Father Winfried's progress report from Tanzania

Father Winfried's progress report from Tanzania

Fr Winfried Ngonyani

Last September 'AD2000' reported on the visit to Australia of Father Winfried Ngonyani, seeking help for the people of his Tanzanian parish. A number of our readers made generous donations towards the building of a water pump. The following is a report from Father Winfried on progress so far since his return home.

Donations to Fr Winfied's Water Project can be sent through the Salesian Missions Office, PO Box 80, Oakleigh, Vic, 3166.

As Parish Priest of Ifakara in the Diocese of Mahenge, central Tanzania, a very poor parish in a drought region, I was asked last year by my Bishop to go to Australia to see if I could interest some people in supporting our work.

Many people helped me. I am especially grateful to Bishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Fr Sean O'Connell and his parishioners at St Paul's Coburg, Felicity Dargan of the Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun, Fr Gerard Dowling of AM Radio 927 and Brother Michael Lynch of the Salesian Missions Office. Their assistance was invaluable.

I write now to thank all who helped me and who donated clothing and other relief goods to the people in our village. In addition, I thank those who gave money for our [not yet completed] water project, many of whom are readers of AD2000.

I apologise for not having written sooner. Since returning home in August, I have been extremely busy. In addition, my father, who was in declining health when I departed for Australia, died on 20 November. We have just concluded the 40 days of mourning.

One of my aims in coming to Australia was to gather items of second-hand clothing, some urgently needed bandages and medical supplies, as well as school materials, to ship to Tanzania in a container.

Following an article by Felicity Dargan in the Sunday Herald-Sun, people responded very generously. We were given enough goods to fill two large containers, while the freight costs were covered by O'Brien Customs and Forwarding and P & O Nedlloyd.

After the Containers arrived in Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, on 15 September 1999, my task was to get them "up country" to Mpanga, a distance of about 600 kilometres. To transport the goods by train would have been very expensive - about US$4,800. However, my Bishop was able to hire the two big lorries of the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference. We then had to unload the containers and put everything into the lorries.

Unloading the containers was no easy task as the wooden crates were very heavy; it took us seven hours to do the job. There were no forklifts available to help us.

It was then a long slow journey for the lorries from Dar-es-Salaam to Mpanga with people all along the way watching and wondering just what was being carried on the two large trucks. They had not seen the likes of this before. I was praying that the trucks would not break down and that we would arrive safely.

At Mpanga, the Bishop told the people that the trucks contained goods generously donated by many people in Australia, especially around Melbourne. The people were most happy when they saw so many goods. How can I describe their joy? They praised God because they were grateful to the many Australians who had given them clothing that they really needed. There was continuous singing in the village for two days and two nights. And many danced as if they had just entered heaven!

Great occasion

The distribution of the clothes was a really great occasion. The clothes were spread out and people were invited to select what they liked; they were free of charge for the elderly and children; others were given the option of (i) doing a little work in the parish community centre; (ii) paying a little money; or, as most did (iii) paying with chickens or eggs. So the parish has plenty of chickens right now!

Before I returned to Mpanga with this supply of clothing, most of the people in the district had just one set of clothes; many women had only the one dress. Now the people look very colourful and walk around with a spring in their step; and the young children and the elderly have a blanket or other covering to keep them warm on cool nights.

The people of Mpanga are so very, very grateful. They look happy, healthier and smarter and they are more prayerful. Some have said to me that God has been been so good to them. Yes, our village is different: many men wear a necktie proudly with their suits; woman are pleased to dress like Australians and some have given themselves Australian nicknames.

Next, I must thank those who responded so generously to assist us with our water project in Mpanga, following my interview with Fr Dowling on Radio AM 927 and an article in AD2000 last September.

In Mpanga there is a fast flowing river. It is a great potential source of water; however, it is infested with large crocodiles and many villagers have lost limbs in their attempt to scoop a bucket of water from the river.

Our Water Project is simply to pump water from the river into tanks to be constructed alongside our Parish Community Centre; water will then be available for all who live in the village.

Money was needed for a pump, diesel engine, pipes, tanks, cement, aluminium sheets, freight costs and some labour.

$13,000 was donated last year. My grateful thanks go to the donors for their generosity. This has enabled us to make a good start on the project, with the local people providing their input with labour, digging trenches, etc. However, we are in need of a further $6,000 to purchase materials to complete the job.

I can't emphasise how important this project is for the development of our village. Ready access to water for domestic use, especially cooking and washing, will be truly a Godsend for the village.

While $6,000 sounds like a large sum of money to me I know that it can be obtained if we could only find 60 persons to donate $100 or 120 to contribute $50. I hope you will be able to assist the Mpanga village. I trust in the Lord.

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