Visit by Canadian Friends of Highlands Hope to Njombe

A Brief Report on Tanzania Trip (November, 2010)

Louise and I traveled to Dar, Ilula, and Njombe in early November to meet with Tanzanian and Highlands Hope partners. This is a brief update on the people and projects we visited.

We met Muhingo Rweyemamu in Dar. It was a very busy time for him - he ran communications for President Kikwete's re-election campaign and was immediately tasked with analyzing why the ruling party shed so many seats to the opposition on election day (October 31, 2010). Nevertheless, he was able to take two days to drive with us to Hope School (which he established with his wife Fatma) for discussions about partnering to improve ESL and science teaching in local schools at Hope School and more generally in Iringa District. We met with several teachers and with students from Forms 1 and 3 (Form 2 was in the midst of national exams and Form 4 - the first graduating class at Hope School - was on a study break getting ready for finals). We made a great deal of progress in our discussions about how we could proceed in partnership with a Canadian university and we will pursue this along with new connections made with Dodoma University and the World Bank's office in Tanzania.

We traveled on to Njombe. Two McGill nursing students are there working with Betty Liduke - Ryan Lomenda and Kristin Gagnon. They are doing great work on home based care with peer health educators as well as researching awareness of HIV among students in schools in an area served by our Highlands Hope partner group CHAKUNIMU.
We met with the Managing Director Tanwat, Bram Goswami, and discussed with him the benefits of the McGill School of Nursing partnership. Betty Liduke explained in some detail the critical role that our students and their research played in the Tanwat Hospital securing permission to establish an HIV care and treatment centre as well as ongoing contributions to the quality of peer health education in the work place. He assured us of his ongoing, enthusiastic support.

We were then guests at a special event at Ramadhani School (where St. George's and Bishop's have been developing a partnership) to mark the building of a new computer lab and library by the local community. Canadian donors had contributed some resources to the school, but the new lab was built using money raised in the local community (about 5 million shillings or $5,000) by school and village leaders. Two new desk top computers were also presented to the school thanks to donations by a Canadian patron of Ramadhani. District officials were also present and seemed surprised (shocked, even) that the local community had accomplished this without government or large donor involvement.

We sat down with representatives of Highlands Hope of Tanzania Nurses. They have elected a new executive and hope to re-establish programming in the coming year. They still have more than 20 members, but they have had problems gathering for meetings and for professional discussions. They pledged to keep us informed of their efforts to get things rolling again. We presented them with the next instalment of the nursing scholarship from the Mosher family and reminded them that we needed their support to select future candidates.

We attended a supper meeting with the Kibena Women?s Association. We have worked with them over the years on issues touching orphans and vulnerable children in Njombe. Their work continues with three of the children they sponsor about to begin ?O? Levels or high school. They are also actively planning for the next annual Boxing Day event for orphans in Njombe Town that they sponsor. Unfortunately, I had to bring the news that Bishop?s University?s Political Studies Department has cancelled the student exchange program that had brought four Canadian students to Njombe. In spite of my explanations to the contrary, several members expressed concern that their actions might be responsible for the end of the effort.

We traveled the next day to Nyambanitu to meet with CHAKUNIMU and PIUTA, peer health educators and HIV activists who work in close collaboration with Highlands Hope of Tanzania. We had a very warm and affirming meeting with them, reviewing the great success of the home based care kits and training events that McGill nurses have been developing with Betty Liduke. This effort is an overwhelming success from the perspective of the community. Kristin Gagnon is doing a more objective evaluation as part of her research and early indications are very positive. Thanks to all the Canadian sponsors who got behind this effort ? it?s really making a difference and is effective and sustainable with local resources alone. CHAKUNIMU is going from strength to strength ? they showed us the land they have been given by the village council to begin construction of their own office and training space, to be built with their own resources.

We had also invited representatives of the PIUMA village chapter from Mwakauta (Mwakauta NM) to come to Njombe to be with us. Their two representatives led a very lively discussion with the CHAKUNIMU and PIUTA members concerning their impressive micro-credit program. We had a chance later to sit down with them for an update (we have made a small grant to the program) which was very positive; their capital fund continues to grow (currently at 2.7 million shillings) and they have just completed roll out of a 390,000 shilling fund to their 26 members to encourage chicken and egg production. We also concluded a deal with them to roll a loan given to their micro-credit project into a grant/ investment in a piece of land for dry season production of green vegetables for members and for income generation. We were also very pleased that Jackson Mbogela was able to come from Makete to be with us for these discussions.

We had a brief meeting with the Kibena Youth Federation (KYOFE) at a local church. We exchanged gifts and met with their musical director George Sanga who is to visit us in Canada in 2011 (if he is able to get a Canadian travel visa).

With each of the groups in Njombe, we presented a proposal to restructure Highlands Hope into an umbrella type organization that brings all the professional and community groups together and coordinates relationships with donors and government officials for them. This was positively received in principle by all groups. We will keep moving ahead on this in 2011, formalizing a structure and putting systems in place.
We returned to Dar, met with Vicky Ntetema, now media coordinator for the albino rights organization Under the Same Sun, and finished preliminary planning with Muhingo Rweyemamu on the ESL and science teaching project. Then, after a too brief hop across to Zanzibar, we returned to Montreal.

November 21, 2010.