In June 2013, a Friends of Imiliwaha delegation of 3 women headed across the ocean to visit Tanzania. (They paid for their own travel.)
Sister Helen Jilek, OSB, her sister-in-law Julia Jilek, and Diane Nilan left Chicago on June 1 and returned June 24.
Sister Afra Mgwama, OSB, guided the TZ trio, and the Sisters of St. Gertrude provided extraordinary hospitality and more!
-photo (C) Diane Nilan 2013
Click on the Vimeo link for a 3 minute slide show of the recent FOI Imiliwaha visit.
The trio were greeted by Sister Afra and Friends Of Imiliwaha friend, Upendo, cousin of Sister Beatrice. Travel to Imiliwaha was much more arduous than travel in the U.S., but with help from the FOI network, they arrived at the impressive "campus" of the Benedictine Sisters in Imiliwaha.
Spending a week in Imiliwaha gave the travelers tremendous insight into the self-sufficient operation that includes a secondary school and dorm for over 400 girls, an orphanage for 40+ little ones, a clinic for area residents, vocational education, and shops for woodworking, candlemaking, shoes, vestment, altar bread (including the wheat processing), printing, plus extensive gardens and animals that provide food. Sisters staff and oversee all of this and more.
While the FOI delegates were at Imiliwaha, another team from the U.S. arrived. Dr. Karen Maloney and a crew of 6 came, loaded with medical supplies and enrichment toys, to spend the week in service. They screened all the Sisters for hypertension and diabetes, providing equipment for each convent to use for periodic testing throughout the year. Sisters with abnormal levels of blood pressure or sugar received medicine for the year.
Additionally, this super-team converted 2 rooms in the orphanage complex to provide developmental opportunities for the children. Each orphan was screened and their vitals recorded. Their basic medical needs were also met.
A sad event...one of the Sisters died following a stroke she suffered earlier. Her funeral provided another look at the ritual surrounding death, quite different from that in the U.S.
After a week, Sister Afra and her 3 visitors set off for the journey to Sumbawanga, where she is overseeing the building of a school.