When I was growing up on the farm we exchanged work with our neighbor up on the hill. I still remember how anxious he was to combine oats. I always enjoyed the ritual of “opening up the field” often before the oats had fully matured. After making a short run with the combine he would stop and we would all stand around with a hand full of oats, feeling for moisture and hardness of the grain giving our opinions whether to give it another try. We usually had to wait a few days but at least we had made a beginning and we knew that the equipment was ready to move when the time came.
That is the way with letter writing. Today, Wednesday, the 26thof Dec. 2018 I am just opening up the field. Hopefully within the next couple of days I will get moving and finish the letter. I have exciting news to share but haven’t “got it all together yet”. It is already 6:15 p.m. and I still have my evening ritual of prayers to say, cleaning up etc. I had a 7 a.m. Mass this morning, then a noon funeral with Mass at Ng’wamoto outstation and then a visit and prayers for some sick at the hospital. Now here I am ready to call it a day after a busy blessed Christmas yesterday. I have “opened up the field” and will continue writing when the time is ripe. Bye for now.
Thursday afternoon: Workers are back after the Christmas break. Now New Years day is just around the corner. I will be sending some pictures to go along with this news letter. I have so many of them that I will send the more recent ones and the ones that coincide somewhat with news in this letter.
The exciting news that I want to pass on is a change in building plans. In my Christmas letter and brochure I mentioned the construction of a 144 ft. building that would contain a children’s ward and men’s ward. We already have the foundation and concrete floor completed. Funding for the children’s ward was donated so we were able to make plans for constructing that part of the building. Other construction would have to wait.
Our present maternity ward is not sufficient for the increasing number of deliveries that we now have. It is 20 years old and needs to be rebuilt but that is not possible at this time because it is in almost daily use. We are very much aware of the number ONE priority that the Ministry of Health has announced and promoted, namely the health of “mother and child” in Tanzania. Consequently we decided that in order to keep Songambele Hospital up to date and aligned with the Government Health program that we should expand the planned children’s ward into a modern fully equipped maternity ward in accordance to government specifications. We are building new so we can make it the best in the region.
In order to be assured that we do not make any mistakes in our design we asked for help in getting information from the Ministry of Health. Their directives and requirements for an approved maternity facility are rather complicated compared to just building open wards. After several weeks of waiting two experts in maternity programs found an open day in their schedule to help us. Administrator Stefano arranged transportation for Ravena Mwesiga and Scalion Miyanga from Mwanza to Songambele Hospital. We spent many hours at the site and in our new reception room talking and doodling trying to get a rough floor design for all of the working rooms and wards for the women and children. Just to mention a few requirements, we have to include in our design at least two delivery rooms, numerous antenatal , postnatal and neonatal rooms, a nurses’ station, sluice room, linen and medicine rooms, toilets and changing rooms. Another major requirement is that we have to include in construction is an operating theater for c-sections and complicated deliveries. We will construct the special operating room now along with changing, scrubbing and utility rooms. Equipment such as an anaethesia machine, lights, suction machines, diathermy, operating table etc. may have to wait unless we can get sufficient funding to fully equip the maternity ward. With a fully equipped maternity facility Songambele would really be an A1 hospital.
We cannot start building until the design is complete so we are using this break in the rainy weather to haul sand that rains brought in to the Isakalyamhela creek 4 miles away. We are also hauling limestone gravel from a field that we purchased only 2 miles away. We have also hauled in loads of hand broken granite gravel. We are blessed to have an Escorts tractor with front end loader and back hoe. Without it we would not be able to easily provide these necessary materials for building. Great news is that we have now added a jack hammer to the back hoe for breaking rocks when we need them. Blessings come in many forms!
Tomorrow, Friday, I will try to gather together all of the information we now have and try to put pieces together in a logical flowing order. Then I can start the difficult task of drawing a final design for one of the most difficult buildings that we have designed and built. Wish I was in Dallas, TX with my architect friend Southern Ellis using his magic computer program. I pray that the Holy Spirit guides my pencil.
(P.S. Prayer was answered. The floor plan is complete and we are building as I write this note on 04 Jan ’19. I sent this letter some time ago but apparently it did not get there. Anyway it will soon be in your hands with plenty of pictures)
Our estimate for the cost of the children’s ward was $125,000 with beds, lighting etc. The additional rooms, medical equipment, infrastructure etc to complete the project may well be nearly twice that amount. If by any miracle donations exceed estimates there is no problem as to where money will go. We still have many buildings to construct. As you know from my Christmas letter, brochure and talks we pray that in 2019 we will be able to complete a house for hospital volunteers coming from the overseas and places like Bugando Referral Hospital. There is also a demand for private rooms. We pray that we will be able to at least build the first of three units. A nursing school for registered nurses is a necessity for a hospital here in Tanzania. A school is a major project and very expensive. Consequently it is in the dream stage for us but not for God.
As we all know, good medical equipment costs are very high. Our costs go up due to overseas shipping for some items. We have to look at the results, namely lives saved. The loss of a baby or a mother in childbirth is a tragedy anywhere in the world. We see firsthand that sorrow and helplessness. Yet tragedies happen. However will be in the front line to avoid as many heartbreaks as we possibly can.
That’s it for today. We have opened the field and will proceed with the harvest as the grain ripens. The field is big so we have to move as quickly as possible. More and more people are coming to us for help, some traveling long distances after hearing of the welcome and care received at Songambele hospital. Let us “Songambele” move forward – together. Check our website roadstolifetanzania.org
Prayerful wishes for Good Health and a Blessed New Year.