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Montreal to Masasi – An Experience to Cherish

September 29, 2009

By angelaa

Many will recall that this past July Bishop Barry Clarke of the Diocese of Montreal lead a group to Masasi, Tanzania, in order to foster our partnership with that diocese. As the PWRDF representative, I was struck by the importance of The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund in the day-to-day lives of the people of the region.
In a future article I will write about the many projects and how vital our support is to so many.
Before that can be done, I  feel the need to set  the  context  within which PWRDF operates by  sharing with you but a sprinkling of my  many thoughts  as written in my diary about this trip to a part of Tanzania that  in all probability we would not ordinarily think of visiting.
Dawn is breaking and the road through Masasi is filled with traffic. This is at once a most beautiful sight and a most sad sight. The beauty lies in the people along the way, walking, riding their bicycles, many carrying a passenger or goods – vegetables, water containers, mattresses. I think they should be on the program, “How do they do that?”
The sadness lies in the fact that many of these people are walking kilometres to their destination and many are carrying water on their heads.
Time and time again, I repeat to myself, “Water-Enough for All,” a PWRDF campaign slogan. When you see a mother trying to wash a child’s face in a bowl of muddy, brown water, when you see people trying to collect whatever little water is left in a dry river bed, when you see the smiling faces of the children but with dusty bodies, the emotion turns to more than just pity or sadness, it becomes frustration. You can’t help but wonder why after all these years and with so much aid flowing, peoples lives have not improved to any great extent.
As you drive along the “roadways” in the early morning, people are huddled around fires getting some warmth to take the chill off. The smallest children seem to be able to tend these fires on their own. We would never allow our children so close. To them that seems to be just another chore. My mind wanders to Martha, 8 years old, who represents for me the many hundreds of children we were around. Despite the lack of these basic necessities (you see no one eating or snacking the way we do in our part of the world), Martha, Agnes, Elyse and so many others generously shared with us what they had to offer – their friendship, their smiles, their children’s songs and dances.
We, in return, dug deep into our childhood memories to recall songs, and to dance with them. It is not easy; I struggle with the thought that I have brought granola bars in case I felt hungry. I don’t need them. Should I give or not give to these few who come without fail to visit. They adore Bishop Barry. And why not? He has a special way with children. But I don’t have enough for all. I eventually give.
Bumping along in the land rover on the way to Nkopi with 50, 100 kilo bags of flour, my immediate thoughts are flour for making bread. We are told afterwards that this flour and water mixture with whatever else might be available to add in will be the mid-day meal. My thoughts go back to our classrooms. Flour and water equals paste for making papier mache art. And this represents sustenance for 508 children! They don’t have the energy to walk the kilometres to and from school every day, the rains have not come since April and food is even more scarce. The principal had sent a request to Bishop Patrick Mwachiko for help. These students welcomed us with the most beautiful songs and dance. They came to school that day because visitors were coming and bringing food. They are the most respectful and disciplined children anywhere in the world, I guarantee. I marveled at how they used the greetings reserved for one’s elders when we spoke to them in spite of the heat and their hunger, conditions that would have some of us squirming. By the way, they share 4 teachers and 2 volunteer aides among them.
It took us about five hours to get there and back along the roughest of roads but I felt that they were the most worthwhile hours I had spent in a very long time.
I smile at the contrasts – cell phones, calling cards, internet cafes but no food, no water, sporadic electricity. The majority of people are eking out a living. I cannot imagine not having a PWRDF presence in Masasi.

Angela Andrews is the PWRDF Diocesan Representative for the Diocese of Montreal

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