An urgently needed water pump would work wonders in relieving the hardship of a large number of Tanzanians currently experiencing the devastating effects of a two-year drought, according to visiting Tanzanian priest, Fr Winfried Ngonyani.
Tanzania, in East Africa, with a population of 28 million, is one of the world's poorest nations, with an average life expectancy of around 35-40. Father Winfried was sent to Australia by Bishop Agapit Ndorobo of Ifakara to seek out what Tanzanians urgently need: essential medical items (such as creams for burns), soap, toothpaste, clothes, shoes, sewing machines, typewriters, second hand bicycles, blankets and school books. His hope was to fill one 6-metre container with these items.
The Tanzanian Government, struggling to cope with a crippling overseas debt burden, has little money left to service the basic needs of its citizens and relies heavily on the Church to make up the shortfall. About 60 per cent of the population is Christian.
Father Winfried told staff during a visit to this office about the desperate plight of his 30,000 parishioners which prompted his present visit and appeal for essential supplies.
By the time this report appears, he will have returned home, having spent several weeks in Melbourne as the guest of the parish priest of St Paul's, Coburg. Following a meeting with Father Winfried, the Vicar General, Bishop Denis J. Hart offered the following endorsement: "I am happy to welcome Father Winfried Ngonyani ... Any assistance which can be provided to him has my approval. Bishop Deakin and I are prepared to attest that he is a priest in good standing."
Assisted by Br Michael Lynch SBD, Father Winfried was able to have a report published in the Melbourne Sunday Herald-Sun, regarding his appeal for essential supplies.
Following publication of this report (18 July), Father Winfried was overwhelmed by a prompt and generous response from readers, which has seen over two containers worth of goods donated. On top of this, the shipping company P & O Nedlloyd kindly supplied the containers and covered the freight costs to Tanzania. The general manager of P & O Nedlloyd, Bob Kemp, said the company would ship the containers from Melbourne to the port of Dar Es Salaam via Singapore. The total cost for one container alone would normally be more than $5,000.
Similar generosity materialised from O'Brien Customs and Forwarding in North Melbourne, which, without being asked, offered to arrange the necessary paperwork and cartage of the containers to the wharf free of charge.
The containers, now on their way to Tanzania, are due to arrive in Dar Es Salaam on 4 September. Father Winfried left for home on 15 August and will be on hand to make sure the containers successfully negotiate the port facilities, are moved to the rail terminal for a 600 kilometre journey to central Tanzania and finally are taken 30 kilometres by truck to Ifakara. Monetary donations received to date should overcome these expensive hurdles.
In a follow-up report in the Sunday Herald-Sun (25 July), Father Winfried told reporter Felicity Dargan: "I cannot believe the response and want to express my tremendous gratitude to your readers. The phone has been ringing all week and people have been bringing so many things, including clothes and bicycles."
During his visit to our office, Father Winfried pointed out that, apart from the Tanzanian Government's lack of funds, very little foreign aid from overseas agencies ever reached his inland region. A visit to Australia seemed the only way of ensuring that some basic aid could be obtained for his people. It also reflected his strongly held view that the Church - apart from meeting the people's spiritual needs - had an obligation to be active in relieving their material deprivations.
Water pump needed
During our discussions with Father Winfried, it emerged that a fundamentally important necessity for the people in Father Winfried's region would be an efficient water pump. This single item would have the greatest and most immediately beneficial impact on their lives. For while there is a large river close by, it is heavily infested with crocodiles - which have killed or injured many people in recent years. Gathering even small quantities of water from the river is an extremely hazardous business. An efficient water pump would transform this situation so that apart from basic needs being met, the growing of food crops could be promoted.
The estimated cost of such a pump at around A$10,000 is an impossible figure for impoverished Tanzanians, but relatively modest by affluent Australian standards.
Those wishing to help this project should send their donations to "Father Winfried's Tanzanian Water Project", Salesian Mission Office, PO Box 80, Oakleigh, Victoria 3166 Australia. Donations are tax deductible, and the appeal co-ordinator, Br Michael Lynch, will ensure that the money reaches Father Winfried so that it brings about the desired outcome.