Thursday morning we said good-bye to Sherry and Theresa as they left to take ultrasound machines to three new clinics. We were delayed from leaving for Bukoba, Tanzania, because our driver, Father Peter had been called by his friend Dr. Bernard, who was also going to Bukoba, but had forgotten to take his international drivers’ license. Meeting him was a delightful encounter. Toni had met him before, and the group was impressed with his knowledge of the cow project for which he had been a consultant as a veterinarian.
We arrived at the border between Uganda and Tanzania and checked out of Uganda and tried to check in to Tanzania. Since we were probably the only people there that day, they had to find the password to turn the computer on, and then, even with the password, they had a hard time getting on the server. This took much longer than we had hoped.
After getting our visas, we said goodbye to Father Peter and were met joyfully by Regina, Rachel, Jessica, and Paulina – all members of BUWEA. We got into their van and headed to Bukoba. On the way to the town, we stopped by the 50-acre farm which supplies the soy beans for the soy factory (more of that later.)
We reached our hotel, unpacked, had dinner, and had a good night’s sleep before starting the next day.
Local women receive and give to the group. Consolata from BUWEA is like an overseer to the group in Katoki.
Finances: a group has one passbook. For the savings, the leader takes money to the bank
Water tank in Katoki was finished in Dec., 2017. This group is in the village of Father Kamaze, who is now at Fontbonne University in St. Louis.
Items that the women make and sell:
- Baskets that take a day to make
- Baskets that take two weeks to make
- Food Rolls made of eggs, wheat flour, bananas and eggs
- White beans
- Smoked fish (whole)
- Grass used for tea
- Powdered soap (or was it soup?)
They gave out BUWEA yogurt.
Father Donation Rugatanga was there with the women. He will celebrate his silver jubilee June 20, 2018.
Before we left, Toni and Barb sang the Precious Blood blessing: “May the blessing of the Lord be upon you.”
As we travelled, we occasionally saw a column of white smoke on the horizon. These came from the kilns where the people baked bricks made from the soil.
“Haya” is the vernacular of the area. In Tanzania there are 150 different local languages. Kiswahili is the national language.
Adventina “knows everything,” they say, having worked in the women’s group for 15 years. She now has a new group.
There are 4 microloan groups, 50 members from the Kemondo area. Each group meets together once a month. They bring items they sell and can purchase from other members, but the most important thing, Jessica said, is that they SHARE. One way of sharing is through the training programs which are given: workshops which combine old and new members of BUWEA. These workshops give the newer members a chance to tell the others what they want to know.
What kind of training is given? Things are changing in Tanzania. Mothers do not want to have 15 children, so they give the mothers training in family planning.
Buwea Group in Village of Kemondo
When we arrived in Kemondo, the women wearing white shirts with their various multicolored shirts, came to the van singing and clapping. Each of us Americans was given flowers – Toni and Julie Gundlach bouquets, Julie S some cut flowers, and Barbara a vari-colored petals strung together to form a necklace, perhaps, but because it didn’t fit over her head, she wore it like a crown. At the end we were presented gifts wrapped in banana leaves and tied with long grasses.
Importance of having group members meet regularly: “If you leave them, they sleep. Meeting regularly keeps people working.” Another way to keep the group spirit is to have everyone looking similar (for example, everyone wears the same color shirts: we saw a group in white shirts and another in blue shirts.) The group chooses what similar clothing they will wear.
We then drove to the soy factory where we had an afternoon lunch with many of the members of BUWEA. Regina took us around, and we started the tour with the cornerstone dedicated to MPA. Then she showed us how the soy milk is made and also the yogurt. We continued on the tour to see how they have drying racks for different fruits which are than packaged and sold. Then she told us about one of the newer projects – making charcoal brickets out of the cardboard they collect from the streets, sawdust, and water, mixed with a little bit of clay. This is all soaked in water, hand squeezed, and dried. This is a good substitute for wood or gas. Then we went to the bakery, met the women who do the baking. Then we saw where they roast pork once a week and sell pork in the town. We went to their two fish ponds, one with tilapia and another with a different fish for which we do not know the English name. From there we walked to the day care. Since it was Saturdy, only a few children were there, and they sang to us, “Welcome, Visitors!”
To our astonished eyes, we went to the foundation of the two classrooms that are being built. To our surprise, Regina’s foresight made her add a third room for storage and/or a small residence. It’s like having a basement. She believes the new buildings will be done under budget by March. We are whole-heartedly thankful for the grant from the Precious Blood Sisters of Dayton which made this building possible.
We went back to the soy factory where we were served delicious cake. We then unpacked the luggage that we brought which had 119 water filters. Toni showed Regina and her team the water filters which they had previously on a zoom video conference shown how to use. There was so much feeling of a miracle to know that children and adults would have clean water and that these Sawyer filters would purify 99.9% of any of the dirtiest water. It is truly a miracle! Clean water! Before, when all the bacteria went into their systems, the result was diseases like typhoid and cholera. There is a whole program developed by Water with Blessings on how the filters will be used. One filter will be used to filter water for four families. MPA is piloting the program with BUWEA to incorporate a “pay it forward” model. Much more on this in the future.
We also brought material to be used for dignity pads for the young girls starting their periods who before this would miss one week of school each month.
Then we were playfully, joyfully, entertained with dancing in which Julie Gundlach was assimilated into the group of African dancers. Pictures will explain. After a marvelous day, we returned to the hotel exhausted, enriched, and inspired.