wonderful time for everyone to hear the Gospel as well.

March 21:     We finally got the last of our national exam results for our schools!  In a year which has been proclaimed "the worst year ever" (the tabloid newspapers in the country screamed headlines like "Disaster" and "Calamity") and with many of our nearby government schools having more than 4 of every 5 students fail, it caused great rejoicing throughout our schools when we got the final totals:  829 out of our 885 national exam candidates passed (a remarkable 93.6%).  Government secondary schools choose and then admit only the very best students from the primary schools.  Our schools are open to all of the so-called "unchosen ones" and we take the orphans, the poorest of the poor, those who would never imagine they would get the chance to go to school again.  By all rights, if even a few of our students would pass it would be a great victory -- and that makes it all the more wonderful that our students continue to do so exceptionally well. 

March 21:  We set a new record today, treating 392 of "Mama's friends" at our HIV/AIDS Community Treatment Center.  Msafiri (our former student) and the doctors from town served people until 7:30pm.  As a result of more and more people being approved by the Ministry of Health to receive their AIDS medications right here at our clinic in our village, we are expecting beginning in April to be able to reduce sending our buses to the Lugoda Hospital to only 3 days a week.  This will be a wonderful help to all of these people who won't have to travel anymore to get their medicines.  At one point we were beginning to think we would have to purchase a 3rd bus in order to transport everyone -- now it is a great joy to see more and more people accepted into the system of getting their medications right here in our village and to know we're not going to need another bus.

March 29:  We got permission to start a school in the Morogoro region, so Anyisile will now move there and begin the work of planting schools in that new region of the country.  VSI is now officially working in 5 of the 21 regions of the country.  Anyisile's goal is to get a "school-planting" movement started in villages in the Morogoro region just like he did in the Rukwa region (where we now have 7 schools open and another 2 schools under construction!)

March 30:  We made formal arrangements with government officials in the Manyara and Mwanza regions in northern Tanzania to visit them on May 16-19 to discuss the opening of schools in villages in that part of the country.

March 31:  The Sao Hill timber company yesterday provided us with a D5 bulldozer for two weeks to help us in the building of our college.  Godfrey had gone to them to ask if we might rent (hopefully at a discounted rate!) one of their bulldozers and they shocked us by responding with a letter which said that "because we recognize the importance of education in our country and because of the well- known efforts that your organization is doing to contribute to education in Tanzania, our head office has decided to make its contribution by loaning to you free of charge a bulldozer D5 ... "  All we had to do was to arrange to transport it over 100 km from their company to the college which Emmanueli succeeded in accomplishing today -- easier said than done -- but Emmanueli did it!  We now have realistic hope of completing the building of the college campus in time to open for classes in 2012.