The Moravian Church of Western Tanzania, our partner province, began a comprehensive AIDS program in 2001. It has three components: prevention, treatment, and orphan care. By the summer of 2002, Mama Kimwaga and three women from the Sikonge Moravian Church had enrolled 34 children from the local village, and the orphan program began to grow.
Eleven years later 39 Moravian women are assisting nearly 3,000 children in 34 rural villages and five parishes in the city of Tabora. They provide each child with food, clothing, medical care, school supplies and uniforms, and small personal items such as soap and skin oil.
The only functional change since the program’s inception has been the addition of scholarships for any orphan able to pass the government’s secondary school entrance exams. This began in 2006, and the numbers have increased each year; there were 439 children registered for higher education at the end of 2011.
The cost of orphan care has also risen slowly over the years, but in 2011 it still averaged $23 per child per year. This has been possible for three reasons: first, Tanzania remains an extremely poor country; the cost of living is therefore very low. Second, the program does not provide total support; it supplements what the extended family is able to provide to bring the child up to economic par with his village peers. Third, 100% of every dollar donated goes to Tanzania where it is spent by Tanzanians for Tanzanians.
In 2011 orphan expenses reached a new high of nearly $67,000. This number has risen yearly due to first, the continual increase in the number of orphans attending secondary school and second, inflation, which is now at its highest level in 20 years.
Adopt a Village
The Adopt a Village program was begun in 2006. The primary motivation was to provide funding for the orphan program, but it was also conceived as a vehicle for churches in North America to form relationships with villages in western Tanzania.
Nearly half of the orphan budget is currently generated through Adopt a Village, but the extent of this program’s success in partnering Moravian churches with villages in remote western Tanzania was unanticipated. Multiple Sunday schools in North America have exchanged pictures and letters with their partners in the Sikonge district. A Peace Corps volunteer, who had spent several years in Tanzania, developed a bilingual letter for the children at Emmaus Moravian. It will soon be used to allow Sunday schools throughout North America to communicate with their counterparts in Tanzania.
Four wells with hand pumps have been funded. Classrooms and dormitories at Moravian, government and private schools have been built. Money has been donated for nearly 300 desks and countless church benches. Textbooks have been purchased. Fries Memorial assisted their partner parish in the construction of their church. Most encouragingly, members of three congregations have actually visited their adopted village; a fourth visitation is being planned for this summer. The magnitude of this response has been impressive by any standard.
Orphan care began as one of three components of the Tanzanian comprehensive AIDS plan. Four years ago the Moravian Church of Western Tanzania, in partnership with the district and federal governments, assumed total financial and medical responsibility for the prevention and treatment arms. The orphan program, which now functions as an independent entity, continues to be funded primarily by Moravians from North America.
Adopt a Village originally requested that participants pledge $1,000 for each of three years, but the needs of the orphans remain ongoing. The majority of churches that originally joined the program have remained committed to these children beyond the three-year mark, for which the Moravian women in Tanzania who provide their care are extremely grateful. A donation of any amount will help; as little as $25 will support an orphan for over a year. Checks can be sent to Board of World Mission, PO Box 1245, Bethlehem, PA 18016-1245. Put “Adopt A Village” in the memo line.
These children represent the future of Tanzania. They need our help to realize their full potential and become productive citizens in their developing country.
Bill Hoffman is a member of Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Photos by Peg Hoffman.