The Moravian Church of Western Tanzania is our partner province. In 2001, assisted by our Board of World Mission, the province began a comprehensive AIDS program that included three components: prevention, treatment and orphan care. The first two sections were addressed immediately at the Sikonge Moravian Hospital, but it took a year to find Mama Kimwaga, the woman who took charge of orphan care. Together with three of her friends from the Sikonge Moravian Church, she enrolled 34 children from their village, and began providing them with food, clothing, medical care, school supplies and uniforms, soap and sleeping mats.
From this small start the orphan program began to grow. Within four years 18 Moravian women were assisting 1700 children in 22 villages in the Sikonge District and 5 parishes in the city of Tabora.
Primary school, which includes grades one through seven, is free in Tanzania, but secondary school is not. In 2005 the program expanded to include full secondary school scholarships for any orphan able to pass the government’s entrance exams. Over 300 children are currently using these scholarships to continue their education, including 15 who are either at the university or professional schools.
Near the end of 2005 the effort to provide for these children was becoming financially challenged. The Board of World Mission then launched Adopt-a-Village. The program was formulated with two specific goals. The first was simply to help fund orphan care; the second was to provide an opportunity for churches in North America to form a relationship with a village in our partner province by providing them with both information and pictures of their children.
Adopt-a-Village has been a success on both measures; currently 44 churches, church groups and individuals have been contributing $1000 a year for at least three years to assist nearly 3000 orphans in 5 parishes and 39 villages. Remarkably, in spite of food prices that have more than doubled in the last three years, and the continually increasing number of students in higher education, the cost per orphan still averages less than $35, not per month, but per year! This has been possible for three reasons: first, Tanzania is an extremely poor country and the cost of living is very low. Second, the program does not provide all of the child’s support; it supplements what the extended family is able to provide. Third, no overhead expenses are charged to the program; 100% of every dollar donated goes to Tanzania where it is spent by Tanzanians for Tanzanians.
In addition to providing financial support for these children, Adopt-a-Village has facilitated the development of worldwide Moravian relationships. Multiple Sunday schools in North America have exchanged pictures and letters with their partner villages in the Sikonge district. Several churches have gone still further, donating funding for wells, schools, school supplies and even church construction. Members of four congregations have visited their adopted village; others are making plans to do so this summer. The response has been impressive by any standard.
At the start of 2008, medical responsibility for the prevention and treatment arms of the AIDS program, as well as the grants needed to support them, was turned over to a partnership consisting of the Moravian Church of Western Tanzania and the Sikonge district council. Orphan care, however, continues to be funded from North America.
Adopt-a-Village originally requested a pledge of support for three years, but the needs of the orphans are ongoing. The vast majority of churches that originally joined the program have remained committed to these children beyond the three year mark, for which the orphans, and the Moravian “Mamas” providing their care, are extremely grateful. Everyone engaged in this endeavor hopes that the churches currently participating will prayerfully consider renewing their support, and those that have not yet joined in this mission will contemplate doing so. A gift of any amount will be gratefully accepted and used exclusively for orphan care. These children represent the future of Tanzania. They need our help to realize their full potential and become productive citizens in their developing country.
Inquiries about the Adopt-a-Village program should be sent to: William S. Hoffman, M.D., Board of World Mission/Northern Province Office, 1021 Center Street, Bethlehem, Pa. 18016-1245.
Bill Hoffman is a member of Central Moravian Church and leads the Adopt-a-Village program. He provides frequent reports on the work of the church in Tanzania, home to more than half of the Moravians worldwide.
From the April 2014 Moravian Magazine