Saturday
Jun032017

2017/06/03 PWRDF in Tanzania - Article from Anglican Journal

PWRDF delegation visits Masasi, a diocese of challenge and possibility 

BY ANDRÉ FORGET ON MAY, 31 2017
Masasi Bishop James Almasi (second from left) welcomes PWRDF delegation members (L-R) Chris Pharo, Geoff Strong, Maureen Lawrence, Bishop David Irving, Leah Marshall, Zaida Bastos, Jennifer Brown and Suzanne Rumsey to his diocese. Photo: André Forget 
Masasi, Tanzania
 
It’s barely 9:30 a.m., but already the walkway between the Anglican Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew and the bishop’s residence is a furnace, and the dozens of choristers who line it are sweating in their gowns. 

 

In the meagre shade of the residence’s porch, James Almasi, bishop of southern Tanzania’s diocese of Masasi, stands beside David Irving, bishop of the diocese of Saskatoon, and bows his head. Raising a hand over the group waiting for the procession to begin—a mix of Canadian visitors, Tanzanian priests and acolytes—Almasi says a blessing.

It’s Sunday, May 14, and hundreds of Anglicans have turned out to celebrate the arrival of a delegation from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada. It is a day for confirmations, and Irving, a member of the PWRDF board, has been asked to preach at the service.

The prayer complete, Almasi walks down the steps, and the choir breaks into a hymn. The procession makes its way to the cathedral doors.

Long-standing ties

 From the slopes of Mtandi Mountain, the cathedral overlooks the town of Masasi; away to the south, the savannah stretches for hundreds of kilometres to the Ruvuma River and Mozambique.

Completed in 1910, 34 years after Christianity was brought to the region by a group of freed slaves from Zanzibar, the cathedral grew to be the centre of what became, in 1926, the diocese of Masasi. It is now a centre of Anglo-Catholicism in the Anglican Church of Tanzania.

Masasi has long-standing ties with the Anglican Church of Canada, including a formal partner relationship with the diocese of Montreal. In the past 20 years, Masasi’s diocesan leaders have worked closely on a variety of PWRDF projects, from care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS to building fish farms.

Over the past five years, the emphasis has been on preventive health and food security. Beneficiaries in 21 villages in the Masasi district and the neighbouring Nachingwea district have received livestock, seeds, medicine and education, to help them establish a sustainable food supply and cultivate better nutrition and health practices. Known locally as CHIP (Community Health Improvement Program), the project has received $3.32 million from PWRDF and Canadian International Development Assistance (CIDA).

In 2014, the Canadian government announced that it had allocated $370 million to support NGOs engaged in partnerships to strengthen maternal, newborn and child health.

“When the Canadian government launched this specific call for maternal, newborn and child health, we really saw an opportunity to use the lessons learned [through CHIP],” says Zaida Bastos, director of PWRDF’s development partnership program, who has been involved in development work in the region since 1997.

 

Members of the Mothers' Union choir wait for the welcoming procession to begin. Photo: André Forget

PWRDF reached a five-year funding agreement with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development totalling $17.69 million for its All Mothers and Children Count (AMCC) program, aimed at improving maternal, newborn and child health in 350 villages across Burundi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Of that money, $5 million is earmarked for development projects in the diocese of Masasi, which covers a large swath of territory along the Tanzania-Mozambique border and straddles the districts of Masasi, Mtwara, Tunduru, Nachingwea, Lindi, Newala and Nanyumbu. It is a region with a population of 3.26 million, many of whom are among the 46.6% of Tanzanians the United Nations Human Development Report says subsist on less than US$2 a day.

Data published by the Tanzania Human Development Report in 2014 show that 64% of mainland Tanzanians live in poverty, particularly acute in rural regions like Masasi. The proportion of those living in extreme poverty is 31.3%, as judged by the Multidimensional Poverty Index, which weighs factors relating to education, health and living standards.

The AMCC project runs from 2015 to 2020 and targets 72 villages, mainly in Tunduru on the diocese’s western reaches. Its overall focus is on lowering mortality rates among young children and new mothers. (According to UNICEF, the infant mortality rate across Tanzania is 51/1000 live births and maternal mortality is 454/100,000 live births.)

But as Bastos explains, dealing with this particular problem means tackling a slew of issues, from gender equality to access to food and water.

“It is all related—a woman that doesn’t have a good health status, doesn’t have a good nutrition. Of course, [she] will deliver a baby that [has] low birth weight and the chances of dying are higher,” she says.

When asked why PWRDF has chosen to partner with Masasi once again, Bastos says: “They deliver the program well, they are accountable to us as donors, but also to their community. They are efficient…When you get a partner like that, that delivers every time they commit to something, and deliver[s] high-quality work, you stick with them.”

Bishop James Almasi translates as PWRDF board president Maureen Lawrence (third from left) offers her greetings to members of the diocese of Masasi. (Also pictured, L-R: Chris Pharo Asha Kerr-Wilson, Leah Marshall, Zaida Bastos, Suzanne Rumsey and Elin Goulden) Photo: André Forget

In introductory remarks made earlier to the delegation, Bishop Almasi spoke warmly of the work PWRDF has done in his diocese.

“Over many years, PWRDF has been serving our people in this diocese of Masasi with very great generosity…this is a partnership we value enormously,” he said. “As a bishop, I have seen the impact of this partnership grow and develop over the years…Let me assure you that lives of hundreds of children and their parents, of whole communities, are being changed through your love and care for us.”

In an interview with the Anglican Journal, the Rev. Geoffrey Monjesa, the diocese’s development officer, says that PWRDF projects allow the diocese to work with the local communities to improve knowledge about health and nutrition.

“The support we get from PWRDF is important, because it helps the community members to get education,” he says. “Part of our program [is] to educate the community on how to identify their problems, and how to plan various strategies…and also to provide them with support in terms of essential drugs in various health facilities.”

Ten Canadian delegates have travelled here, alongside Bastos and Irving—Maureen Lawrence, president of the PWRDF board; Geoff Strong and Chris Pharo, diocesan representatives from British Columbia and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, respectively; youth representative board member Asha Kerr-Wilson and youth representative Leah Marshall; diocese of Toronto outreach and advocacy co-ordinator Elin Goulden; and PWRDF staffers Suzanne Rumsey and Jennifer Brown. They are hoping to get a sense for what AMCC will accomplish, based on CHIP’s outcomes.

First, however, they will get a taste of Anglican worship in Tanzania.

Bishop James Almasi (left) and Bishop David Irving confirm young parishioners at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew. Photo: André Forget

Anglican worship, Tanzanian style

 The diocese of Masasi’s Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew is packed. Built almost entirely of stone to accommodate more than 500 worshippers, there is barely enough room to pass through the crowds of children sitting on the cool flagstones in the aisles beside the nave.

As the procession enters the building, the congregants stand and add their voices to the choir.

The architecture of the service is identical to that handed down by Anglicans for almost five centuries, but the length—four hours, in total—and the enthusiasm would be uncommon in most Canadian parishes. (There is, at one point, unchoreographed dancing in the central aisle.)

The presence of young Tanzanians is also remarkable.

Earlier, the delegation had been told 70 young people would be confirmed. But when the time came, the bishops laid hands on more than 80.

This is both a reflection of Tanzania’s population (according to the 2012 census, 78.6% are below age 35), and, perhaps, a reflection of the religiosity of its Christians—despite the length of this fairly typical Sunday service, the children remain engaged (and, perhaps more miraculously, silent) from beginning to end.  

In his sermon, Irving thanks his hosts and the members of the diocese, and underscores the importance of the visit.

“We learn from each other,” he says. “When God’s children from different parts of the world stretch out and join hands together, work together, it truly is joyous."

It being Mother’s Day, he commends the work that women do in supporting, nurturing and caring for new generations and exhorts the confirmands to be bold in their decision to fully commit to the Christian faith.

Those who couldn't find seats for the service watch as the recessional parade leaves the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew. Photo: André Forget

When the service is over, the worshippers leave the cathedral slowly. Many stop in the cathedral yard to chat with friends and family, and people crowd into group photos with Almasi and Irving in front of the cathedral doors.

The delegates mingle with their diocesan hosts, and discuss the afternoon’s next activity. After lunch, they are going to be driven to some nearby Mothers’ Union projects. (The Mothers’ Union, an international Christian charity group that supports families, has significant weight in the affairs of the Tanzanian church.) 

The children, like children who have just gotten out of church services the world over, are playing loudly in the sunshine.

Many of them took their first steps when PWRDF’s first projects in the region were getting off the ground. As their country continues its long battle with systemic poverty, the hopes are high that the current PWRDF project will play a not insignificant role in the kind of conditions into which their own children may one day be born.

 

Wednesday
May312017

Canadian government announces matching fund for Famine Relief

On May 29, the federal government announced it will match funds donated to Canadian NGOs for famine relief in Africa and the Middle East. For every dollar donated to PWRDF's Famine Relief appeal from March 17 to June 30, 2017, the government will put $1 into its Famine Relief Fund. Download and distribute PWRDF's bulletin insert as widely as possible, and help end famine. For more information, read our story here.

Friday
May192017

2017/05/18 Day 7 in Tanzania

Day 7 – May 18 – Asha Kerr-Wilson, PWRDF Youth Council Representative

This was our last day in the district of Masasi, and ended with a long drive back to the city of Mtwara as we start to make our way back home to Canada. For the better part of the day, we had the opportunity to meet and share experiences with some of the leaders and implementers of the community health and food security programs from both the diocesan office and some of the villages where projects have been and are being implemented.

PWRDF and Diocese of Masasi staff shared initial thoughts from their perspectives on the challenges and successes of the completed Preventive Health and Food Security project (2011-2016). We heard about the practical challenges of designing, communicating and implementing effective projects, but overwhelmingly the messages we heard from both sides were positive. The importance and value of the relationship between the Diocese of Masasi and PWRDF was expressed on both sides and there was shared sentiment that we look forward to continuing to learn from the challenges faced and work together to help move us forward with the new maternal, newborn and child health project (known as All Mothers and Children Count – 2016-2020). This includes taking into account the way these two projects intersect and overlap in ways that allow for continuity in the work.

After hearing from the organizing leaders, we had a chance to discuss and share the key learnings the delegation and the community workers have gained about these projects. It was really incredible to hear that in many ways we have had very similar learnings, though we have engaged with these projects in very different ways. Both Canadian and Tanzanian participants shared that education that is relevant and contextual for those we interact with in this work, is key to delivering the messages we are sharing, whether that’s about food or health practices for the implementing communities, or understanding the issues and realities of development in Masasi for Canadian Anglicans. Our responses also highlighted the importance of relationships, between the Diocese of Masasi, the community workers, and the villages, between those working in Tanzania and those in Canada, and between PWRDF and Canadian Anglicans.

The hope going forward from all sides was that we can continue to build and nurture these relationships, and that we will all continue to learn and be transformed by the shared learning in the work we do together to build a “truly just, healthy and peaceful world.”

Thursday
May182017

2017/05/17 Day 6 in Tanzania

Day 6 – May 17 – By Chris Pharo, PWRDF Diocesan Representative for Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island

It was another busy and exciting day visiting PWRDF Project “beneficiaries.” We headed off bright and early to Mkumba village.

Our first visit was to the home of Hassan and Binurue. They were among the first recipients of one of 15 dairy cows distributed under PWRDF’s Preventive Health and Food Security program. The family had been selected to enter the random draw by the village council. This system is very democratic, reduces potential for conflict and also ensures that, at some point, all villagers who want a cow should eventually receive one.

It was amazing to hear Hassan and Binurue describe the huge impact receiving this cow has had on their standard of living. They have already met their commitment to donate their first female calf back to the program. Currently they have a milking dairy cow as well as two calves. The income generated by the sale of milk has allowed them to acquire some dairy goats, make improvements to their home and be able to afford to send their daughter Halima to private school.

We then crossed the road to visit a recipient of a dairy goat. As he is HIV positive, he had been struggling with providing for his family. All HIV positive recipients are self declared. (Goat keepers are both HIV positive and not named in order to protect the dignity of the HIV recipients.) By receiving the dairy goat he now has access to very nutritious milk which has improved his health. He has also been able to sell five offspring of the mother goat to generate some income for his family. As the result of the goat project, he has purchased a solar panel for his home.

We then met with the town villagers, village officials and program officers. It is a tradition for visitors to any Tanzanian village to introduce themselves to officials and be welcomed officially. As this is a village with both Christian and Muslim inhabitants, the village Imam was invited to speak. He expressed gratitude to PWRDF for being inclusive and allowing all villagers to benefit from the program regardless of religion.

Our group then proceeded to the village of Ndomoni where we viewed a deep well that had been installed with PWRDF support. The well provides water to all villagers who used to have to travel up to eight kilometers for water. The well allows villagers to reduce the time they spend fetching water and spend more time on more productive activities such as farming. The traditional meeting with villagers and officials then took place. The meeting concluded with one of our own being given a lesson on how to carry a 50-pound bucket of water on his head!!! He almost got it the first time but still needs some practice.

Seeing the daily realities of rural Tanzania has made me think frequently during the week of the well known piece of scripture from Luke – “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked…” (Luke 12:48). I think of how fortunate we are in Canada with an abundance of food, water, health care and so on. I think of the many Anglicans I have met over the years as Diocesan Representative who live out their baptismal covenant and support our PWRDF faithfully. In meeting beneficiaries such as Hassan and Binurue, I have seen first hand how that support from home is changing lives here in Tanzania.

Wednesday
May172017

2017/05/15 Day 5 in Tanzania

Day 5 – May 16 – By Leah Marshall, PWRDF Youth Council

We left Masasi early in the morning for Nachingwea where we paid a courtesy visit to the District Executive Director (local government official) who had helped coordinate the Preventive Health and Food Security project since its start. This project, supported by PWRDF and the Canadian government, took place between 2011 and 2016. Today was an opportunity to see some of the results of that project.

Farmer and community leader Joyce Mtauka greets the delegation.

We then drove to the rural village of Ruponda to meet with project beneficiaries and farmers like Joyce Mtauka. Some of our delegation met Joyce during the PWRDF Sharing Bread (Two) food security course at Sorrento, B.C. in 2015. Through the program there, Joyce has been able to expand her production and in so doing, contribute to the food security of her community. Joyce was also involved with training many other farmers on food security and how to continue to benefit the community with their production. The delegation visited Joyce’s farm and after seeing some of her maize and cassava crops, had the opportunity to harvest and cook some fresh cassava. We helped chop the roots off of the short tree-like plant, and then proceeded to peel and wash the pieces. It was sliced into smaller sections and then the starchy plant was put to cook in a pot of water with a pinch of salt, before being served to us to be eaten with honey. Cassava is a high calorie, low nutrition crop, used as a staple throughout central eastern Africa. Joyce uses her cassava plants as a cover crop and gives branches of it for other farmers in her community to grow. Eating cassava was new and an interesting experience!

After returning to the village for an honorary meal shared with the community, we visited the Mwenge dispensary which is powered by solar panels and allows for the delivery of babies at night through this PWRDF provision. We then continued our journey to visit the Chip Agro-vet Input Centre where we were surprised with a welcome of singing and dancing. Bishop James and Reverend Geoffrey had surprised us by not telling us that we would be there for the centre’s official opening. They even asked Maureen (as the President of the PWRDF board) to open the doors officially. The Chip Agro-vet Input Centre, established by the Diocese of Masasi in collaboration with PWRDF and the Canadian government, is providing advisory services on agriculture techniques, agriculture and veterinary inputs, and how they apply. It is also selling the inputs at affordable prices to farmers, thus contributing to food security beyond the life of the PWRDF project.

After a busy day we came to a hotel in Nachingwea to enjoy an evening and night of rest. Tomorrow the delegation looks forward to seeing more of the projects within the diocese and the effects they have had on the communities they involve.