Accounting, teaching, & church work in Shirati

Sunset over the lake.
Sunset over the lake.

On Tuesday we drove to Shirati to meet Ida Short, Jared Zook, and Daniel Graber who are living and volunteering in Shirati, a town on Lake Victoria in north Mara. We arrived in time for lunch of chipsi mayai (eggs with french fries)at the hospital canteen  and caught up with the students on their recent lives.

We stayed at the Mennonite Church Diocese offices where there are rooms available for guests.  We greeted Bishop John Nyagwegwe and his staff and enjoyed an afternoon catching up with the students, playing at the church’s playground and reading journals!

In the evening we went to Ida’s home for dinner – she lives with Dr. Opanda and his wife and daughter (Dr. Opanda works at Shirati Hospital). Ida’s supervisor, Pastor Achoro and his wife, joined us for dinner too. With typical Tanzanian hospitality we were soon full with ugali, rice, fish, beef, bananas, and fresh avocado juice. It is obvious that Ida is part of the family and they have welcomed her as one of their own!

Wednesday morning we ate breakfast at the Diocese cafeteria, then joined the pastors, staff, and leaders for morning devotions at the dioceses offices. Ida has been an active participant in the morning devotions from 8-9 a.m. every day at the church offices. After devotions, we toured the Compassion International Shirati offices, where Ida has been volunteering supervised by Pastor Achoro. The Shirati office serves about 230 children from surrounding villages who receive financial support from individuals around the world. Monthly support allows the provision of food, clothes, school fees and occasional gifts. The children receive and write letters to their supporting families once every two months.  Additionally, the children come to the Mennonite Church compound every Saturday for food, help with their studies, and music. Ida has been helping the students practice piano on the weekends! Ida has also been helping in the office, logging data and keeping track of the student records.

At around 10:00 a.m. we walked the short trek to Zappe Kindergarten School, where Jared teaches. Zappe is a private kindergarten with about 70 children who walk from their homes each morning for school. Jared teaches every day from 8:00-12:00, after which the students walk home for lunch. Using Swahili, he has been teaching and assisting in math, language, and writing. The children are eager learners and love teacher Jared – they greeted him at the gate, and walked him the whole way home at lunch break! All around town we were greeted by Jared’s children as they shouted out to him from a distance.  Jared has been working with principal Mama Jude and the other teachers at the school and has really enjoyed those collaborations.

In the afternoon we went to Daniel’s home for lunch.  Daniel lives with Mama and Baba Kawira on the SHED compound.  SHED is a non-profit community development organization developed and run by his Baba Manaen Kawira and Josiah Kawira (Manaen’s brother). SHED stands for Shirati Health Education & Development Foundation and the organization works to improve various aspects of life in Shirati and surrounding villages. Daniel, an accounting major, has been working with SHED to teach them Quick Books, an accounting software program.  He works 8-5 each day transferring old files into the new database and helping SHED prepare reports for donors and auditors.  The Kawira’s couldn’t be happier with Daniel’s work!

After an amazing lunch with Baba Kawira, we toured the SHED offices and compound.  This allowed us a few hours of afternoon rest before heading to the Magati home for dinner, Jared’s host family. Josiah Magati also works with SHED in addition to managing EMBLEN, which is a health research organization on the SHED compound funded by the Cancer Society in the U.S. Their research goal is to understand if there is a connection between Burkitt’s lymphoma and malaria infections in the population of children around Shirati. Esther Kawira (GC graduate!) is in charge of the medical side of the research. Esther also runs her own clinic which serves the surrounding community.

There is a lot happening in Shirati both with the church and SHED. We are fortunate that our students have had the chance to be part of this community!

– Ryan for the team