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Monday, 02 May 2016 23:38

Heartstrings Tied to Tanzania

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Roger Schiltz – Seattle Chapter

On our recent visit to Tanzania we were struck by how much has happened to the people we knew as children in 2004. We spoke to them in Swahili as elementary school children and now they are attending universities, speaking with us in English and, using all the modern communication techniques from computers to cell phones, sending us TSM messages and emails. It amazes us. 

These beautiful Tanzanian children who are now young adults make a difference in our lives.

Future doctor Melkiadi with Kitty

We first met Melkiadi after Mass in Musoma around twelve years ago. He was in fifth grade. We did not know any elementary school students who could speak English, and our Swahili was not very good. “Do you think someone can live like St. Francis today?” he asked. We were astonished. Later we asked him, “How is it that you can speak English?” He answered, “I study.”

Melkiadi helped us teach kids to read when we asked him. He was patient and an exceptional teacher. Now we are sponsoring him with his education. He will start his fifth year in medical school in October 2016 and graduate and be a doctor in May 2017. Melkiadi plans to be a pediatrician. This seems like a natural for him, since he was so patient and loving to children as a youngster. 

Modi, now an adult, with Roger and Kitty

Modi is the first AIDs Orphan we met in Tanzania in 2004. We got to know her family—mom, aunts, and grandmother—and have followed her over the years. She did not want to study in high school after attending for a year, so she studied sewing and got a sewing machine. That wasn’t what she wanted, so she moved to the city and helped take care of her aunt’s children. She got interested in becoming a beautician and studied to become one. She learned English very well. When we asked her how she got so good at English, she told us she learned it from Philippine soap operas on television. 

Modi had been doing her work/study for her beauty class when we returned to Tanzania this year. She seemed to be a little hesitant about that career since she spent her days washing hair and not learning what she wanted to know. She was interested in starting her own business but realized she was not ready. We discussed what she might want to do next, and she said that she is now ready to complete her high school equivalency studies so she can move on.

Returning to the orphans at Chipole this year, six months after being there last, we were surprised that the youngest children whom Kitty had played with in January and February were afraid of her. Lighty, the little girl Kitty was so sure would be walking when she returned was still not walking. But after a few days the little ones were playing ball and smiling at us.  At a preschool assembly we were surprised to see who was playing the drum and who was singing the loudest. The children are growing; they will walk, attend preschool and elementary school, and go on to secondary school, all in their own way. 

Kitty, Roger, and Sr. Tuzinde view the field of Dreams

We spent time with Sr. Tuzinde in the Field of Dreams at Chipole for the seventh time. She had a stroke earlier this year and has slowed down. We reminisced about the good times and the spiritual relationship we share with her while planting ten acres of sunflowers each year, changing corn cobs into charcoal, and planting trees. Together we started an apiary and learned about bees in the nine hives right in the middle of the field.  Sr. Tuzinde continues to care for the Field of Dreams, providing passion juice, honey, oranges, and other fruits to the convent. The day we left Chipole she planted thirteen orange trees. She has a weak left arm and has lost weight and strength. Please join with us and pray for her improved health.

Our relationships have grown with the years, sharing spirituality in the progress of children to adulthood and the spirituality of trees with Sr. Tuzinde, who says, “I am planting trees to show everyone God is in the trees; God is in the Field of Dreams.”

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