Tanzania Trip Report June 27 - July 11, 2023

making lasting change by one to one personal interactions
The Africa Exchange Project was thrilled to re-engage the “exchange” aspect of our project with a two week trip this summer to visit our friends in Tanzania. AEP Board members, Jim Ahern, Greg Morisse, and Rob Schadt along with volunteers Ruth, Molly, and Mattie made the two-week journey. Our last exchange visit occurred in March 2019 when we hosted two science teachers from the Pomerini Secondary School, Spora Sanga and Wingred Kihongos. That 2019 visit was prompted by the initiative to build a Science Center for the Secondary School which we began later that year. Our recent visit gave us the opportunity to reconnect with Spora and Wingred and to visit and dedicate the new Science Center we completed at the end of 2022, well short of the estimated construction time frame. At the same time, it enabled us to get updates on our project areas of education, healthcare, and fresh water, to reconnect with many friends and colleagues and meet new ones and explore new areas of collaboration with our international neighbors.

July 29-31 –After our arrival in the capital, Dar es Salaam, and refreshed with a night’s sleep we boarded a 12-passenger propeller plane to take the 90-minute flight to Iringa, the capital of this region near the center of Tanzania. Our country liaisons Shadrack Nyaulingo and Edward Mgeni met us at the airport with wide smiles and warm hugs and brought us to Iringa Town where we would spend several busy days meeting with the Board of our partner NGO, Africa Exchange Development, and other partners including members of the Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and staff of the Ilula Hospital. Iringa is a lively mountain town that services the many remote villages in the Kilolo District including Pomerini, our ultimate destination. Highlights of this part of our trip included a visit with Shadrack’s family and one of our Barnabas Chavala Scholars, Aisha Bomba, and her foster family.

July 2-7 – We arrived in Pomerini on Sunday morning to dancing, singing, drumming, and waving of palms from our dear friends in Pomerini, many of whom we first met when the Village Choir visited Plymouth Church in Framingham in 2008. After a lively church service and many happy reunions, we settled into our temporary home in a wing of the Mission House, still pinching ourselves that we were welcomed so warmly and experiencing the strange sense of feeling at home 7,500 miles away from our families. Visits over the next week would include the kindergarten, primary school, secondary school and a new potential collaborator, the Nagaba Agricultural College. All of our hosts were welcoming and inspiring and each of the visits was comprehensive and enlightening and will inform future Africa Exchange Project projects.
We were very pleased to meet new healthcare professionals, Dr. Gladman Nyamba and District Health Officer, Dr. Petro Lusasi who are ushering a new chapter in the provision of healthcare for the community of Pomerini. Dr. Gladman, the newly appointed Doctor-in-Charge of the Dispensary, recently went on local radio to explain the services of the Dispensary, welcome the community and explain the many benefits of preventive medicine.
One morning we were able to observe the medical staff visting elders in the village in need of basic medical care but without the resources or mobility to visit to the Dispensary. One high impact, low expense intervention we provided during our visit is a bicycle so Dr. Gladman and Wilbert, our lab technician, can more effectively reach our elderly population to provide much needed outreach and medical care.

July 7/8 – No visit to Tanzania is complete without a visit to National Wildlife Park. This trip’s visit to Ruaha National Park gave us more-close up views of a wide range of wildlife than ever before.

July 9 – Sunday was a busy day with much fanfare and celebration. Following the worship service, a dedication was made for new playground equipment purchased by the Ahern family in honor of Africa Exchange Project founder, Bob Ahearn. Children swarmed the playground that only the day before was a small meadow in front of the kindergarten. Following this glorious event, we attended the dedication of the Science Center. Ribbon cuttings were performed for each of the 4 laboratories including blessings by the current and former Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese. National and local media were in attendance with local, district and regional government representatives in attendance. A most poignant moment occurred when the family of Barnabas Chavala was presented with a portrait of this much beloved and respected community leader.

July 10 – It was a sad farewell we shared as the team boarded the small plane to return to Dar for our homeward journey. This summary only touches the surface of the productive and meaningful experience we shared with our treasured friends and international neighbors. It was never made more clearer how important these deep, long-standing relationships mean to the effectiveness and sustainability of a cross-cultural relationship exemplified by the Africa Exchange Project.