I hope that the last dirty pile of snow is now melted and that you are at last enjoying the beautiful sight of spring flowers. Perhaps there is only a foot of ice left on some Minnesota lakes. Enough is enough!
Here we are seeing some weather changes. We no longer have what were almost daily rains or light showers. We still need some rain for corn that was planted after the first harvest or simply planted later. Farmers that planted cotton too early, as usual had a hard time getting their cotton picked without having it rained on. Much of the rice is harvested as well as sweet potatoes and peanuts.
Much of my time has been spent here at the parish with various projects that we have going or spending long rough hours on the road going to meetings or on business. I have been limited in pastoral work as there are only a few of the outstations that I can reach by road. The rains really wreaked havoc on many areas of roads that we built over the years. My Associate Pastor, Fr. Emmanuel Kahabi, can get to more places using a motorcycle.
As usual our medical work continues to present many daunting challenges. The major one of course is sufficient major funding to continue developing Songambele Health Center to the status of a hospital. With the help of many people whom I have not been able to thank personally, along with God’s blessings, we have been able to keep our heads above water, although we were nearly gasping for breath several times.
Our 11-room, 110’x47”’ surgical suites building is a delight for us to behold every day as it is finally covered with white ridged metal sheeting. It was the most difficult roof that we have ever had to put on, mostly because of the weight of the hardwood rafters. I don’t get up on the roof anymore but I do hang around now and then to keep reminding agile workers to take safety precautions.
We are now preparing to put ceilings in the rooms. The operating rooms will be a challenge because of the weight of the overhead lights above the operating table. We are doing things that we have never done before, which is not new for us, as we are usually doing something that is really over our heads but not over God’s head. He has taken good care of us.
I am happy to finish with very good news. At a recent Medical Board Meeting, one that I almost didn’t get to because of daily rains, the first agenda was discussing the possibility of working with the Christian Social Services Commission, a service group set up by Catholic and Protestant Bishops in Tanzania. No one seemed to show much interest in availing their parish medical facilities of the CSSC services. They proposed that each facility take until December this year to decide whether to be associated with them. My hand immediately went up. December? I said, no, I want to join tomorrow! We happen to have the biggest medical facility operating in the diocese and we need all the help we can get and then some. Dr. Katambi the secretary took note of my request, and the week after the meeting I went to Mwanza with Stefano and we visited the CSSC office. I saw CSSC as the answer to our prayers to get help in organizing our Health Center, which is very busy and very overcrowded and less organized than we would like. We have not been able to set up a good operating system to keep track of medicine in our storerooms, medicine used, medical files, to easily prepare daily/weekly/monthly/ yearly reports and what have you.
For the last two days we had a doctor and his associate here at Songambele to assess our needs and to advise us how to proceed to improve our system along with other problems that we have as a result of growing so quickly. The major change that I want to implement as soon as possible is going from paper to digital. You have observed the ubiquity of computer screens in clinics and offices in the USA for years. Hard to believe, but now that is that is where we are headed. We will have our own central computer server. Each department will be connected to the server and anywhere in the operation where someone has entries to make there will be a screen and a keyboard. We expect a crew of about 5 people here in the next few weeks to install the system. We will also be connected by satellite to their office and all other facilities that have joined the program. There is a monthly fee for the service that is surprisingly not costly. Our Health Center isn’t called “Songambele” “move forward” without a reason!
The other big help that we hope to receive now is to assist us in getting back our association with the big blood bank near Bugando Hospital in Mwanza. For unknown reasons the Tanzania Red Cross took over the blood work in the Shinyanga and Simiyu Region to which we belong, denying us permission to continue to work with the very large Bugando Blood Bank that is mostly financed by the Center for Disease Control and does great work.
We have been doing our own testing of blood as we have made two difficult trips to Shinyanga to try to accommodate the Red Cross. We took blood to be processed but with no results. They have no facilities and have to send it to Mwanza. I have said enough. “Sio Rahisi” “It is not easy”!
I will arrive in Chicago on 17 June and head for Janesville and then on 19 June be on my way to Prairie du Chien and the beloved Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers.
Below is the schedule that I pray is still valid. I have a big year ahead and will need all the help I can get. The schedule will be on our website – roadstolifetanzania.org.
6/7 July St. Peter Evangelical Church, Prairie du Chien
13/14 July Shell Lake, Spooner and Sarona
20/21 July Rhinelander and Pelican Lake
27/28 July Lodi and Dane
3/4 August Sun Prairie
10/11 August Waunakee
17/18 August Prairie du Chien
24/25 August Bloomington/Patch Grove/Cassville / Glen Haven
I am looking forward to being with many friends in many places. I have been going to some parishes since 1974 when I was in need of another John Deere tractor. We have come a long ways together.