I had a feeling that I had met someone rather special one day when in the staffroom one of the teachers, James Kissima, was talking to me passionately about the responsibility of teachers to do their absolute best given the sacrifice that some families make to send their students to school.
Some sell part of their shamba, or family farm, to pay school fees, which unfortunately are unavoidable despite assistance given to the school. He then went on to talk about the place where he grew up and was raised by his grandparents after his parents died.
This is a small village called Mrawi near Moshi (the closest town to Mt Kilimanjaro). Near his family home there are many widows who live in the area. They have very little and James does whatever he can to help them. Our conversation led to us going to Mrawi for a visit. We met many of the widows he had told me about. There was one lady who had some beans that she wanted to eat for dinner (a bit like broad beans) but they needed sorting before she could cook them, as they were not all edible. As her eyesight was failing, she was unable to do this for herself. James and I spent some time assisting her – quite a simple task which meant she would have something to eat that night. Some time later James informed me that she asked him if I was angry that we were delayed whilst doing that. I assured him that I definitely was not – quite the contrary.
We also visited a site where a dispensary is being built (it has been in the process of being built for ten years). On my first visit last November, things were at a standstill. It was exciting to see when we returned last weekend that some progress is being made and there were builders working to hopefully complete it, thanks to a recent donation. James told me that the dispensary will service around 10,000 villagers i.e. four villages, as there is no medical assistance for ten kilometres – a distance that many of the people are unable to travel. The next plan, James tells me, is to build a ward.
Last weekend we also visited an elderly couple who are trying to build a house made of stones to replace the one they have that is made of timber but has gaps that allows the weather through – not great for the cooler or rainy weather. The elderly man has managed to break up the stones but he has arthritis and can do this no more. They now need some sand to put between the stones. James, who has just bought a shamba so that he can feed his family and the many needy people of his village, was calculating how many bags of rice he would have to sell to buy the much-needed sand for this couple. He really believes in doing whatever he can for others with the little that he has and really puts into practice what he believes the gospel is calling him to do. Getting to know him is both a humbling and wonderful experience!