Travel Team Update: “Shinyanga, Tanzania”

Written by Josh Petersen:

Thanks for following our journey through east Africa. Here’s an update from my time in Shinyanga, Tanzania with Path of Hope (POH).

Heat.  Dry and hot is what I have been introduced to here in Shinyanga, Tanzania.  Even though it is the end of the rainy season, (or cold season as some refer to it) I am finding it very hot here.  Which is a big problem for those in this region.  Early in my visit, my friend Saggiah Wright, took me to Mwamalili village.  It is about an hour ride by motorcycle out from Shinyanga Town.  The people in the village are mainly farmers or cattle ranchers.  The main crops are sweet potatoes and ground nuts.  When the seasons turn and things start to get dry, people have to rely only on what they were able to harvest from their farms.  Many times there is hunger in every household during the dry season.  Families resort to eating one, or less, meals every day Wright told me.  It was a lot to take in on my first day here.  Wright showed me the food security project which he is working on for the village.  It is a project which hopes to help stabilize the food income for the farmers of Mwamalili village and make sure that there is enough food for families to survive year-round.  It was an amazing project to witness.

I also have had a chance to visit the kids Path Of Hope has in the Lahash Sponsorship Program.  Wright’s wife is the assistant director of POH here in Shinyanga and took me to several schools in town where kids were attending.  We had a chance to ask them some questions and laugh together.  One of my favorite things was to have the kids ask me questions.  Even though they were usually regarding my age, if I’m married, and where I’m from, I still enjoyed it.  Some of the kids were truly excited to ask me questions, yet were so shy about it.  Enrica (the assistant director) told me all about the kids and their struggles and how POH is trying to help them.  They want these children not just to become successful in life, but to see them thriving in their communities as they become mature adults.  Enrica told me that POH is trying to help the children see how important it is to love their neighbors and to serve them.

Inquisitive school kids in Shinyanga with POH staff.

It is not always peach ice cream under the shade tree though.  We had to make a trip back to Mwamalili village to visit the mother of one of the children who had passed away.  Our staff at Lahash heard about Omari’s complications from surgery and his death a few weeks ago.  Ever since we left Portland, I knew I would have to come to this point on the trip.  As we rode out to Mama Omari’s (Mother of Omari) home, I was thankful for the treacherous road which made me focus on driving and not the tears I struggled to hold back.  In town we had purchased some gifts for Mama Omari; some kitchen utensils, serving platters, cups, and fabric for new clothes.  As I presented them to Mama Omari I told her we were not trying to replace her son, or to give gifts to make her forget him. Rather, we were trying to show our sympathy and our support for her and her family.  We cannot replace those we have lost in life, we cannot recreate them in some other fashion: we simply remember them.  We remember their life and the gift they were to us while they were here.  We remember how we are all mortal and will all pass on after some time.  We remember how God gives and takes, though this is confusing and frustrating to us.  The people in Mwamalili village face challenges like this every day and they are still working hard to live.  I cried with Mama Omari and saw how we all are impacted by loss and by challenges in life.  Yet we have to continue.  After allowing some time to pass, Mama Omari made us stay and eat some food with her.  We talked and laughed about Omari, about life in the village, and about the beauty around us.  She is not letting this loss keep her chained down.  An example I will carry with me all through my time.