When basic services are out of reach

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CLEAN drinking water, good sanitation, enough food and access to medical care - basic services that are taken for granted by most of us.

But, as Brighouse Rotary Club president Stephen Guy discovered on a recent trip, they are beyond the reach of thousands of people living in one of the poorest regions of Tanzania.

Stephen and his wife Jennifer, of Lyndhurst Road, Rastrick, were keen to see at first hand where the money raised by Rotary throughout the year was being spent - and find out where it could be spent in the future.

Brighouse Rotary Club has been involved in projects to support the village of Nyakiswa in the Mara region of Tanzania for a number of years - a link facilitated by St John’s Church, Rastrick. Oriel Kelly and Margaret Ellis, from St John’s, were also on the trip.

During a visit to Musoma the four visited a primary school, a training school and a health education centre for HIV and malaria.

“All of these had been established by the church to do the work that in other countries would be done by the state,” said Stephen. “Chronic shortage of money means they rely a great deal on the tremendous support given them by churches in the Wakefield diocese.”

The group also visited a rural agricultural centre where vital work was being done to educate farmers and villagers in how to improve crop production as well as milk yield from goats given by the Wakefield diocese.

“This project was designed to give the villagers a start in building up their own herd and the milk provided a valuable source of nutrition for undernourished children,” said Stephen.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the village of Nyakiswa - a journey on unmade roads only possible in 4x4 vehicles.

“We had heard so much about the village over the years but nothing had quite prepared us for our first sight of it. Basically it is made up of a series of mud and brick houses and the villagers eke out a living as subsistence farmers.

“As we reached the simple church in the centre of the village the warmth of the welcome was tangible and we were moved as they sang a song of welcome to us. We handed over a large supply of life-saving mosquito nets provided by the Rotary Club and St John’s - and the gratitude on the faces was a joy to behold.

“It is hard to belive that some children in the village are still dying from malaria when a mosquito net costs just £5.”

Stephen said the visit provided memories of a fascinating country which would last a long time.

“The poverty, the smiling faces of children, the unmade roads upon which children walk miles to get to school and women and children miles to collect water, all these left an unforgettable impression. When I first arrived I wondered how anything we could do would make a difference as the problems appeared to be so great.

“However, as Jennifer and I travelled round, we could see where help could best be provided. The lack of access to clean water and the threat from malaria are major problems but in our view the area where help was most needed was in education and training particularly of young women.

“The people of Nyakiswa are keen to help themselves rather than rely on handouts but lack of money is a major obstacle to progress.”

Stephen said children are taught in classes of 60 or 70 with only three or four text books be-tween them.

Young girls are learning to sew so they can earn money for their families but there is a severe shortage of sewing machines.

“We feel we can make a difference in these areas with help from the Rotary Club and Inner Wheel.

The old adage that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day but if you teach him how to fish you feed him for a lifetime is very appropriate in Tanzania.”

Recent fund-raising efforts by the Rotary Club resulted in more than £450 for mosquito nets and, through a concert with Gledholt Male Voice Choir at St John’s Church, £850 for educational projects in Nyakiswa.