Feeling the Love in Igoma
Testimonies speak volumes for Town’s SIP initiatives in East Africa
SIP Tanzania Chair Prisca Houle (far left), SIP Chair Justin Kerswill , SIP Tanzania Treasurer Leonard Mboya and I-CARE Director Moses Hosea stand in front of a large rain water catch tank donated by SIP as part of their sustainable schools program.
SIP Board member Kaitlin Richardson with Michael Samwel, a child in the
Children in Igoma often take on care giving roles at an early age, carrying younger children on their backs.
By Justin Kerswill, Special to the Stouffville Free Press
Justin Kerswill is the Chair of the Stouffville Igoma Partnership, which was founded in 2003 to provide support and build connections with Igoma in Tanzania, East Africa.
I have visited Igoma six times beginning with my first trip in 2005. It is always refreshing to return as it is a powerful reminder of how so many people in the world live.
There is noticeable growth in Igoma on every trip but even as the population escalates and industry expands the needs are still very evident. Unemployment, hunger, sickness and little opportunities for education are all very visible challenges these people face. You see little children with even smaller children on their backs, taking on care giving roles at such a young age, you see torn clothes, visible ailments and the poorest of living conditions as you deliver and hang mosquito nets in mud block houses around the village. While one can easily become overwhelmed from the sight of this kind of poverty, the smiling faces of those young and old walking the streets, the welcome call of “Karibu!” from houses and local vendors always reminds me of the beauty of our town’s partnership with Igoma.
As many know, the Town of Stouffville officially partnered with Igoma over 10 years ago as can be seen on the signs at the east and west entrances of Stouffville on Main Street. Since our inception in 2006, we have employed dozens of locals to work at our Igoma clinic which is now equipped with a maternity ward. Once we finish the construction and furnishing of our minor theatre, it will obtain hospital status, greatly extending the range of medical care for the community.
Stouffville donors and travellers to Igoma have handed out over 1500 mosquito nets to protect residents against malaria. We sponsor 50 students in Igoma with financial aid for secondary school as well as 10 for vocational training. Lastly, we have a child sponsorship program that supports 108 families. Furthermore, we have partnered with other organizations to ship educational supplies, medicine and medical equipment, and have supported the construction of rain water catch systems at three Igoma schools.
On our most recent trip a few months ago a team of eight people travelled to Igoma for two weeks. The presence of Mayor Altmann and his wife Jenny afforded us many great opportunities to meet with politicians and new friends of SIP. It was another incredible experience to see the team’s reaction to the needs they encountered. Everyone was quick to give above and beyond their commitment to work in order to help individuals they met along the way.
Hearing the testimonies of caregivers enrolled in the I-CARE program in Igoma talk with tears in their eyes and big beautiful smiles about how the support of $30/month has saved their lives was more than enough motivation to continue on with the work of SIP. Though the Chair’s responsibilities can feel endless at times, I am so grateful for this responsibility and the ongoing commitment of the board and greater community to uphold our partnered community of Igoma. Anyone from the community is encouraged to volunteer to join hands with us and make a difference.
For additional information on the SIP program, visit: sipartnership.org