St. Paul's community is committed to answering God's call to care both locally and globally. Global Missions at St. Paul’s is centered on our relationship with the people of the village of Mwitikira, Tanzania. Mwitikira is a village of about 6000 people on a high arid plain in central Tanzania. Most of the people are subsistence farmers, a very difficult life where drought is common and the soil is poor in nutrients. There is no electricity or running water in the village, situated about 40 miles along a rough, unpaved road from the parliamentary capital, Dodoma. Since 2007, St. Paul's has been partners with the village through The Carpenter’s Kids initiative. Read more on the history of St. Paul’s Involvement with The Carpenter’s Kids.
The Carpenter’s Kids in Mwitikira
Through The Carpenter’s Kids (CK), St. Paul’s provides support annually ($80 per student per year) to enable 136 orphaned children in the village to have the essentials to attend school and a chance to succeed. There are no orphanages in this part of Tanzania, so orphaned children are taken in by grandmothers, other extended family, or neighbors—already desperately impoverished families opening their hearts and homes to one more child. Often it is impossible for them to feed, clothe, and provide necessities for that child to attend school. CK participants are chosen through a careful process involving both the village and the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, which administers the program in about 100 villages throughout the diocese; Carpenter’s Kids are deemed to be the most vulnerable school-age children in the village.
Primary school (grades K-7) is tuition-free in government schools in Tanzania, but students are required to have a school uniform, a pair of shoes, and basic school supplies (a few small notebooks, pens, pencils, a ruler.) The funding also allows the primary school students to participate in the World Food Program at their school, receiving a nutritious breakfast and lunch each school day.
At the end of Standard (grade) 7 in Tanzania, students take a rigorous three-day National Exam; they must pass this test to be eligible to attend secondary school. The national pass rate is about 50%. When we began our partnership with Mwitikira, the pass rate there was about 35%; now it averages about 75%. Remarkably, the pass rate among Carpenter’s Kids in Mwitikira (students chosen because they were the most vulnerable) usually exceeds the overall pass rate for their class. Today, 56 of the 136 Carpenter’s Kids in Mwitikira are in secondary school. Tuition is required to attend government secondary schools in Tanzania and more school supplies are required. The average annual cost per student for secondary school is $200. The additional cost of secondary school is covered by a special scholarship fund administered by the Diocesan CK office in Dodoma and by designated donations from the people of St. Paul’s.
Expanding Relationships with the People of Mwitikira
When two St. Paul’s parishioners, Suzanne Johnson and Roger Whitfield, first visited Mwitikira in October 2007, they asked village leaders what the most pressing needs were, beyond those addressed directly by The Carpenter’s Kids program. The villagers identified three priorities: a new church for the Anglican parish; repairs for their deep well (or borehole) which often did not work because of a decrepit pump and engine; and desks for the primary school because two-thirds of the students had to sit on the dirt floor. In the years since that first visit, St. Paul’s has helped meet each need, as well as helping with other improvements in the village.
St. Paul’s Visits to Mwitikira
Since the initial visit from St. Paul’s parishioners in 2007, people from St. Paul’s have returned every year. While Suzanne Johnson and Roger Whitfield have been the most frequent visitors, over 20 members of St. Paul’s have visited Mwitikira. We are very fortunate that Mwitikira is one of the few villages in the Diocese of Central Tanganika that has a building adequate to serve as a guest house. Therefore, visitors to Mwitikira have the rare opportunity to actually live in the village and experience more intimately the life of the village and the church.
“Sharing Eucharist in Mwitikira is a powerful experience. Together with people of the village, we have done a lot of good projects—water, education, health, church building. We have worked and laughed and lived together. Yet the very closest connection I feel is when we gather for Eucharist. Hands and faces bear testimony to the very different lives we have led; sometimes it is heartbreaking to be so close to such hard lives. Yet we all are drawn to the table, we share the bread and wine in the common hope and affirmation that we are one in God’s family, that we are sharing together in the body and blood of Jesus and we are sent forth to do His will and work together. It is a sacred and transcendent moment when God’s spirit is palpable.”—Suzanne Johnson, St. Paul’s parishioner
Some visitors go primarily to build relationships; our former associate rector, Kate Jenkins, shadowed the village priest, Father Erasto Ndahani, during her two visits, celebrating Eucharist, baptisms, marriage, preaching, and participating in funerals.
“I experienced Mwitikira as a place where the gospel came alive; where people’s faith saturated their lives and where the beauty and pain of our shared humanity was intricately woven in a complex tapestry.”—The Rev. Kate Jenkins
Roger oversees the work on the water system; Suzanne teaches English to children and adults, and helps train and facilitates others who go to teach; Trudy Bryan began the Art Center and introduced children and adults to crayons, markers, and paints; Janet Edmundson catalogued the new library’s books. One new college graduate, Will Brooks, went first with a group of young people to teach, and returned shortly after that for almost two years as a Youth Service Corps worker at the CK office in Dodoma through the National Church. Most St. Paul’s visitors have profound, unexpected, and life-changing experiences in Mwitikira.
“The villagers in Mwitikira, as genuine of a group of people one may ever find, had made a profound impact on my life. As Father Erasto of Mwitikira so eloquently put it, ‘Here we have nothing, but we give everything.’ It would be a stretch to call the relationship that St. Paul’s Church has with Mwitikira reciprocal. I can assure you that anyone who has ever travelled to our linked village would agree with me. The villagers of Mwitikira gave me far more than I could ever offer them. It is through my experiences in Mwitikira that I found a purpose, found a deeper faith, and found home.”--Will Brooks, St. Paul’s.
Will’s mother, Susan Brooks, was so inspired by Will’s experiences, her own visit to Mwitikira, and St. Paul’s involvement with The Carpenter’s Kids that she organized a group of women to work with artisans in Mwitikira to sell their products in the US. Susan’s vision for a sustainable business in Mwitikira has become Dadas and Design. Though independent of St. Paul’s and the Diocese, Dadas and Design is evidence of the power of inspiration.
2015 Pilgrimage to Mwitikira
A group led by Suzanne Johnson will be going to Mwitikira from June 17-July 1, 2015 (some flexibility in dates may be possible.) The trip will include one week in Mwitikira (with the option of staying in Mwitikira overnight or “commuting” daily from Dodoma but staying overnight in the New Dodoma Hotel, a western style hotel.) There will also be the option of a three-night safari in the Ruaha National Park. It is also possible to visit the fascinating island of Zanzibar, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Students 12 years old--high school are welcome with a parent or other adult companion. High school graduates are welcome without an accompanying adult. Other St. Paul’s members have found this to be a remarkable experience for families to share. The trip can be shaped to accommodate the interests, talents, and limitations of each individual. The cost of the trip will vary depending on options, shared rooms, etc. but we expect the cost to be about $3000-4500 per person, including everything except personal shopping and travel related inoculations. If you are interested, please contact Suzanne Johnson // 804-201-1679 to discuss your participation. The sooner the better!
“You have to be there, you have to experience it for yourself. ‘It was life-changing’ barely sums it up. I was incredibly nervous going into this, my first overseas trip and I would be living in a village with no running water or electricity not to mention this small problem called a language barrier. Once there none of that mattered anymore because I was surrounded by the most generous people I had, and probably will ever, meet. The villagers welcomed us into their homes and their families with open hearted joy. The fact that they spoke little English wasn’t even a problem to them. I’m incredibly thankful for the chance to have had this adventure and I will be going back some day.”—Hannah Jenkins, St. Paul’s youth