I have been waiting for some time to get a “free Saturday” which translates as a Saturday with no major all-day meeting or wedding. However, the morning was almost over before I knew it. We started with 7 a.m. rosary and Mass; and then a longer than usual meeting with SCC (Small Christian Community) leaders, then breakfast. From there I went to the garden to pull French Breakfast radishes that had grown very quickly and some were getting too mature. Finally, I got to my office only to find that it was almost noon!
Late breakfast was shared with my housekeeper, Anna Maria, better known as Mama Jessica (baby Jessica’s mother). We now can sit at a very large table in the new dining room/living room that has lots of louver windows on 3 sides. We prefer to sit looking north, where I can look out on several pens occupied by about 70 or more multi-colored chickens of all ages. What makes the view spectacular are the thousands of bright red flowers on the flambouyant trees that tower over the area.
Happy to say, I have good news to share with you. I believe that I have already mentioned that my Bishop, Aloysius Balina, mentioned that he plans to open a diocesan shrine of Divine Mercy here at St. Peter parish. I asked the Vicar General to put 6 February 2010 on the diocesan calendar if the date is open. In preparation for the opening we are building what you might call a side altar, where we will be able to hang the 5 foot canvas painting that I brought back of the Divine Mercy, along with a picture of our Blessed Mother and one of St. Sr. Faustina. I have had something in mind for some time, but it is not easy to transfer a dream to a real concrete object. However, we have it well under way after some rethinking and false starts. Hopefully, such challenges will keep my mind from growing old. If I told you that I turned 77 this month, a lot of you would say “oh, you’re just a kid!” so I am not going to tell you.
There are two other items of good news that probably won’t seem very exciting or challenging to most of you as you are not involved in medical work. However, the first one you can appreciate. After almost two and one half years we have our new Toyota ambulance. Stefano and his assistant Barnabas went to Dar es Salaam to pick it up and got back here this week on Tuesday. I was afraid that after 2 years sitting in the hot sun and salt air of Dar that there would be damage. However, it appears to be as good as new. Why the delay? It took us over 2 years to get exempted from the $25,000 ordinarily due in taxes of various sorts. It has a roll-in stretcher that rests on hydraulic shock absorbers. It also has a cabinet, water, oxygen etc.
The ambulance arrived just in time to assist us in the surprising good news I want to share with you. Stefano brought with him a letter from the Ministry of Health in Dar es Salaam that they have granted our request to be upgraded from a Dispensary to a Health Center (known here as Kituo cha Afya). You can get some sense of how we feel about the upgrade when I tell you that our Songambele Dispensary is the youngest dispensary in the diocese of Shinyanga and is the first one to be upgraded and so far the only one! One of the reasons that it happened is that when I built our dispensary, beginning back in 1992, I built big, bigger that our needs at the time.
I do not know all of the consequences of the upgrade, but I do know that eventually after enlarging and upgrading our laboratory we will be able to give blood transfusions and save thousands of lives, especially children, who do not get to the District hospital in time or don’t even go at all. We will have to upgrade and possibly rebuild our minor theater in preparation for doing more than the minor surgery that we do now.
In the future I will be able to tell you more about this exciting and very challenging change in our medical work. I have shared with you the good news, and I cannot say that I have any bad news, but what I do want you, as friends of many years, to know is that along with the privilege of being a Health Center comes the obligation to enlarge and upgrade our medical facilities. We will also have to provide additional housing for the members of the staff that we must have to operate the Center. The challenge is, that at this time I hardly have even enough money to continue on with all of the development work I have going on as well as the monthly salaries. My personal needs are not great as I have a garden, chickens, and this year I have planted sunflowers, hoping to get enough seeds to have them pressed for cooking oil. The faithful also help me with basic foods and some money.
This challenge to make a major contribution to the health of thousands in this once-remote area is one that comes once in a lifetime and in this case has come late in my life. My devotion to the Divine Mercy has helped me say “Jesus, I trust in you” and to say it sincerely. However, it has also taught me that I cannot quietly sit back and wait for whatever! Our Lord worked and gave his life for his people, and so must I.
I never intended my newsletter to be a fund raiser, but simply one to keep people informed of what is going on here at Nkololo. However, I am definitely looking for help in any way that it can be provided. Our major expenses will be in rebuilding, upgrading and equipping our laboratory and minor theater along with new housing for additional trained personnel. We will need two new houses for the two AMO’s (Assistant Medical Officers) that we must have to operate the Health Center. One of them will finish her training next September. We will need housing for another lab technician and perhaps a pharmacist. We will need housing for 2 Nursing Officers who will finish training in September 2010 plus other nursing help as we grow.
My request is that you help spread the good news as well as the news of our urgent needs. We will be getting a lot of visitors from the government and health officials and we will have to have something to show that we are indeed on the way to being a fully equipped Health Center. Perhaps you know of some organization that can help with funding. Perhaps there is a hospital with some kind of twinning or outreach program. None of the at least 3 houses that we will need initially should cost over fifty thousand dollars each. A larger facility for several single nurses may cost more than that. The lab and minor theater with equipment will be fairly expensive although not by USA standards! I will do all of the drawings etc.; the cost will be in labor and materials. We do not have electricity here so we will need a lot of solar panels, batteries, wiring and fixtures.
Along with your prayers we need any ideas or help of any kind.
I think that I will quit for now as that is about all of the good news that you can take in one day!
Love and prayers to all,