Flood Pestilence and Plague And HOPE!!

As of 1st May 2020, Tanzania has reported 480 cases of Covid-19. 167 people are reported to have recovered while 16 others have died. [Source BBC News ] The government has suspended social gatherings, concerts and ordered the closure of schools and colleges. However, places of worship remain open. [President Magufuli has been encouraging people to pray communally in churches saying the virus could not thrive in the body of Christ. We admire his faith in our supernatural God but might question his wisdom!]  All international passenger flights are suspended. The recorded cases are mostly in Dar es Salaam and Arusha.

But there are greater issues than this. Climate change has not gone away and heavier than expected rainfalls have caused chaos across Africa as well as in the Tabora Region of Tanzania.

With lots of water come mosquitos and with them comes malaria. And of course TB is still a major problem in the area. These diseases kill many many, more each year.

But there is hope. The flood waters are possibly keeping the locusts and Covid-19 away from Tabora and the work of Familia Moja still goes on, bringing care, food and medicine to the poorest in the region.

The excessive amounts of rain may well cause the maize harvest to fail but the rice harvest may yet survive. And Familia Moja will be there working to help improve yields wherever possible and to provide food assistance where it is needed. And Familia Moja Itetemia has rice crops growing in the fields!

And the work being done to ensure that there is water for the rest of the year is helping to create more and more green land that can be used for growing crops and also breaking the cycle of climate change. It may be a small corner, but the world is looking at such projects and seeing just how key they are to the regeneration of arid lands. And you as supporters of Familia Moja are playing your part in this movement; not only to save lives in Tabora, but also across the world.

If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD— and he will repay you!

Proverbs 19:17
Gifts of food will allow the medicines we give out to work

As I’ve been writing our first Annual Report to be submitted to the Charities Commission, I’ve been pleased to see what has been done. We will share this with you soon. [We have only been a registered charity for 6 months but as our financial year ends on 31st March, we are required to produce an ‘annual’ report]

In the last 6 months we have sent seventeen and a half thousand pounds out to Tabora, about six thousand of which has been spent on pond digging. The rest has been spent on visits to families providing them with food, medicine and hope.

Thank you to Bunyan Baptist Church, St John the Baptist Church in Carlton, Nottingham, Holy Trinity Church, Stevenage and St John’s Church in Yeovil for significant donations totalling nearly £30,000. And thank you also to our individual donors for have helped us raise an additional £790 in the last few months.

In the next year we will need significant financial help from you to carry on this work. It is anticipated that we will need to raise about £18,000 to keep this work going at the current rate. Will you play your part?

We set up our bank account with CAFBank [part of CAF – the Charities Aid Foundation] and they offer a service called CAFDonate. They use this to collect and process our donations and also deal with Gift Aid [for a tiny fee].

Our main donation page => www.cafdonate.cafonline.org/11331

With CAFDonate you will be able to set up a regular donation if you wish, make a one off donation and help us claim Gift Aid if you are a tax payer.

We also need your prayers!

Please pray for the health of those involved in this venture:

  1. for the staff in Tabora that they will remain healthy and not fall ill with Covid-19, malaria and other illness
  2. for the safety, health and wellbeing of Dr Ruth Hulser as she works as a GP in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, very much on the front line of the fight against the Corona Virus
  3. for the Trustees, some who are in long term ‘lockdown’ due to this pandemic.

Please pray also that

  1. Covid-19 will be kept away from the interior of the county as many roads are blocked
  2. locust larvae will be washed away as they hatch
  3. local food will not be sold off at high prices to exporters thus leaving food shortages in Tanzania
  4. the local floods will subside enough to allow good crops to be grown in Tabora

And still it rains!! Pray the locusts don’t come.

The ponds are full. There is greenery around. The Familia Moja Team are preparing the fields, making and adding compost and building up the growing beds to ensure they are above the mud.

Here they are preparing for the market gardens for the dry season. The beds are prepared with green manure to aid growing and improve the soil so they get a better crop. This is backbreaking work. It takes 4 people one day to do one row.

And making the compost is hard work too! It is made from 40% dry material, 40 % green leaves, 10% cow manure and 10 % of woody stuff like wood shavings.

Cutting leaves for compost making

Last year the FMI Team prepared half an acre of land and planted onions. Although the year wasn’t very good for the whole country, the team harvested three 100 kilograms bags of produce which was a success and encouraging.

At the end of last year, the team prepared another half acre for planting another garden in 2020. While doing this they trained 12 local people on agriculture best practice: how to prepare composts and how to take care of the environment through choosing plant species such as Mucuna [also known as ‘velvet beans’ – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mucuna_pruriens] that help to add nitrogen to the soil of their land as well as producing greenery for the compost.

This year they have also prepared another 2 acres of land ready to plant maize during these early months of the year which are Tanzania’s ‘rainy season’.

Velvet Beans – not only does this crop add nitrogen to the soil but the leaves can be used for making the compost and the beans can be eaten

Please pray that all of this hard work will pay off and provide food for local families over the next year. However, the whole lot is somewhat at risk as some parts of East Africa are seeing some of the worst plagues of locusts for many years. [See the Channel 4 report at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dOD0LCa6Jg ] There are two main risks – firstly that the locusts will reach Tanzania and secondly that Tanzanian food will be bought up by other African countries and there will then not be enough for the Tanzanian people.

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Jesus of Nazareth

When not involved in the agricultural work, the small team are also providing medical and social care to some of the poorest in the local area. In 2019, 676 household visits were made to 45 households reaching 130 family members for client services. During these care visits they provided food supplies and home-based care treatment such as wound dressing for 16 clients and medication to 45 chronically ill patients.  FMI were also able to provide [thanks to your generosity] some of these clients with access to hospital care by providing transport, paying for their medical costs and food costs while there and looking after family members left at home.

You can read more about this work in the Annual Report from Familia Moja Itetemia which you can access using the link above.

Thank you for your generous support and prayers.

Christmas comes with a splash of hope!

Not only does Christmas come with presents, but this year it comes with rain! OK, in the UK that is relatively normal and is nothing unusual. But in Tabora these mean so much more – these can mean life and possibly even enough income to send the children to school!

A small amount of the money raised was used to bring some Christmas cheer and small gifts of food and other necessities were given to those we care for.

And the rainwater ponds are filled!

With Christmas came the long awaited rains. And water in Tabora means food and a small income if you are lucky. In 2019 your donations allowed for the building of another 5 ponds bringing the total now to nearly 30. And most were filled as a result of the recent rain.

Edward is one of the 70 people who have been able to get an additional income by growing a small market garden using water from one of our rainwater collection ponds. He says: ‘I could not survive on the £30 a month for my night watchman job with my wife and our four children. Because of the rainwater collection pond dug by Familia Moja I was able to get an additional £160 in the first crop with onions and was able to do the same three months later with harvest of tomatoes. This additional income meant that we did not have to starve and we even had the ability to let the children go to school and share food etc with our families or neighbours in emergencies.’

But how could we support the new market gardeners as to use the water most efficiently so that they could maximize their income? Familia Moja is now working with small groups of growers and have started a small agriculture project to test and show the community how to improve yield using environmentally-friendly growing techniques.

Thank you for supporting this work. It is God’s work and brings with it the miracle of life!

Old but not forgotten

This is possibly the first of several older people’s units that FMI will build. They are relatively cheap to build and maintain as they are very basic

In a society where there is no state pension, where there is no National Health Service, where the state doesn’t guarantee you shelter in your old age, it can be difficult getting old if you have no local family.

When you become too old or infirm to dig your own crops, fetch your own water and mend your own house, you are very much reliant on family to help out. For those lacking a family in Tabora, Familia Moja Itetemia can step in to become that family that is needed.

Familia Moja Itetemia is our primary partner in the Itetemia region of Tabora. We supply the funds and they supply the care. So what does the money that you give pay for when it comes to caring for the elderly?

This building has 2 rooms and our office. Stephan, Hussein and Simon are 3 of our seven strong team.
This building has 2 rooms and The FMI office. Stephan, Hussein and Simon are 3 of our seven strong team.

Providing shelter can be a lifesaver. Moving from a collapsing shack made of sticks and mud into a simple brick built one room home with a non-leaking tin roof can change a life. And having a door you can lock so that your meagre belongings are secure brings peace of mind – you can go out and know your home will be safe. Some of our elderly residents have been brought back to life with the provision of simple shelter, simple food and occasionally simple medicine if it is needed. Plus they become part of a small community in the complex – human contact being essential for bringing people back to life!

Maria Salum is an elderly lady that FMI have looked after for years. She has no children, nor any family nearby. We visit and give her food. We have also dug her a well so she has water and repaired her hut [made of the traditional mud and sticks].

So how can I support this?

We have set up our bank account with CAFBank [part of CAF – the Charities Aid Foundation] and they offer a service called CAFDonate which we have signed up to. This is a service where they will collect and process our donations [for a small fee] and also deal with Gift Aid etc.

Our main donation page => cafdonate.cafonline.org/11331

With CAFDonate you will be able to set up a regular donation if you wish, make a one off donation or sponsor events etc.

Our first fundraiser since starting [and a bit of a trial run to see how it works] will be the ‘ceremonial removal’ of Eric’s beard!

This will happen on November 17th 2019 after the morning service at Bunyan Baptist Church The service starts at 10.30 and should be no longer than an hour. So the ‘event’ will probably be at about 11.45am. If you would like to join us for the service you will be most welcome. Or if you want to turn up at 11.30 for free coffee and to support that is fine too. [And we do serve a nice cup of Fairtrade filter coffee as well as tea and biscuits]

Our beard-shave sponsor page => cafdonate.cafonline.org/11415

There will be collection points for cash / cheques on the day.

Thanks already to those many people who have donated recently.

Money that has been accumulating in the funds of several churches has now arrived in our account and we are now able to make our first grant of about £7500 to Familia Moja Itetemia.

We are Official!!

We are pleased to have received an email saying the following:

You have applied to register the above organisation as a charity.

We are satisfied that FAMILIA MOJA COMMUNITY PROJECT UK is a charity and it has been entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1185386.

Hopefully we will also receive details of our bank account from CAF Bank in the next few days and and then will be able to pay in the money that has been held in trust by a couple of churches for the last couple of years.

Monsoon June? We should be so lucky!

While we in the UK complain about the amount of rain falling this month, those in Tanzania are pleased for rain to fall and allow them to grow food.

When we wrote our first blog, Familia Moja Itetemia had managed to complete digging 17 holes to act as rainwater collection ponds. Due to the low rainfall, only half of the ponds had any water in them by March. However, thanks to God and the prayers of churches in Tanzania and the UK in April, there were unexpected heavy rains which have filled up most of the ponds and raised the groundwater levels everywhere.

Waiting for rain!
Dr Ruth testing the depth of this pond.

Since then several more have been dug and there are now over 20 in the area, some more successful than others but all contributing to the available irrigation water and raising the water table and so improving local wells. Some have been stocked with fish to provide a source of quality protein.

The local people have been able to plant gardens around these and produce a harvest that has enabled them to survive and help themselves.

We have learnt that the ponds are more useful if the gardens are planted using soil improving and water sparing agricultural techniques. We are following the techniques taught in Farming God’s Way, a model established in Zimbabwe.

With the failed rains we now know, that not only do we need to place the ponds at the lowest part of the valley but also, we need to teach and demonstrate how gardens can be made sustainable even under the hardiest circumstances. We therefore, decided to hold seminars for all Familia Moja members on how to plant a garden using Farming God’s Way techniques. In March we held a seminar and had practical sessions laying out the first garden. Since then a second has been laid out by members and a third and fourth are in preparation.

In the next two months we are hoping to establish drip irrigation for two acres. This will be the first such scheme in the region and could serve as a model for many.

Next Time

We will introduce you to some of the staff who are working with Familia Moja Itetemia.

Rains fail but God still is faithful!

Dr Ruth Hulser

Having been back to Tabora recently, Dr Ruth Hulser updated us on activities at ‘Familia Moja Itetemia’ our partner organisation in Tanzania. Things are progressing well and everyone is working very hard despite the many difficulties encountered due to the climate in that part of Africa.

Unfortunately, the rains have been the poorest for 10 years. Not only does this affect ground water levels and the availability of drinking water, but also reduces the harvests and availability of scrubland for livestock. The lack of the rain at the normal time has meant a failed rice harvest and a very poor maize harvest. The maize price had been stable up to March. It increased by one and half times in the following two months. So many who are dependent maize as daily food are already suffering.

Kulwa and Dotto

This has already led to increased starvation for some and has led Familia Moja to support an extra six children from two different households. Kulwa and Dotto, 12-year-old twin girls, have kwashiorkor (severe malnutrition). Their father, a 69 year-old cow-hand who is HIV positive and an alcoholic, abandoned his wife and children when they were two years old. This family is typical of those that we aim to help – they are at risk due to extreme poverty and have no other source of help. Familia Moja is the last lifeline for many such families.

Suzanna and Maria [names changed], together with two other children, live in a household of an elderly distant relative; a lady of 65 who has no income. Their father [a causal worker] is also an alcoholic and has abandoned them. We learnt about them when they visited Mama Samweli’s neighbour every weekend. [The Samwelis are one the key families in Familia Moja Itetemia. They look after the children that form part of Dr Ruth’s ‘extended family’ in Tabora]

Mama Samweli

Mama Samweli suspected that there was a lack of food at their home and they had been sent by their relative to get fed at least once or twice. The children had a two-hour journey on foot each way. So on one occasion Familia Moja took the children back home by car only to discover that there was no food in the house and there were another two children all looked after by their emaciated elderly relative.

Familia Moja immediately stepped in to help. The girls [with their whole household] now eat 3 times a day and now have the energy to go back to school. Their 12 year old brother had never been to school as no one could buy him a school uniform. Familia Moja purchased school uniforms so they are allowed back in class and this boy is now getting tuition so he can catch up.

The support of individuals here in the UK is essential to allow the local staff of Familia Moja Itetemia to help their neighbours. Thank you for your help.

Becoming a Charity

We are still trying to set up the Familia Moja Community Project UK as a registered charity here in the UK. We put in our application earlier this year but it was rejected because we didn’t have a bank account. After several months of applying to one of the major high street banks we gave up with them and are about to apply to for an account with a bank that specialises in dealing with charities. Please pray that our application for the bank account will be successful and rapid this time and that we will then be able to put in another application to the Charity Commission.

Next time …

In the next edition we will talk ponds!

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining us!

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Jesus of Nazareth

Our story starts back in 2004 when Dr Ruth Huelser, a German GP working for the NHS in the UK, was sent out by the Church Mission Society (CMS) to work with them as a Link Missionary in a project, a Health Centre in the Diocese of Tabora, Tanzania .

While Ruth was working in the Health Centre, helping and overseeing its development, another smaller project grew up called ‘One Family’ or in Swahili ‘Familia Moja’. This project aimed to help to alleviate the suffering of people with insufficient means to maintain their health or life. A new focus of the group’s work has developed more recently. This is looking at how to deal with the lack of available water sources in the community which is key to income generation and survival. With support from Bunyan Baptist Church in Stevenage and other churches in the UK and Europe, Ruth was able to support many who otherwise would have had no help and would have died of starvation or illness.

In 2018, Ruth’s connection with CMS and the clinic came to an end and she returned to the UK. But her connections with Tanzania were strong as she had adopted two children there and this had been her home and life for many years. And the Team who had supported this work were desperate to continue this life saving work.

So to put it on a secure and accountable foundation, it was decided to create two charities – one in Tanzania to do the caring and one here in the UK to manage the funding from the various churches and donors. As of January 2019 we have a formally approved Tanzanian Charity. Setting up the UK Charity is taking a little more time – but the three Trustees – Rebecca Birch, Denise Beach and Ruth Huelser [and their trusty tech adviser Eric Beach] – are working hard to set this up and hope to have it completed very soon.

The Trustees and their trusty ‘tech adviser’

Please pray that the final bits of the process will fall into place and that the setting up of the bank account and the registration with the Charity Commission will go smoothly.