Life Centers in Operation
The concept for WorldServe Life Centers in sub-Saharan Africa was first put theory into practice in Loiborsoit, Tanzania, a village of approximately 5,000 Maasai people. This tribe – known for their bright red clothing, rich cultural heritage and a pastoral way of life (raising cattle) – was challenged by health services more than two days walk away and a critical lack of clean water to exacerbate preventable, though often life-threatening, illness.
Working in concert with village and church leaders, we outlined the health, educational and water needs, beginning by building a clinic on land they provided. During a preliminary medical clinic lasting four days, teams of doctors saw 2,000 people, including children and adults on the brink of death from waterborne illness, children with STDs, blinding eye infections caused by flies (and preventable through hand washing), and countless respiratory infections.
As our relationships deepened, it became clear that the main water source for the village was inadequate. Returning for a water and sanitation project, we were provided property near the clinic site and began to plan for the Life Center now taking shape. Working together to provide an array of services through the Life Center at Loiborsoit, our goal is to reduce suffering and improve lives through clean water, improved health care, improved education, while preserving their rich culture and heritage.
A model for other villages to follow, we look forward to establishing other Life Centers throughout Tanzania and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
GIDAMILANDA, TANZANIA (Near Lake Eyasi)
In the gospels, Jesus talks about taking the good news to “the ends of earth”. Places like this are remote, forgotten and far beyond the reach of modernity, but they have a name and a face. One such placed that has touched our hearts is called Gidamilanda. It is a community of people in Tanzania known as the Datooga (duh-TOE-ga).
The Datooga are considered “primitive” not only by Western standards, but also by East African standards. The statistics prove how far the Datooga are from development: 99 percent of the people are illiterate. Nearly 50 percent of children die before reaching the age of 5.
The Datooga, traditionally a nomadic tribe, have now retreated to the most remote, and unwanted area in order to take care of their cattle. Land is no longer available as it once was. As they moved between locations, their former location became occupied by another tribe, or development. This situation has forced them to become stationary, only moving their cattle during the dry season.
During the dry season, women and children remain at their homesteads, often in areas where there is no access to water, food or any medical care. They wait for their family members to come back once a month to check on them.
The Datooga population is estimated between 200,000 and 250,000 across Tanzania. They live in small pockets of 500 to 1000 in their settlements. Among the Datooga there are 12 sub-tribes, each with their own language, which also contributes to their status as an unreached tribe.
The Datooga of Gidamilanda and the surrounding areas have NO access to any health care within a two-day walk. When someone gets sick, by the time the family realizes the need for medical attention it is most often too late. Dolfi, our missionary partner in Gidamilanda, has witnessed many deaths, most commonly of children, elderly people and women giving birth. On several occasions while taking a sick person to the hospital, because of the distance and terrible road, people have died on the way to the hospital or even before the vehicle can get to their house.
The Datooga need a basic clinic. With access to medical professionals and life-saving medicines, people will not wait so long for health care, children will not die so quickly and many lives will be saved! The women especially, who have few rights, will know that even with their spouse far away, they can quickly get their children to the doctor before the illness gets critical. They can get medical attention that might cost as little as $1.00 to treat their child as opposed to the later, larger expenses that might require they sell a valuable cow and death is still the result for their child.
WorldServe is working to demonstrate compassion with the sick and the poor in a tangible way.
Women and children are the ones who have historically suffered the most. A clinic tugs at the hearts of women whose concern is of the birth of her child, or the welfare of her child. This is a very important since the women are the spiritual leaders (or rather guardians) of all the traditional beliefs of the Datooga.
We have already provided a clean, safe source of water in Gidamilanda, and now we are building the clinic. We will continue with our Life Center strategy to transform Gidamilanda with real help and real hope.