Missionaries return from ‘life-changing’ Tanzania trip

Matt
Matt Gardner
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A six-week mission to help villagers in Tanzania has left an indelible mark on the Prince Albert travellers who made the journey.

Comprised of eight young adults between the ages of 17 and 22 as well as two parents, the group made the trip through CPPS Mission Projects, a non-profit organization with chapters all over the world.

The first time a group from Saskatchewan has been able to take part in a CPPS mission, the trip including help building a windmill to provide water to the village of Nala as well as the distribution of food and clothing.

“We had a crew that worked with us and we built the windmill and trenched the pipes and built the holding tanks for the water,” traveller Roxanne Richards said.

“It’s a very dry, desert-like area,” she added. “So there is no water there.”

The impetus for the trip came through the Prince Albert Roman Catholic Diocese – specifically, from Bishop Albert Thévenot, who previously lived in Tanzania for 13 years and informed his diocese about the CPPS mission opportunity.

Planning for the trip began two years ago, due to the need for each traveller to raise $5,500 to cover travel costs.

A teacher at St. Mary High School, Richards did not originally plan to go on the trip herself. Rather, she was preoccupied with helping her daughter and other students raise the necessary funds to go.

Her heavy involvement in planning and helping the students, however, prompted others to suggest she tag along on the trip.

Now back in Prince Albert, Richards said she made the right decision.

“I honestly don’t have the words to describe how amazing it was,” she said. “It was life-changing for every one of us.”

Aside from learning about African culture, the missionaries developed an appreciation for the relatively simple lifestyles of the villagers they met.

“Living simply is something that I admired when I was there,” Richards said. “I saw the women, I saw the children, I saw the laughter, I saw the community, the families -- and they have nothing. They have absolutely nothing. But I saw smiles on their faces every single day.”

“When they say that the middle of Africa doesn’t have water, they really mean it,” she noted. “There is no water there. We felt pretty good being able to do our little part by giving them water. But I believe that they gave us so much more -- just teaching us about what it means to live simply and to take care of each other.

“They take care of each other very well. They look out for each other and that’s important.”

With a mission team having dug the well prior to their arrival in Nala, the Prince Albert contingent served as support to the crew -- mixing cement, hauling rocks and helping trench the windmill, which is now pumping water to a series of holding tanks.

Following the departure of the P.A. missionaries, the mission has hired a Tanzanian agent -- voted upon by members of the village -- with the official responsibility of keeping track of the water.

We felt pretty good being able to do our little part by giving them water. But I believe that they gave us so much more -- just teaching us about what it means to live simply and to take care of each other. Roxanne Richards

For each person who comes in and buys a pail of water, the agent keeps track of the money, which is used for maintenance and repairs on the windmill.

“It’s a good way to do it because these villagers then are part of it,” Richards said. “It’s not a free gift to them. They have to work for it. It’s still part of what they are expected to do. They’re still expected to pay a small amount for the water, but then it becomes theirs and it becomes their responsibility.”

The establishment of the windmill -- during which Bishop Thévenot stopped by for a visit -- was only part of the group’s itinerary in Tanzania.

During their trip, they also visited multiple orphanages to spend time with the children. Stops included an orphanage for children with HIV or whose parents could not afford to look after them, as well as one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages.

Another visit took the travellers to a leper colony north of the village.

“There were … some nuns that had been looking after these lepers and their families, because they basically can’t look after themselves,” Richards said.

“Some of them can’t feed themselves. So we went there and we met them and spent time with them and had lunch with them.”

Besides building windmills, the CPPS Mission Projects also distribute food and clothing to villages.

Prior to visiting area schools, the P.A. group stopped by a medical dispensary to pick up supplies.

“Everywhere we went, we brought food and we brought clothing and we brought school supplies and toys for the kids and spent time with the kids as well,” Richards said.

The group’s trip finally came to an end on Wednesday, Aug. 13 -- their last day in Tanzania.

With the majority of the travellers having returned to other cities and provinces for college or university, the three remaining in Prince Albert are currently putting together a PowerPoint presentation documenting their trip.

“We’ll be visiting different schools and churches and different communities to let people know about what we did … The bishop is really excited about continuing this, because it was so successful and we learned so much and we really felt like we did something,” Richards said.

At the moment, the tentative plan is for the next group of missionaries to travel to Tanzania in 2017.

Anyone interested in going on the trip may contact Richards at 306-982-4829 for more information.

Organizations: Prince Albert, CPPS Mission Projects, Roman Catholic Diocese Mary High School PowerPoint

Geographic location: Tanzania, Nala, Saskatchewan Africa

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  • LJ
    August 21, 2014 - 12:44

    "African culture" is not a thing. Africa is an incredibly diverse continent full of many different cultures and groups.