In 2019 our trustees have enthusiastically visited Amani Centre to meet the Amani community, visit the community based projects and entrepreneurial activities. The visiting trustees have been Barbara Bristow and Bridget & Leslie Green in June and August respectively. Barbara also visited in February 2019 and Ed Holden in May.
As a FOAT trustee and also as someone who has just relocated from Morogoro after 16 years I know Amani well! I have regularly popped into the centre on spontaneous visits and love the happy hum that resonates from the physio room. It is hard to describe how crucial the CBR programme is at the centre in Chamwino. On any given Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the faithful community worker Thobias uses his very basic physio skills to give therapy to children with cerebral palsy and to show their mothers or carers how to continue these exercises at home. To me, one of the most powerful impacts of the physio room is the social support it creates for the carers. Suddenly, a child with disability ceases being an obstacle to social interaction or a source of shame, but rather becomes the gateway into friendship and peer support.
The great thing about Amani is that it is a provision to the whole community and not just chronically learning disabled children. Dennis (adjacent image) was an active happy 7- year old at primary school when he had a devastating stroke last year following a sickle cell crisis. He suffered profound hemiplegia and loss of his speech. I advised his bewildered mum to take him along to Amani - he has been going weekly for months and has thrived there and learned step-by-step to walk again.
None of what of what goes here could, by UK standards be described as sophisticated. But it is a gem of a place and there is nothing else quite like it. There is no government provision for these families or any safety net to catch them as they free- fall into entrenched poverty. All children are welcomed here and Amani families are encouraged to contribute a charge of what is about 40p towards the service. That might seem like peanuts, but it is significant: 40p could buy a 1kg bag of maize flour and feed 4 people. But expecting parents to pay for this service does two things: it helps to cover costs and also attributes a sense of dignity and worth to the activity. It means a cash strapped parent is saying to their child ‘you are worth it and your life matters’.
Ed visited Amani Centre this year for the first time since December 2006. Ed first visited Amani Centre in 2005 for six months on a gap year placement. Among the more formative visits to the community based activities, Ed was interested to see how much Morogoro has progressed over the last decade.
Ed particularly focused the short visit on the Mvomero Centre and activities related to funds stemming from the Helena Memorial Fund (HMF) monies. Ed had originally volunteered with Helena in 2005 so there was a personal element to the visit in this respect.
At the Mvomero Centre buildings had been rebuilt following the December 2018 storm and had been made possible with the FOAT emergency appeal over the winter 2018/19. In addition to this, the Mvomero milling machine was broke (since March) and a diagnosis and repair pricing exercise was conducted by Amani Centre during his stay. The machine was found to require a new motor and 'hammer mill' components, which had largely been due to the machines use over a long period of time.
Ed took £390 of HMF monies to assist Father Beatus with the purchase of a washing machine. The machine will be transformative for the time and productivity of the hard working youth of Amani Centre, who to date have had to hand wash large volumes of clothes. Amani Centre look after many orphaned or otherwise disadvantaged babies, who alone generate a lot of washing needs. The washing machine will free up time for the youth to focus on other supportive activities that are core to the Amani Centre mission.
The preferred washing machine was automatic requiring an automatic water feed rather than one that requires water to be poured in, the latter of which would have been far cheaper. This was the best solution according to him and would provide additional clean water storage via a new accompanying 3,000 litre water tank. When Ed left Amani Centre on the 15th May the concrete base for the water tank was done. By the time Barbara visits in June 2019, the washing machine system should be installed and be beginning to have a very positive effect.
Ed collected 6 bags from the group that had been 'ordered' in the UK via FOAT. The group were pleased to assist and the growth of internet usage in Tanzania could see the group experience more demand.
At the farm Ed met old friends and was shown around the activities; maize production; bee keeping; animal husbandry; the mango orchard and water storage. The latter was a concern due to the very late wet season and the largest tank was very low.
A service engineer came on the wet Friday Ed was at Mvomero. He identified two main faults; the electric motor had burned out and the mill itself had worn components of now differing sizes, which was causing aggressive vibrations.
The 'Hammer Mill' parts of the milling machine need to be equal size for the machine to be balanced whilst it rotates. Excessive vibrations, associated with a lack of balance have caused damage to parts of the machine.
The wet season was late - it started at the end of April when it can 'normally' be expected in February. The heavy rain affected plans to visit other areas in Mvomero such as the Mpapa-Msufini Dispensary.
When Ed left Amani the concrete base was done for the water tank that will feed the new washing machine. The new tank and machine will be a great help for the youth who have so many clothes to wash each day.
This was Bridget and Leslie’s eleventh visit to Amani in twelve years. They have watched Amani grow and change in the years since they have been coming. Apart from the significant structural changes that took place in 2012 following the transition from Mama Bakhita’s to Fr Beatus’ leadership, this was the visit that they observed most change.
Strong leadership with a supportive and committed community of ‘workers’ has been key to Amani’s continued growth and development. Despite the setbacks brought about by serious health issues of the Father Beatus (Director of Amani), the Bishop Mkude and Joyce, (Head of the Amani Cafe) in the period from August 2017, and the loss of the experienced Head of Daycare (Constancia) to a role outside Amani, the community had continued to provide the much needed services albeit without some of its key workers.
Emmanuel’s formal appointment as Assistant Director in October 2017 and Fr Beatus’ improving health and gradual return to work in early 2018 were cause for celebration by both Amani and FOAT. News of the Bishop’s improved health and Joyce’s return during Bridget and Leslie’s visit (after a year’s absence) brought further good news and cause for celebration. Some key observations from their visit are outlined and illustrated below.
The extensive outreach work brought about by the Ecumenical Project has led to more disabled coming to stay at Amani for various periods of time, some together with their mothers, others orphaned. This puts an ever increasing strain on Amani’s very limited resources, despite this, Amani has adapted its buildings at Chamwino, creating a room for six cots with a side room for one of the Masista (trainee nuns) to care for the disabled babies
Bridget and Leslie witnessed the challenges Amani was facing following the loss of experienced and committed staff in Daycare. With limited staffing, the group was confined to one classroom. It was encouraging though to learn of plans to recruit new teaching staff and helpers for this valuable service.
Bridget and Leslie were pleased to see Tobias continuing to take the lead, working tirelessly and very committed. He has trained Sijali Omari (Amani Community Worker) and one of the volunteers on placement to assist. The biggest challenge is the need to repair the three standing frames and if possible purchase two more so that more children can use these at the same time. FOAT has assisted in providing a financial contribution for this.
They noted mango trees had just been sprayed to stop the flowers dropping and were expected to produce a good crop in December. This is one of a number of entrepreneurial income generating initiatives by Amani Centre.
They admired the progress made in farming despite the challenges of the harsh environment where water is scarce and mains electricity is still awaited. The large water pit, concreted after their visit last year, served the animal and crop needs through to the end of May.
This project began in February 2018, funded by a grant of £10,000 secured from the Anglican Communion Fund (ACT). The ESEP project focussed on the settlements at Tunguli and Chalinze. The ecumenical group identified eight groups of families of disabled in each settlement, each group elected two members to attend a one-week training at Amani. Thereafter the groups selected a project for which start up funds and on-going support was given by the Ecumenical Working Group.
Bridget and Leslie met the groups, the furthest of which was a Masai community which had chosen to enhance their goat herd. All groups seemed to be doing well, had ideas on expansion and one had already started a ‘VECOBA’ (Microbank).
The main reason for this visit was a response by FOAT to news of the illness of the Amani Director, Fr Beatus. Professor Ken took the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive review of Amani’s activities, make recommendations for the development of some of these and identified priorities for FOAT funding.
The visit coincided with new funding for Amani generated by FOAT:
Professor Ken also met with Morogoro-based Trustee, Cathy Swanson to discuss Amani business. Cathy was able to confirm her commitment to make weekly visits to Amani in the coming months.
Discussions took place at various levels about the initiation of the Mvomero Co-curriculum project following an indication by a UK Trust – Fonthill – of their interest in funding this innovative educational project.
During Professor Ken’s visit, Emmanuel, specialist teacher and volunteer at Amani was confirmed by the Vicar General (Fr Patrick) as Temporary Director of Amani.
The photos below show some of the activites at Amani Centre that Ken visited among other.
It was suggested that the area outside the café could be the focus of a ‘courtyard project’ - replanting vegetables; repainting and lighting; a round tables and chairs. If replenished, in the evenings this could be a very nice green space to sit with a meal and a drink.
Physiotherapy is conducted to a high standard given the resources and levels of expertise available. However, there is a shortage of equipment (e.g. repairs are required to two standing frames) and more are also needed. Ken met the fundi from Morogoro who estimated the costs of providing repairs for FOAT to potentially fund. It is also recommended that there is a marked increase in the amount of training for all Amani workers in basic physiotherapy exercises because of its importance.
Ken attended a total of four home visits. These currently function largely as social visits supported by the provision of small gifts for the family - important but insufficient. A new home visit form was trialled. This worked well because it provided a written record of the details of the visit; encouraged more checking, talking and with a focus on recording follow-up actions. It is strongly suggested that the form be adopted for all upcoming home visits, after having been translated into Swahili and the questions reviewed by the CBR Team.
The good news is that the Mpapa/Msufini dispensary project has commenced with the foundations having been dug during the visit.
The farm is producing grains, raising cows, pigs and chickens. It also has a milling machine that is used by local farmers and which provides a modest source of income and ‘pomba’ for the animals. The farm is producing grains, raising cows, pigs and chickens. The farm provides both food for the residents and bring in funds and has potential for higher levels of production now that a regular piped water supply has been secured.
This is a well-run farm that produce grains, fruits and rears dairy cows, goats, chickens and rabbits. It has nearly completed a dam which could alleviate its water problem. We agreed that Mikese should, for the time being, focus on animal rearing with the aim of growing a viable dairy herd. Good prices are to be had for milk and meat. There is also no reason why rabbits could not also be reared at Mvomero and Chamwino.
Trustees Bridget and Leslie Green made a visit to Amani in September 2016. The purpose and aims of this friendly visit was to:
Below are some of the pictures and a video clip of their visit.