We are again visiting Masasi town this year as part of our church’s (Holy Trinity, Minchinhampton) continuing link with the diocese of Masasi. Bishop James who has visited Minchinhampton, has invited us to come and spend time with him in his churches, and with his people.
There are seven of us travelling in May to Masasi, which is in the very south of Tanzania, near the border with Mozambique. It is a dry, poor area not on, or near tourist areas. Part of our time will be spent reviewing projects for the Friends of Masasi and Newala, a charity that was originally set up by teachers, nurses, doctors, priests who worked there before Tanzania gained independence from the UK in 1961. Their aim is to continue to provide support and assistance for education and health.
In particular we will be making a return visit to Mtandi primary school where there is a residential unit for blind, deaf, albino and some physically disabled children, started by Trevor Huddleston. We will be looking at how recently raised funds are being spent, ensure new children have the appropriate eye examinations and if necessary arrange sight giving surgery at a mission hospital in Dar es Salaam, some 500 miles away! We aim to take floppy sun hats, and sun glasses to offer the albino children protection from the sun. There is always an ongoing demand for these items which we have provided in the past.
The Tanzania Development Trust, the charitable arm of Britain-Tanzania Society, has recently assisted this school, by building new toilets, and there are other people raising funds for these children who live in a very basic community.
On this visit we will also be looking at the progress of projects that we have started and supported for some years, with the help of the people of Minchinhampton. These include the progress of HIV education and prevention, and the building, running and staffing of rural health clinics, progress on the restoration of Rondo Chapel, with its unique stained glass, (which has links to Stroud), also built in the time of Bishop Trevor Huddleston.
We also hope to meet the trainee Medical attendant, Baraka, whom Minchinhampton are sponsoring; he is well into his second year of training. We will be meeting Deoglas, who with your help we sponsored through his education, and who has now started his own small business enterprise.
For two of our group, they will be making visits to the churches and schools and villages where their parents (John and Benita Cornwall) taught, and ministered to the people from 1933 to the 1950s (then setting up the link between Masasi and Minchinhampton in 1959.)
As with all visits to poor rural communities, there are questions, such as can our visits benefit the community, or is there a cost which is too great to be carried by these poor people?
As we travel at our own expense, we shall make a significant contribution during our stay to the local economy, by staying at the Cathedral guest house and paying for our board and lodgings as well as all the fuel costs associated with our travels.
The people of Masasi very much enjoy meeting with us and we have been invited back to do more HIV/Aids training in the future. These visits give us the opportunity to learn of the best ways to help the communities from the people themselves, which allows us to stay on their agenda with any future projects we might wish to support.
The Bishop also has his profile raised within the secular community by the arrival of European visitors; this is further reflected in the way that we shall spend money in the local shops which benefits both Christian, and Muslim families.
Finally we underpin that relationship with that Anglican Church community in such a faraway place; they regularly pray for the people of Minchinhampton, as we regularly pray for them. This is the nature of Christian living, our two communities can be united, despite the language, economic and cultural differences between us, because the language of God’s love is truly universal.
Stephen J Jarvis