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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lutherans Doing Good Works in Tanzania - Hospitals and Orphanages

The Orphanage

One of the truly heart-wrenching experiences for our group in the Moshi area was a visit to Neema Orphanage, operated by Lutheran sisters, in nearby Kalali.  ("Neema" means Grace in Swahili.)  Casting about on the Internet today for some statistics, I encountered another Neema orphanage in nearby Arusha.  Sadly, it had some very plausible numbers:
  • In Tanzania, with a population of 44 million, there are more than 3 million orphans, many of whose parents have died from AIDS.
  • Tanzania has more than 1.5 million people living with AIDS. 
  • Most orphanages will not accept babies because they are too expensive to care for and require too many workers.
  • The maternal mortality rate in Sub-Sahara Africa is 1 in 39, resulting in many orphaned babies.   In developed countries it is 1 in 4700.  (WHO, UNICEF*)
  • In Tanzania, babies are abandoned in hospitals, churches, along the road, in forests, bus stations, and many other places.
As we arrived at the orphanage, we saw staff and small children playing.  We had brought along a few footballs, (soccer balls) a few toy cars and other goodies.  You are never too young for a football in Africa and the kids really loved the toys.

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As at most of the facilities that we saw, a little landscaping and a lot of helpful climate put a bit of good cheer into the surroundings.

Much of the work at the orphanage is done by volunteer labor.  Our contribution was to leave four members of our group behind at the very end of our trip.  For periods ranging from two to six weeks, Rebekah, Raechel, Anna, and Natalie stayed on as volunteers.
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The Hospital

That infant mortality rate of 1 in 39 that I mentioned in the preceding section might have caught your attention.  Let's talk about a group of people who are addressing it.

Of all the places and projects that we visited, none impressed me as much as Machame Hospital and Nursing School.  The Machame Hospital has been a Lutheran project dating back to around 1893.  It was at that time that German missionaries first arrived here on the slope of Kilimanjaro and began treating local residents.  (As in the middle-east, a lot of geography and power in Africa changed hands at the end of World War I.)

When we pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, I immediately noticed the white pickup with a Nebraska decal.

It turns out that this hospital has strong supporting connections to the Catholic Alegent Health of Omaha, Nebraska, as well as ties to Temple Baptist Church of Temple, TX, near the famed Scott & White Clinic.   Making things happen at the hospital is Bob Kasworm, a remarkable man whose talents are provided by Alegent Health.

As we arrived, a container of cast-off medical equipment from U.S. hospitals had arrived and just been unloaded.  This represents a true trash to treasures transformation.  Bob explained that he does have to deal with 110 volt to 220 volt conversions and the like but has found ways to handle all of that.


A Few Hospital Statistics

Machame Hospital Operating Statistics -2009

Outpatient Visits 22,937
Inpatient Admissions 3,650

Major Minor
General Surgery 256 2,618
Orthopedic Surgery 329 813
Total Deliveries  614
C-section 71

We took a walking tour of the 130 bed hospital that included several patient visits including a mother and baby just an hour after delivery.  Funding for services includes patient fees, government contributions and of course, those marvelous contributions from Machame's U.S. partners.  The patient's fee for a normal delivery is 10,000 Tanzanian Shillings, about seven U.S. dollars.

Bob Kasworth's latest venture is the construction of "Houses for Health."  I've extracted a few paragraphs from a recent interview about Bob that can be found (in somewhat jumbled form) at this link.
The organization Houses for Health, raises money to buy houses for single parents, parents with HIV/AIDS, and with sick children.

When Bob started his organization, Houses for Health, Bob thought it would be a small thing and only build a couple houses for extremely poor families. He eventually was so involved with the program, he moved to Tanzania to be able to help. The houses the families (currently live in) are made out of sticks, mud, and rocks, and can have very unhealthy conditions. The new houses they build are made out of cinder blocks. They help keep out diseases, mold, bacteria, and animals. 
When you have HIV/AIDS you are very likely to get tuberculosis. The new houses keep out cold weather, damp air from rain, and prevent having to sleep in mud or dust. 75% of houses are built for people with HIV/AIDS, but some go to people with mental illness, handicaps, and people in extreme poverty.

... They are 2 bedroom modest little houses, but are very well protected form the elements and give hope of better health. The houses are made with 100% local labor, 99% local materials to boost the local economy. Depending on the weather, houses can be built in 5-6 weeks. In 2008, the first 3 houses were built. 6 were built in 2009, and 10 houses in 2010. They are currently building the 63rd house. (It's an old interview.  The number is well above that now.)

The people with the most severe cases get houses sooner, and also households with children who have only one parent. He has changed peoples lives immensely. By doing these things, he has created safer environments, better health care, and more opportunities for a better, healthier life. The houses they build are made from 99%+ materials right from Tanzania. It helps boost the economy in the very poor and poverty filled country.
We joined Bob in visiting a family that was under consideration for one of the new homes.  The father had died of AIDS and the youngest son, Prosper, suffered from severe epilepsy and a development disorder.  The architecture of their home was similar to many in this area and to what you can see in these pictures.  A lattice of sticks holds walls of stone in place.  A finish coat of mud might be placed over the stones.  A dirt floor is normal.
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You can see one of the new Houses for Health in this picture.

During dinner that evening, we started talking about raising funds toward one of Bob's houses.  Passing around a hastily constructed pledge form, we soon had raised enough money for two houses.  I would rate that as one of the high points of our trip.

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