We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Mamas' Pain and a Tree Planted

Last week we had a text from our friend Ester telling us that yet another person with albinism has been brutally attacked. She asked us to pray.

Brutal Attacks
Last Thursday, Munghu, a 35 year old woman with albinism, was attacked. Her left arm was hacked off below the elbow, her right arm mutilated and she was left to bleed to death. Her husband (without albinism) was killed as he tried to defend his wife and their two children. Munghu and her children are currently being treated in hospital.
Munghu recovering from the attack
Not long before, on August 5th, Pendo (which translated means "Love"), a 15 year old girl with albinism, was attacked. Attackers hacked off her right hand from below the elbow and disappeared into the darkness with it. Pendo has been recovering in hospital, in fear but "stable" condition. Police have arrested a neighbour who is a witchdoctor but they are still looking for two other attackers who have not been identified.

Pendo recovering from her brutal attack
Just a few days before this attack I was watching "White and Black: Crimes of Colour" a DVD produced in collaboration with Under the Same Sun (UTSS). It follows the undercover work of Vicky Ntetema examining the superstitions and fears surrounding albinism in Tanzania and the brutal consequences of these prejudices and the witchdoctors who prey on people with albinism for profit. Not easy viewing, but an important message communicated. So much good work is going on here to help people with albinism (PWA). Ester who works with UTSS is an incredible ambassador for PWA. Through the work of Ester and many others, children with albinism are protected and educated, awareness is spreading both nationally here and internationally about the awful truth of what is happening. And as efforts continue to push for change with the support of the UN, progress is being made to change the future for PWA.  But watching this DVD, I was struck by the effects on the whole family of a child with albinism. Families torn apart in tragedy, fear, grief and rejection.

Mamas Grieving
I have been talking with Ester about meeting with a small group of mamas of children with albinism. Just six of many mamas who have travelled the difficult and painful journey of albinism. Mamas whose young children have been brutally murdered or attacked. Mamas who live in constant fear of attack, constant fear for the life of their child. Mamas who are cursed and shunned by their family or village for giving birth to a child with albinism. Mamas whose husbands may have played a role in  horrific attacks. Mamas who have given birth only to have their husband leave them to find a wife who "is not cursed" to bear his children.

Jane is one such mama here. She has been given (by people of UTSS) a safe home in that same village where we walked the water walk and more recently held lots of babies. When she was eighteen and 5 months pregnant with her first child, her husband died. Grieving, she went back to her family and in time gave birth to her child, a child with albinism. She was immediately cut off from her late husbands family. Later, a man approached Jane and her family, asking to marry her. The family was delighted (it is incredibly hard to be a widow, particularly here in Tanzania and even more so if you have a child with albinism). But before the marriage took place, Jane was approached secretively by a friend of the man, who warned her that her future husband had dark intentions to kill the child (to sell body parts for witchcraft). Jane broke off with the man, but after escaping intruders in her home one night, she knew the life of her child was in danger, and her own life at risk as well. She now lives with her child in anonymous safety; she has been given training in sewing and is able to support herself and her child by sewing clothes which she sells here in Mwanza and also in her mother's village.

How we can help these mamas? For me, I think it will start with chai. But I hope that I can get to know some of these mamas, that we can read the story of Bible together, pray and share hope together. That we can learn new skills in crafts and cooking and set up small businesses that would support these women and their precious children.

A Tree Planted ...
Our tree planting work is now officially underway! Yesterday we went to Nyegezi Corner Church on the other side of Mwanza. This church has given us space on their land to start a tree nursery which will feed into the conservation agriculture project. We asked if there was someone in the church who we could train up to run this project and we have been given a fantastic young man!
Bahati Daudi
Bahati Daudi
Bahati Daudi (which translated means "Lucky David") is a young guy with just primary education who came to the city from a village in another region to "make a life". So many young boys do this. It is pretty heart-breaking. The city is full of boys on the street who have left their families and come from a village to "make a life" here. But sadly, it just doesn't work like this. So Bahati Daudi is here, with little education and no job, but he has a great heart - one to work and to serve! We are really excited about the potential for this young man and look forward to working with him and helping him set up this nursery as a growing business that will meet his needs, help our projects and also benefit the farms and homes of many people in Mwanza and the surrounding villages.

Bibles and Bags of Poop
Prior to Sunday, Tim and Daudi had built a fenced area for the nursery. And on Sunday, as you do, we arrived at the service with our Bibles and our bags of poop! With our bags of compost we also had seeds and metres of plastic tubing to plant the seeds in. Joseph, our young guard who is fast growing in his faith and also in the way that he helps us, came with us. He taught Bahati Daudi how to compost and then to plant the seeds. And with a few papaya trees and moringa trees in the making, we left the rest to Daudi. And a text from Daudi at 9am this morning told us he had already planted almost 60 trees!
Planting papaya and moringa seeds
The girls were super hungry! We crept (hot and a little stiffly) out of the long service which was still going strong at 1:45pm and got to work on the trees ... I'm not sure what time this photo was taken, but as the girls ran around with the kids, one of the mamas offered them lunch! (We got some later!)

This church has a great thing going! Each department (PA, worship team, Sunday school etc.) is responsible for an area of the church plot. They can choose to do with it what they like ... plant maize, cassava, sugarcane ...
This area is about to be filled with water and become a fish farm!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Nane Nane and a Garden in Iraq

"Nane" is the Swahili word for "eight" (pronounced nah-nay). Consequently, Nane-Nane means "Eight-Eight" (ok, that was obvious!) Last week, Tanzania marked the annual eighth day of the eighth month with Nane Nane celebrations across the country, in the form of agricultural fairs. They are similar to a County Fair, almost like the Newbury Show we used to go to in England (well, almost)!

I was interested in the bee-keeping projects on display, as I get increasingly excited about all things bees! I bought some beeswax to attract my bees to their new hive, and also some homemade beeswax candles because ..., well, just because I am anticipating all that these bees will produce! They could have been a good idea for the power cuts, but when the power was out on Saturday, I simply couldn't burn them! I'm sure many of you can understand this!

Louisa has an audience as she tries her hand at the honey extractor
The big Water Buffalo
Tractors! A rare sight here!

This poor big billy goat gruff got in a bit of a tangle.
With all the work on my keyhole kitchen and medicinal garden (I will have to tell you all about it one day, but I am still waiting to see what has survived the storm), I was also very interested to see keyhole gardens demonstrated at Nane Nane. It was fascinating to see the different lotions being made from local plants and healthy nutritious solutions being offered to help various problems.
A Keyhole Garden at Nane Nane
After all our baobab discoveries in Iringa (remember the baobab smoothies and ice cream? click here!), it was interesting to see other people doing things with it. I bought a bar of Baobab soap which I am looking forward to trying my hand at making soon (mixed with the aloe vera of course!).
Baobab soap and the baobab that Amisadai has been pounding
I also bought some cassava flour (great for biscuits and breads) and checked out the great work of Phil, a friend of ours here, who designed this incredibly useful machine used in processing cassava, which makes a huge difference to the lives of many farmers here and you can read all about how here ....!
Phil's cassava press
All in all, we all had a fun and informative morning, particularly useful given that we are starting an agricultural project in a few weeks. But there is another "nane nane" I was thinking about this weekend. Luke Nane Nane (Luke chapter 8, verse 8 in the Bible). It is a nane nane agricultural story of a farmer who went to sow his seed. Some seed fell on the path and was trampled and eaten by birds; some fell on rocks and then withered without moisture; some fell among thorns which later choked the plant. And some seeds fell on good soil. And here is the "nane nane" bit, "it came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown!"

This is what we are hoping for with our agricultural project! With about 80% of Tanzanians dependent on the land for their livelihood, it is hard to underestimate the significance of agriculture to rural communities in Tanzania. The Mwanza region has a history of being unable to feed itself due to the unfavourable weather (low rainfall), adverse soil conditions and scarcity of land. So in September we shall begin in a “classroom” setting to train a group of subsistence farmers in conservation agricultural practices. Then once the rains come (in November, give or take a bit) we and they shall be ready for the practical work in their fields ... and the result we hope will be a significant increase the yield of their harvest! But while working with these eight to ten farmers over the course of the year, we hope many seeds will be sown deep into their hearts, and it is these seeds that will bear the greater fruit! 
The biggest gunia (sack) garden I've seen!
And lastly, with all this reflection on seeds growing and abundant gardens, there is a garden destroyed this nane nane of 2014. Iraq. A place now full of people brokenhearted and grieving, echoing the sound of mourning, wearing crowns of ashes and spirits of despair. What was once a garden (perhaps even Paradise, once the Garden of Eden) is now a place devastated. 

This sounds like something out of the Bible ... Isaiah 61 to be specific. But the words in Isaiah written so many hundreds of years ago for a people also exiled and grieving, can give hope for the situation today. There is comfort in the mourning, there is a crown of beauty for ashes and there are garments of praise in the place of despair. "For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations."

And just as my basil and cilantro seeds are starting to sprout up after the beating they endured in the storm, so too shall it be for our world that is currently in such a storm. As the world looks on, horrified at the brutal wreckage in Iraq and other places, we pray. For the storm to stop, for life, for strength, for hope. For a garden to grow, for righteousness and praise to spring up ... before all nations.

And meanwhile we must also tend our own gardens. For it is in good soil that sprouts come up and a garden grows. It is good soil that yields a crop hundred times what was sown. Sometimes I get so frustrated because I can't see anything happening (thinking here beyond just my basil and cilantro),  but that is because it all starts in a hole in the dirt. That's the best place to start, even if it doesn't feel so great. But that soil is important. Tend it and water it. Look for it wherever you are. Keep planting seeds. And remember the end of the story ... "it [the seed] came up!" Nane Nane.