Why Mara keeps on calling her back

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ORIEL Kelly first visited Tanzania in 1996 - and she just can’t stop going back.

Now assistant link officer, Oriel has just made her tenth visit to the Wakefield diocese’s twin parish of Mara. It’s a link that has resulted in new friendships being made and practical help being given to one of the poorest and remotest regions on earth.

On her recent trip Oriel, a member of St John’s Church, Rastrick, was accompanied by Pat Lee, also from St John’s, who was making her first visit. The two women were able to see at first hand where money raised by the parishes of St John’s and St Matthew’s, Rastrick, has been spent and inspect progress on a number of projects that are improving the health, education and living conditions for people in a number of communities.

“In the time that I’ve being going, I’ve seen children grow up and big improvements to the provision of clean water in the villages,” said 69-year-old Oriel. “The big worry at all times is that the rains will fail and there won’t be enough to eat.”

Oriel, of Healey Wood Gardens, and Pat were based in the village of Nyakiswa in the Mara district where most families earn a living and provide food for themselves by subsistence farming. “People live in fairly basic mud and brick houses with corrugated roofs and travel huge distances on dust roads,” said Oriel.

The link with the Wakefield diocese was first set up in 1988. For a number of years Brighouse Rotary Club has also been closely involved and in 2008 a new project - Water for Life - was established.

The practical support has led to pumps being provided to supply villages with clean water, mosquito nets to prevent malaria, goats to enable villagers to start their own herds and obtain milk, and books for schools.

Oriel said: “Education is considered very important and the children are very eager to learn and walk for miles to get to their classrooms. One young boy we met had a two hour walk to get to school in time for the start of lessons at 7.30am. Some classes have more than 60 pupils in them and very limited resources.

“The Tanzanian government has put money into education recently but there is still much to be done. There is a great need for more books and basic equipment.”

During their visit Oriel and Pat were able to see at first hand the difference that Water for Life projects have made and attend health workshops for villagers. A new church has been built in Nyakiswa and the vicarage refurbished.

The two women stayed in small hotels and were part of a 16-person delegation from the Wakefield diocese.

“Malaria is still the biggest killer. We are trying to get across the message that it’s not enough to have one mosquito net per household, one per person is needed.

“Over the years the parishes of St John’s and St Matthew’s have helped to supply 1,500 mosquito nets to Nyakiswa.”

n Brighouse Rotary Club is hosting a concert by Gledholt Male Voice Choir at St John’s Church, Rastrick, on Saturday, March 17 at 7.30pm, with all proceeds going to the people of Nyakiswa.