Update from Joanne Miya – Tanzania – December 2017
“As the year comes to a close, I am grateful for all that we have been able to accomplish at Uzima Centre. Many people have come and gone, but there are a few whom I have known since I became the director in 2006, and one of those is Christina (pictured here). For the past four months, she has been fighting a litany of secondary infections. Severe diarrhea left her too weak to get out of bed. Since HIV weakens the immune system, all it takes is one serious infection to render the body susceptible to additional infections. A sore appeared on one of her fingers and soon her entire hand was swollen. Then she developed problems with her feet. Sitting, standing, and walking were all painful. Christina was no longer able to care for herself. Eventually her younger sister took her in. Now Christina is up and about. She brought me a small clay cooking pot that she made as a gift to thank me for helping with her medical bills. Christina’s only income is from the sale of her clay pots. It is a gift I will cherish.
Our Saturday program for orphans and vulnerable children continues to be popular. Occasionally we register multiple children from one family. It’s great to see the way the older siblings look after the younger ones. Pictured are brother and sister: Kazimiri (1st grade) and Nyasuma (3rd grade). Their father died of cancer, leaving their mother, Stella, to raise the five children. Unable to afford rent, the family stays in houses that are only partially constructed. Since private homes are constructed over the course of several years, owners often allow families like Stella’s to stay rent free to prevent vandalism. Once the owner has the money to continue with the construction, Stella must look for another unfinished house to occupy. Most often, the “house” has the walls up and the roof on. One room might have a door. There are no windows, plumbing or electricity. Basically, they have a “roof over their heads”; that is about all. I think that Mary, who gave birth to the Prince of Peace in a stable, would understand what Stella experiences daily.
To support her children, Stella crushes rocks into gravel, which she sells by the bucket, earning her around $60 a month. To supplement this, she also takes in laundry, which she washes by hand. I cannot imagine how exhausted she is by the end of the day. To help
Kazimiri and Nyasuma stay healthy and in school, we provide school supplies, medical care and four kilos of beans a month. It’s not enough, but it helps stretch what Stella earns just a bit further.
At Uzima Centre we see many people who are facing what seem like insurmountable odds. Hard work is key but in a country where opportunities are few and far between, hard work alone does not guarantee even a modest lifestyle. The suffering that some people endure for the little they earn is a huge injustice. The question of a “living wage” impacts people the world over. One can only imagine how precious every cent is to those who work so hard. It is a constant reminder that so much of what I have is because of where I was born and the opportunities I was given.
This Christmas, may we all stop and thank God for our many blessings. May we remember those who toil and still go hungry, those who may or may not have a roof over their heads, and those who continue to dream in spite of it all. Saint Teresa of Calcutta believed that, “Together we can do something beautiful for God.” Together we have accomplished so much and I know that together we will do even more. Know that your prayers and support, both for Uzima Centre and Maryknoll Lay Missioners, have rippled out, changing the lives of people around the world, people like Christina, Stella, Kazimiri and Nyasuma. May we each, in our own way, help to create a more just and compassionate world. God bless you and your loved ones this Christmas season and in the coming new year.”