Youth from Birgu in Tanzania, Africa

Jana Karamatskos, a 21-year old from Vittoriosa who last January decided to do something for charity – 5 weeks in Tanzania, Africa. As from January 7th, after receiving a confirmation letter that she has been accepted by the ‘Mission Fund’, she started attending meetings regularly so that she meets the members and gains all the information regarding fund raising activities, marathons and so on. On that day she was given all the information she needed to know regarding her mission to Tanzania. In August 2008 the Mission Fund visited the same country which is called Mwanza (a city in North West Tanzania) where in the same country there’s Nyakato (a very poor village). They have built a secondary school for children suffering from Aids and came up with the idea of continuing it this year. Lots of work had to be continued such as doors and windows, curtains, electricity and water, desks and chairs, painting and any other thing which pops into your mind when mentioning a school. In mid May they started packing a container with stuff for the school and for all the poor in Nyakato - Clothes, toys, appliances, food, chairs and medicines.

As mentioned above, throughout each year many fund raising activities where going on and if it wasn’t for the Maltese people who are so generous to give, give, and give, the ‘Mission Fund’ would have never done all this, never forget to mention the previous 25 years of Mission Fund voluntary work in Kenya, Guatemala, etc.

On Friday 7th, Jana and the other volunteers departed from Malta and after a long flight they arrived in Mwanza where they met Sr Domenica Ciliberti, a Maltese Nun forming part of the White Sisters. “Nyakato is one of the poorest villages in Mwanza with no electricity, no cars, no food, and many people suffering from Aids, malaria, hepatitis and couldn’t afford cure” she says.  As soon as they arrived there, driving to their “accommodation” they could see poverty at its best - young kids walking to school carrying their younger brothers/sisters on their back, kids carrying buckets of water on their heads, women sweeping the main roads and getting paid less than 5 Euros weekly, disabled people begging for money, babies running around with ducks and hens and no clothes on, kids selling fruit (simply 1-4 bananas). “As soon as they saw a mini bus full of white people, a crowd of not less than 50 kids invaded us knocking on the windows and saying ‘Mzungu Mzungu (which means European/white people) give me sweets, give me money – That was my first cultural shock”.

For the first week she helped in painting the classrooms and for the other four weeks, she and her friend Annalise taught in a nursery school for children between 3 and 6 years. “We tried to teach them English and Mathematics but it was hard – especially having to control 60 children at the same time – every Friday there are 90”. She told us that she found it difficult to teach them for the fact that they pronounce words differently from us. Fighting the battle to teach and be sure that they got something from her being their teacher for four whole weeks she managed to teach them the numbers from 1 up to 100, how to write their names, nursery rhymes in English, the months of the year and days of the week (which they pronounce Weeky), the clock, and also the weather (which they pronounce ‘weda’). Though they weren’t perfect at it, she left all the material required to their teachers to keep on teaching them even after she left. They also gave them pencils, copy books, books, colours and charts. Most of these kids walk to school on their own everyday; it’s not a 5 or 10 minute walk but some of them walk more than 30-45 minutes to get to school. They don’t have any satchels and some of them not even shoes but they are always laughing and joking around. Once they gave them biscuits and instead of eating it all, they bit one bite and the rest kept if for their families back home.

Once a week, 4 members of the group went on home visits. When her turn came she was impressed, she and other 3 visited a house (actually it was more like a room with one bed and a chair) where the husband was a 36-year old suffering from Aids; his 3 daughters aged 6, 8, and 10 are also HIV Positive. He lives together with his wife and mother and had spent the previous 3 years in bed not able to walk. As he started gaining health, the virus infected his left eye and he could barely see. They gave them 3 baskets packed with food like rice, pasta, canned vegetables, water and sweets for the young ones. Other than this family, they visited an old widow not able to walk and she sleeps on a cardboard with no one to take care of her. As soon as she saw them she started crying with happiness.

She visited Bakumbi village were those with conditions such as leprosy and albinism can live peacefully. Albinos are often sold for thousands of dollars for black magic.  ‘’Amazing how they gathered there waiting for us. Impressing was a lady who has lost her toes through leprosy, dancing and singing to thank us for visiting and taking food”.

Another visit was to Makiungu Hospital in Singida where there again, a Maltese Nun who forms part of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM). Sr Maria Borda is in charge of the whole hospital. Mission Fund provided Sr Maria (Gynecologist & midwife) tools which can be useful for post-natal and delivery and also medicines of any kind plus funds which can help her improve the hospital. The hospital is divided into wards (don’t try to compare it to any European hospital) which are divided for males and females. One specific ward they visited was that of young males suffering from hepatitis B. Pregnant women have to travel miles to reach the hospital so generally they go there before so that is one of the reasons why the hospital is always booked with patients. In a ward where usually 6 or 7 patients stay, in Makiungu stay 10 or more.

 “Who could ever imagine himself sleeping on the same bed with 6 other people? Sleeping on a piece of cardboard? Waking up in the morning without having a cup of tea and not able to wash your face and teeth? Returning back home from work and couldn’t take a shower and not finding anything to eat? Living all your life without electricity not even in the streets? Being a 12 year old taking care of your sick family? This is reality, this why we have to THANK GOD every second for the way we are living. I didn’t say all this from just seeing pictures and adverts, but from what I experienced through 5 weeks in Nyakato. Our accommodation wasn’t bad and we still grumbled about taking a shower with cold water, washing our clothes by hand, and major part of the week without electricity…why??? Because we are used to live like kings and queens. Everyday we thanked our gracious God for guiding us to this experience and holding our hands to do the right thing. From these 5 weeks in Nyakato I learned a lot and nowadays I appreciate every tiny thing whether good or bad, big or small! Some may think that being away from your family and loved ones for 5 weeks is easy, but believe me it’s not and that what gave me courage being in Nyakato helping and giving to the least bit of my heart to these people. Before I left I heard a lot of people saying “you’re going to Africa in the middle of all the diseases and poor people? Why don’t you go for holiday somewhere else?” But no, that’s what I wanted to do and I believe it was His call after all!!!!”

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."  – Mother Theresa