By Mike Neumann
**The Zumbro team is now back from Tanzania. Because of technology issues, this post is just now being uploaded.**
Located a soccer field away from Iambi Hospital in Nkungi village is a primary school. We are reminded of the school daily on our walk to and from the hospital. We experience the children walking to school all nicely dressed in their uniforms on our way to the hospital. While the roads and paths are dusty and dirty the children somehow have clean white shirts with navy or green vests. The picture that is imprinted in our minds is the bright sparkling eyes and wide smiles of these children. They capture your heart on the first encounter.
Brenda Wichmann on our trip is the principal at Bamber Valley Elementary School in Rochester. Prior to travelling we learned that the matron (head nurse) at the hospital is married to the principal at the school near the hospital. His title is called Headmaster (principal equivalent). Brenda made email connection to the Headmaster and arranged a visit to the school during our stay.
On Monday, Brenda and Pastor Lisa headed to the school while the rest of us went to the hospital. They were greeted by the headmaster and then turned loose in a classroom filled with 150 students. The school has a total of 1200 students and each classroom holds 150 students with 3-5 children sharing a single desk.
Brenda and Pastor Lisa worked with the older students (Standard 6-7; which is our equivalent to 6-7th grade). They worked helping the students build sentences using verbs, adverbs, nouns, and adjectives. Brenda and Pastor Lisa quickly learned the combination of a language barrier and such a large class of students created a challenged learning environment. It was a very humbling experience.
On Tuesday, Brenda and I returned to the school and this time requested a smaller class. The headmaster working with Musa (a teacher) arranged to have around 30 students from two classes join us in a smaller setting.
Prior to leaving Rochester Brenda had some of her students create fact sheets that could be shared with the students at the village. These sheets included a photo with details about the students’ family, food and activities. We passed these fact sheets to the Tanzania students who enjoyed learning about the Rochester students. We then had the Tanzania students complete the same fact sheets which will be shared with the Rochester students upon our return. We returned Wednesday and shared some details of where we live and what school life is like in Rochester with the students.
Prior to leaving, the students sang the Tanzania National Anthem, school song, and a song they created for us telling us ‘We Are Happy We Are Together.’ We also shared a hand shake, fist bump and a high five with the students with hopes of someday exchanging a US greeting on the village paths someday.
A trip to Tanzania helps clarify the word grateful for me. Having a class size that allows an instructor to give individual attention to each student is something that we take for granted in the United States. Tanzania students are missing books, sharing desks, and pencils and paper are a luxury. There are no expensive Nike shoes or soccer games during recess due to the lack of scorer balls.
Just taking a break from the flocks or field, collecting firewood, water or rice to attend school is a sacrifice for some of the families.
While our partnership with Iambi is with the hospital, spending time with the children at school was an activity that showed our commitment to the families of Nkungi who use Iambi Hospital. Relationship building continues to be of great value for Iambi and Zumbro. Relationship building and learning has expanded to children in Rochester where Brenda will be able to share stories and fact sheets with her students in Rochester when she returns with the hope that perhaps someday one of her students will someday carry on the mission of sharing the hope of Jesus with someone less fortunate than themselves.