Joanne Kosik Miya

Year Joined MKLM: 1983, 1995
Country: Tanzania
City: Mwanza
Focus: Education, Healthcare
Project(s): Director of Uzima Center, Ilemela
People Served: 300 HIV+ adults and 64 HIV+ children; 75 orphans and vulnerable children

Project Goal(s):
To enable people living with HIV/AIDS to achieve the highest quality of physical and emotional health as possible, and to assist orphans and vulnerable children so that they may have the same quality of life as other.

Personal Data:

Joanne Miya has lived and worked in Tanzania for over 32 years. Before living in Tanzania she resided in Victorville, CA where she participated in the Diocese of San Bernardino. Joanne earned a BS in Microbiology from San Diego State University and enjoyed a career as a Laboratory Technologist.

Her volunteer and mission work prior to joining MKLM includes service with the Catholic Worker Soup Kitchen in San Diego, and with Los Niños, a program based in San Diego which serves Tijuana, Mexico. Joanne also lived in the Panama Canal Zone as a military dependent for 4 years, which is where she first experienced overseas immersion.

Joanne came to MKLM in 1983 and served an initial three year contract. She remained in Africa and rejoined the organization in 1995. Joanne is married to Martin Miya. Together they raised five children.

Current Ministry:

Joanne currently serves as the director of Uzima Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania. Uzima is a wonderful Swahili word that is used to mean “wholeness,” “wellness,” or “fullness of life.”

The programs at Uzima Centre are designed to help each person to achieve their highest level of wellness and fullness of life. The centre provides assistance to two groups of people:

  1. Orphans and Vulnerable Children
  2. Adults and Children Living with HIV/AIDS

Joanne believes that hope, health and education can change lives. Support groups enable people to encourage one another and to find hope. Assistance is given so that healthcare needs are met. Education is provided so that each person can make informed decisions regarding their future.

Through the services offered at Uzima Centre many adults who are living with HIV have been able to return to work and now support themselves and their families. This enables families remain intact longer and reduces the number of orphans in the community. Food assistance is given on a “prescription” basis – each month the adults are weighed and provided beans, and high protein flour based on their personal state of fitness and health. Special assistance is given to pregnant and breastfeeding women to reduce the chances of the virus being passed from the mother to her baby. This has been very successful.

Currently 64 children who are HIV + receive food assistance as well as help with medical care. All who are school-age are healthy enough to attend school. Some have reached high school. They share the same hopes and dreams as their peers.

On Saturdays the program for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) provides recreational and educational activities for the children, in addition to a nutritious lunch. The children know that there are people who care about them and their future. Students who have been assisted by Uzima Centre have gone on to become Chemistry teachers, nurse-midwives, and two are currently in medical school. Not only are they finding their way out of poverty, but they are also contributing to society in meaningful ways.

In addition to her medical training, the most valuable experience Joanne brings to this ministry is her 32 years’ experience as a resident of Tanzania, being married to a Tanzanian for 30 years, and her experience of having raised her children in Tanzania. Joanne feels that these have given her a very different set of experiences than most missioners, especially in areas of language, culture and customs. HIV/AIDS is a medical challenge but an even bigger social challenge. It helps to have an understanding of both.