Gertrude teaches 54 children in her classroom each morning. These are some of the children of Kilidu. They are aged from 4-10 years and have no other opportunity to go to school. The classroom was built thanks to a donation from Leeds businessman, Charles Watkinson and his company, Corrocoat.
Each day Gertrude, trained in the Montessori College in Mtwara, teaches her class reading, writing and helps to explore the world of learning through interactive and tactile teaching methods.
So successful is she that parents from Kitere - five miles away, where there is already a government primary school - have asked if their children can attend the Kilidu kindergarten. The villagers see now the value of education as their children will be the first generation from this village to be learning to read and write. As popular as it is, the class still needs woven mats, reading booklets, small desks and chairs and lots of other items of everyday teaching and learning materials.
It costs about £20 a year to keep a child in the kindergarten. That means for £20 a month, you can pay for 12 children. For £40 a month you can pay Gertrude's salary or pay for someone to go to secondary school and teacher training college. If you'd like to help Gertrude teach her class of children in Kilidu, please complete the Standing Order form using the reference â€˜Gertrude'.
Majengo is a district of Mtwara - not rich and no poorer than the rest of Mtwara. It is where the Sisters have for many years run a clinic and dispensary in a small building nestled under the large stone church. Alongside the dispensary and the blood and urine tests and apart from the doctors' daily clinic, once a month, the Sisters distribute food to about two dozen of the most needy, older people in that community. Some of them are too ill or frail to walk to the dispensary and send neighbours or grandchildren, but each is known to the Sisters and each would be in grave danger of death without this help. Each month the Sisters are able to give to each older person 10 kg of maize flour and 2kg of beans. If the Sisters could afford to give away more food, they could easily find more people in need.
The monthly cost of this service is £350
Move around Mtwara's main streets - the market, the main road past the Regional Commissioner's residence, the new coast road past the Makonde Beach Club and towards the Holy Redeemer Sisters, or drive towards Mikindani on the main road north towards Dar - you won't wait long before a large Landcruiser with red number plates speeds past you. The red number plates mean that the car is registered to a government department or an NGO. It also almost certainly means that it was bought and paid for with international aid money. It's true that experts from the developed world helping Tanzania in its development can't move around the more remote areas without 4 x 4s.
And those donors would rightly be criticised if they never left Dar or Dodoma. It's just that a cynic will point out that for all the aid money going in, all the experts offering advice and all the 4 x 4s tearing up dust, life for eighty per cent of the Tanzanian population is as precarious as ever. It's true that girls' access to education is improving, deaths from malaria are falling and international investment (principally from China) is increasing. But, infant mortality remains high; access to good healthcare, clean water and quality education scarce.
Tanzania is still one of the twenty poorest countries in the world, with nearly eighty per cent of its population existing on less than &2 a day. When we started Mtwaralinks, we wanted to stick to a very simple principle: we give the money directly to those who need it. In recent years we've compromised a little, in that we now give it principally to Sisters who in turn give it to or spend it on those who need it. But we know where every penny is spent and none of it to date has gone on Landcruisers.
Sister Tadea smiles ruefully when I ask her how long before the road is finished and a weekly clinic can be held. "It would be good, Adrian. But it is difficult."
We had just left the kindergarten classroom from where as many as twelve children were absent, according to teacher, Gertrude, suffering from bilharzia. This painful and very serious disease affects the intestine and is contracted by dirty stagnant water. The village elder had quite proudly showed me his â€˜new well' - in fact a dirty pond, dug with some NGO money he'd won. "Isn't this the reason the children are ill?" I'd asked. He shrugged.
Much progress has been made in the three years since I last visited.
Innocent, an agriculturalist from Arusha, clearly takes pleasure from the rice, korosho, teak, maize and cassava which he is cultivating.
Novices and postulants come every few weeks to do a week's backbreaking work in the rice fields. The 20 hectare farm is now productive, but without a good access road can never be profitable. For six months of the year the farm is inaccessible by car because of the marshy ground, but for the other six months the farm and the village has no water.
"I will speak to Kilyan for some prices," says Sister Tadea. Of course the future without a sustainable water supply is grim. And on this I have good news. The Leeds businessman who had provided the funding for the school, the house and the solar power, has agreed to fund a bore hole provided we can find a reliable water engineer. The survey and work will be carried out in July.
I'm hopeful that next year, we might be talking about a clinic.
Mtwara has been twinned with Redditichin Worcestershire for over three decades.
Jackie Morgan manages the town's One World Linking project. There have been reciprocal visits promoting mutual understanding and friendship.
It's much easier for the UK group to visit Mtwara than the other way but this year agroup including Sister Monica from the Montessori teachers' college will be visiting the UK.
Money via your mobile phone
The cost of transferring money from the UK to Tanzania has always been expensive. We have until now transferred our GBP to the Sisters â‚¬ account in Mtwara or the Benedictine & account in Ndanda. In each case HSBC levies a fee of only £4.00, but then offers a poor exchange rate.
Mobile phone networks have agents through whom you pay cash and receive an instant confirmation that your money has been sent and received to a recipient in another part of the country. It's simple, safe and very cheap. Vodacom's introduction of their international money transfer service - Global Remit - just made it that much simpler and cheaper for us to send our money to where it's needed. For Mtwaralinks, it means that we can transfer money directly to wherever we want with the lowest possible charges. A woman in desperate need of a little emergency help was sent £20 (TSH62,000) recently, enough to keep her family for a month. The transfer took 12 hours to complete and cost 49p to effect. It was a month's lifeline for food and fuel, conducted quickly, simply, cheaply and directly by the donor. If you'd like to know more about this system and perhaps become of those donors who occasionally make such personal and direct gifts, please get in touch.
With Gift Aid, a donation of £50 a month will allow Rose to have a high-quality education, secure a good job and help her community. Not all education sponsorships are as expensive as the Montessori College. For £15 a month you can pay for a student to attend secondary school - covering fees, uniform and stationery. For £30 a month you can pay for a student to complete Forms V & VI (equivalent to A levels). If you'd like to sponsor a student through their education, complete the Standing Order form and use the reference â€˜Rose'.
Rose is a young woman of nineteen. She was raised by her mum alone, after her dad left. Today her mum struggles to feed Rose's younger siblings and, having completed secondary school, Rose has now been offered a place on the Diploma in Education course at the Montessori Teachers' Training College in Mtwara. It is an excellent college with small class sizes and well qualified teaching staff.
Were Rose to be able to take up this place she would live in dormitory accommodation and take all her meals at the college. College arranges for her to undertake teaching practice and helps her find work on completion of the course. The cost of the course including food and accommodation, uniform, stationery and all necessary materials and equipment is approximately £645 per year.
If you think you can help support Rose through this three year course please get in touch.
Our income and expenditure remains reasonably stable, albeit the number of monthly donations has decreased slightly. Income in 2016/17 was higher (£7480) as a result of a sponsored walk undertaken by one supporter and the sale of some carvings. Each year however, our annual income is boosted by almost 20% through Gift Aid and any new supporters are urged to permit us to claim the Gift Aid from your donation. Our aim this year is to try and raise £10,000. With your help - by encouraging friends and family members to support us - we believe we can do it.
(2017-2018) = £6010.60
(2017-2018) = £10,493.71
Expenditure is higher because of a sizeable carry forward from 2016.
The money was spent approximately in the following ways:
Medical Equipment - £3100.00
Student Sponsorship - £1200.00
Kindergarten Eqpmt - £3100.00
Majengo Food Programme - £3000.00
For the coming year, Sister Tadea and I have agreed priorities for the support she receives from us. For 2018/19 we will be improving facilities for the kindergarten in Kilidu: We will continue our support for the food programme at Majengo and aim to assist more students with fees.
Johnson is a small, wiry man of thirty-five. He was born in Masasi and was never able to take his education beyond primary school. He got a job with the Sisters just over eight years ago. Married to Veronica and father to young Grace, Johnson borrowed TSH600,000 (£200) to buy a plot of land on the outskirts of Mtwara. He then borrowed a further TSH2m and managed to build a sizeable house. He has repaid every shilling he borrowed and now hopes to build a more substantial house from cement blocks. The Sisters have made a number of such micro-loans to those who are known and trusted, but who have no other recourse to credit. Such loans can transform people's lives, lifting families out of poverty and giving them opportunities usually denied to those without education or money. If you want to help, mark your Standing Order, â€˜Johnson'.
Training for Success
We have now sponsored two students through vocational courses at the Ndanda Vocational College in Ndanda. Mwakibe Kapinga graduated as an electrician last year and now works for the Tanzanian electricity company, Tanesco.
Sylvester Mmole graduates in motor vehicle maintenance later this year. It is hoped he will find employment too.
The training at Ndanda is of a high quality and they have a very good record in their graduates finding work.
It costs roughly £600 a year to pay for someone to study at Ndanda. Mwakibe and Sylvester will tell you it's worth it.
If you want to help with a monthly Standing Order, mark it â€˜Ndanda'.
Introduce a Friend
Introduce a friend to become a Mtwaralinks supporter and earn a free copy of â€˜This is Tanzania', a collection of memoirs and anecdotes from Adrian and Caroline Strain's stay in Tanzania.
Show a friend, family member or neighbour our website:
If they decide to support our work via a monthly standing order, we will send you a free copy.
Just ask the new subscriber to include your name and address and we'll do the rest.