The Moravian Church of Western Tanzania Orphan Program
The global AIDS epidemic has crippled Africa. Nearly two thirds of those infected live on this continent which is home to only 10% of the world’s population.
In the year 2000 eight percent of adult Tanzanians were infected with this fatal virus. Superstition combined with misinformation facilitated its spread. There was a conspiracy of silence; the word “AIDS” could not be used in public. It was into this environment that the Board of World Mission asked Central Moravian Church to use its existing partnership with the Sikonge Moravian Church as a vehicle to assist our partner province, the Moravian Church of Western Tanzania (MCWT), in confronting the epidemic.
Working through the Sikonge Moravian Hospital, a comprehensive approach to the AIDS epidemic, including prevention, treatment, and the care of the ever increasing number of orphans, was begun.
In 2002, Zipora Kimwaga and three friends from the Sikonge Moravian Church organized a community based orphan assistance program. The objective was to keep these children in their extended families where they were living. This was to be done by providing the caregivers, usually grandparents, with the material support they needed, such as extra food, clothing, school supplies and uniforms, medical care, and personal items such as soap and bed sheets. The women enrolled 34 orphans in the first four weeks, and distributed supplies to the caregivers from Mama Kimwaga’s home.
From that modest start, the program grew exponentially. By the end of the first year it had added orphans from each of the subsections of Sikonge and had developed plans to include two major neighboring villages. All orphans, regardless of religious affiliation or cause of parent’s death, were included. Moravian churches in the villages participated by electing women from their congregations “who loved children” to become the local “Mamas.”
At the request of MCWT, a similar but separate program was begun in the city of Tabora in January, 2004. It now includes the five parishes (Milumbani, Ipuli, Isevya, Moria, and Kiloleli) where Moravian churches are located. Kefas Kabata and four Moravian “Mamas” currently serve 370 children.
Both programs are assisted by volunteers from Central Moravian Church.
In 2008 the program reached its numerical zenith, providing care to more than 3200 children. In the same year antiretroviral medications became available throughout Tanzania, and the mortality from AIDS began to decrease. The number of orphans also began to fall, allowing the “Mamas” to expand their reach into additional villages. By the end of 2014, thirty six Moravian women were working in eleven centers and twenty-six villages throughout the Sikonge district, providing love and care to 3000 orphans who were living with their extended families.
See map below.
Primary school education has been free in Tanzania, but further education has not. In 2005 the program expanded to provide full scholarships for any orphan able to pass the government’s entrance exams for further study. Currently 400 children are registered for this additional benefit.
At its inception, the program was able to provide care for less than $20 per child, not per month, but per year. With the addition of educational scholarships the cost has increased to $35 per year. This still remarkable accomplishment is possible for three reasons. First, Tanzania is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. The cost of living is very low; two adults can eat well for less than $7 per week. Second, the program does not supply all the children’s needs; it supplements what their caregivers are already providing to keep the orphans on par with their peers. Third, 100% of every dollar donated goes to Tanzania where it is spent by Tanzanians for Tanzanians. For this reason, donations of any amount are greatly appreciated and will be used effectively.
Adopt a Village
As the number of orphans receiving assistance continued to grow, the financial requirements increased as well. In 2004 the Board of World Mission, in partnership with Central Moravian Church, sponsored a new concept called “Adopt a Village.” It was formulated with two goals. The first was to help fund the expansion of orphan care; the second was to provide an opportunity for churches in North America to form a relationship with a village in Western Tanzania.
For a pledge of one thousand dollars a year for three years, a church, organization, or individual, was given the opportunity to partner with one of the participating villages or parishes. Each received a map locating their village and pictures of the “Mamas” and some of the children for whom they care.
The program was launched in January 2006 with an article in The Moravian. The response was overwhelming; forty-eight churches, church groups and individuals have participated, supplying nearly 50% of orphan support. Each village has been adopted by at least one sponsor. Several churches have adopted two villages and most have renewed their ongoing commitment.
To be certain the orphan program does not outgrow its capacity, it is no longer expanding to additional villages. Attention is focused instead on the increasing numbers of orphans attending secondary school and beyond, as well as on the relationships developing between the villages in Tanzania and the churches of North America. Multiple Sunday schools in both the Northern and Southern Provinces have exchanged pictures and letters with those in the Sikonge district. In spite of the cost and distances involved, four churches have sent representatives to their partner village to meet its Moravian pastor and visit orphan households with the local “Mamas.” Many churches have gone beyond orphan care and have begun providing support for Moravian congregations and local schools. Sixteen new churches have been completed and another is being built. Sixteen new wells have also been constructed and more are in progress. Multiple churches have been supplied with benches and chairs; over 400 desks have been donated to the village schools, along with multiple textbooks and other educational aids. The response by any standard has been impressive.
The challenges facing orphaned children in Africa can be enormous, but the Moravian orphan ladies, the “Mamas”, assisted by their Adopt a Village partners, are providing the love and care that will enable these children to grow into their nation of tomorrow.
Orphan Villages in the Sikonge District
- Mission Sikonge
2. Chabutwa Center
3. Imalampaka Center
4. Ipole Center
5. Kipanga Center
6. Kisanga Center
7. Mkolye Center
8. Mlogolo Center
9. Tutuo Center
10. Udongo Center
- Mihama Kumi
11. Kavale Center