Our journey started from snow covered Northumbria, skidding down the narrow icy lanes towards the A1 and ended 3 days later (after various forms of public transport – car, plane, taxi, dalai, coach and three wheeler cycle!) in hot and humid Dodoma which is situated in central Tanzania.
Tanzania, although one of the least urbanised, is East Africa’s largest country. With a diverse landscape of savannah, bush, lakes and highland plateau. It is renowned for its wild life, game reserves and Mount Kilimanjaro, (the highest mountain on this continent). Its 126 different tribal groups, each with their own heritage, are welded together by the Kiswahili language, a mix of Arabic and old Bantu originating from Zanzibar. Before 1972 this diverse group of people had no cohesion and lived in scattered pockets throughout the country. Between 1972 and 1974 under the Presidency of Julius Nyerere the Government forced these pockets into village formats.
We have often asked the question why Mnase? In 1974 it was chosen as a regional centre surrounded by 4 other satellite villages. It was promised water systems, a medical centre with hospital and schools. The governmental dream never materialised. The chairman of the village remarked to Rebekah and I, “The government promised us everything and gave us nothing, you have promised us nothing and given us everything.” God had His own story to write amongst these people.
After 3 days travel we were still not at our destination …. The village lies 2 hours outside Dodoma and there is only one bus (a very loose term) that travels there once a day during the weekdays. We had arrived on Friday afternoon and so our first weekend was spent staying with our good friend and host Seth Gidiony.
During our stay in Dodoma we visited many people and heard many stories of hardship including Seth’s pastor Fenias who was very ill (moved to a hospital 6 hours away in Dar es Salaam). We visited his wife and family of 7 children, 2 married, trying to survive without their breadwinner. There is no welfare system, so this family were being completely supported by the church family. Before we left the country we went to visit the pastor in hospital, sadly he died a week later.
We also had breakfast with the Minister of Infrastructure for Tanzania, the Hon. Hezekiah Ndahani Chibulunje (we had met him in 2005 when the Government had sent an envoy to meet us and hear about the Sing to the Well project). 2 years ago the World Bank offered finance to help remote villages in the Dodoma region with drilling wells. There stipulation was that each village had to come up with 2 million TZS and they would contribute 25 million TZS. The chairman of Mnase village asked Seth to relay this situation to us and we sent the 2 million out to the village, they have put this into an account and it is still sitting there! The World Bank then delivered the 25 million and it is now somewhere in the Governmental system. Our meeting was to ask where this money was and to discuss next steps. Sadly, the answer was a ministerial answer “It’s in process”. When the money is released they plan to dig a deeper well and restore another water system within the area that was put in place many years ago and has not been working for a couple of decades.
Many people in the West become frustrated (understandably so) by inconsistencies within the political and governmental infrastructure …. often their words can be misleading and some say not trustworthy. A remark made by Hezekiah in 2005 made me rethink, “Martin, you have seen one village in trouble, we see a troubled country”. With a Gross National Income of just over $2 a person any money that comes in has to go to the neediest situation, not necessarily the project earmarked for the donation.
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