Church group’s first mission ‘wonderful experience’

Building the wall for the new classrooms at the school
Building the wall for the new classrooms at the school

MISSION volunteers from North Mundham and Hunston have helped with a project to build a secondary school in a remote village in Tanzania.

The team of 13 parishioners from St Stephen’s Church in North Mundham and St Leodegar’s Church in Hunston went on the 19-day mission trip to Ibumu with Emmanuel International.

One of the children's puppet shows

One of the children's puppet shows

The community helped them raise £15,800 to fund the mission, so a special presentation evening was held recently to explain more about the project following the group’s return.

Lynn Mears, church administrator, said: “This is the first time we have ever done something like this and we were the first group to go to the village, they had never had visitors like that before.

“It was better and more than we ever expected. We got so much out of it. We knew we were going to help them but we got at least as much out of it as they did.”

Emmanuel International, based in Chichester, has been working with the village for about a year with a stoves project and when the mission was suggested, the Ibumu community was asked what they would like done.

Sue Fallon, general manager and team leader, said: “The idea is to come in and encourage them and work with them. It took a couple of months of talking to the community about what they would like and what the priority was.

“The Government recently changed the law to say they cannot have a school without a lab. It is quite a challenge for them to get the classrooms built. They were really happy with the idea of us helping.”

Lynn said they group was pleased with what they achieved, working alongside local builders.

“We did a lot more than we thought we would. We got the classrooms up to window height and started on the inside walls. We worked alongside villagers to show them what could be done.”

Linda Fitzmaurice explained that it all started a couple of years ago, when she was working with the youth group at the church.

“We wanted to get the children involved in some way with the mission as they had been raising funds. When they came to the age of 17, we said this is the chance. We ended up with seven of the team being 17-year-olds.”

As well as helping to build the school, the team worked with the children, organising activities like puppet shows, Bible stories and games.

Heather Hayward said: “It was a wonderful experience. We learned a Swahili song before we went and sang in their church services. It was wonderful to watch their dances.

“It was very hard work. The women had to work in skirts, we weren’t allowed to wear trousers, and we had to have our shoulders and knees covered as that was their custom.”

The village office was turned into dormitories for the visitors and the group was surprised but delighted to find that new toilets had been built for them.

“It was still a hole in the ground but it was efficient and better than we expected,” said Heather.

Villagers showed their delight in their colourful welcome.

Linda explained: “They sang and danced each of our three cars into the compound when we arrived. It was very moving.”

The volunteers were given gifts of a stool and hand-woven basket to bring home for the church, as well as live chickens and a rabbit for the group.

Linda said: “The animals were given as food for us. The parents of the children gave them to us and it was a generous gift.”

The group also brought their own gift back for the community, a hand-crafted Nativity set, to thank them for their support.

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