Greetings from day two in Tanzania! We’ve had a great day.
We’re staying at a different guest house this time because our previous guest house is expecting a team of 13 German doctors who will be arriving to operate on patients with club feet.
We’re at the Lutheran Diocese Guest House in Usa River, which is a town outside of Arusha (which is the second largest city in Tanzania). Our cook/hostess is named Mama Kyara, and she is taking wonderful care of us. Our rooms all have single beds and mosquito netting that we sleep under. Think of a very rudimentary cross between a college dorm room and camping and you’re picturing it correctly.
After breakfast (eggs, toast, peanut butter, mango, papaya juice) we went to see the Bishop of the Diocese, the Assistant Bishop and the General Secretary. They were very gracious and welcoming. The Bishop says the most challenging thing Tanzania is facing is inflation. Here $1.00 US equals 2,200 Tanzanian Shillings, and just in May the exchange rate was $1.00 equaled 2,000 Tsh. We went to exchange our money and came away with a stack of bills about 4 inches thick. Sharmean says she had to come to Africa to become a millionaire!
Our most touching moment with the Bishop was when he talked about angels coming in different forms – not always spirits – that we are God’s angels and he appreciates all the hard work we have done for them over the years.
We then traveled to Nkoaranga Hospital for a tour. Sadly, their hospital beds are foam and some have plastic covers that are ripped. The walls are cracked and in desperate need of repairs. There are no single or even double occupancy rooms…all patient rooms have four beds. Also, the hospital doesn’t have enough crutches or other durable medical equipment (wheelchairs, oxygen equipment, walkers, canes, lifts).
It is striking to see how poor the hospital is, and how few basic supplies are on hand…all of which we take for granted. For one, they are currently out of antibiotics. They have no morphine available in Tanzania right now, so they rely on Tramadol, which the patients don’t like due to some of the side effects. It’s heartbreaking, especially because of knowing how much morphine is wasted in the United States. Unfortunately, morphine is one supply we cannot bring with us – we surely would be in prison right now if they found THAT in our suitcases!
Another, hurdle the hospital faces is a nursing shortage. The problems are that nurses prefer to work for a government hospital because they have guaranteed salary and pensions, they also have higher salaries, and if they move to a different area in the country their salary and benefits stay the same. At Nkoaranga, the salaries are contingent upon patient fees, and since most patients can’t afford care, a paycheck is not guaranteed. Thanks to the donations from Gilchrist and our community, the Palliative Care Team reliably receives their salaries.
That being said, the hospital relies on nursing assistants and the patient’s family to do many of the tasks normally carried out by a nurse. Families are responsible for bringing food to the patient, for providing personal care and for turning the patient to prevent bedsores.
We were certainly glad to be able to give some of our donated items to the hospital today. We hope that the 60 packs of toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss donated by Marian’s dentist will be of some help. Dr. Frank, the hospital dentist, was certainly thrilled. We also delivered the stethoscopes that were donated by Dr. Tucker and the medical staff of GBMC. Everyone was beyond grateful!
Afterwards, Tumaini (the nurse in charge of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Program), Mette (a Danish missionary nurse) and Dr. Bartholomew Bakari went to Arusha to exchange our money and have lunch at a restaurant called The Green Hut Burgers. We had chicken, French fries and tilapia. Then we then went shopping at the Cultural Center (yes, we bought new merchandise for fundraisers).
Everyone is so generous with their time — taking time out of their personal schedules to host us. They are also very attentive – they insist on carrying our shopping bags! But most of all, they are very grateful!
The traffic was bad on the road to and from Arusha, and it was fascinating looking at the women carrying fruit and groceries on their heads.
We dropped Mette off at her house, which meant the vehicle climbed up a rutted, bumpy road on the side of Mount Meru. She, her husband and four year old son live in a rented house on a hill, with a beautiful view of Mt. Meru. We were even able to see Mount Kilimanjaro from Mette’s house!
When we got back to the guest house for dinner, the electricity went off! So we’re writing this email by flashlight.
We’ll write again when we can – we still only get an intermittent wifi signal.
Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers,
Robin, Becky, Marian and Sharmean
If you are interested in helping our partners in Tanzania, come to our benefit concert on September 26th or donate by selecting Global Partnership on our donation form.