Greetings from Dana in Dar es Salaam, where I have been placed with Tujijenge Tanzania! In this past month, it’s been exciting to see the initial partnership form between Tujijenge Tanzania and Kiva, as they work together to provide loans to their clients. My officemates get so excited when they see all the different profiles on the Kiva website of people from all over the world who have become lenders to their clients. My translator/partner and I have now completed over 30 interviews of entrepreneurs, 26 of which have already been posted online and their loans completely raised. It’s truly amazing how fast people respond on the Kiva website– loan amounts being raised in hours, even minutes. I am currently fascinated by the Kiva model– how individuals around the world are brought together online– and wonder if it could be expanded to serve other areas of need besides microfinance.
A week ago Saturday, I visited an oncology hospital with the women from my church community group, which has been meeting weekly for Bible study. I found the hospital, which is located next to the president’s palace, to be a place of little hope. Because it is a referral center where patients come from all over the country when rejected by local hospitals (which don’t have the means to treat or often even diagnose the cancer), the patients come during the last stages of their life. By the time they reach this hospital, their cancer has generally spread all over the body and is irrevocable.
During our 2 hour visit, I spent my time in the children’s ward where 20 beds were lined single file against the two walls. I tried talking to the kids and their mothers with my limited Swahili as I sat with them on their beds (single beds that are each shared by two patients and their two mothers every night). Many of the children had lost an eye (left uncovered) due to lymphoma and had other such cancer treatment remnants. The ones with any energy left in their bodies enjoyed our small gift of a pencil and notebook. I took turns drawing pictures with a girl named Vicky, around 9-years-old. They were all so precious.
In my opinion, the hospital lacks the equipment and resources it should have primarily due to financial priorities. With so much need in Tanzania, this hospital is left with not enough beds, medicine, and basic machinery– although it is the primary oncology hospital in the country! The machine that checks electrolytes has been broken for 2 years and has yet to be repaired, which would cost about 2 million shillings (about $1,800). The machine that should work to position people properly for radiotherapy has yet to be bought, thus leaving the patients with unnecessary side effects such as intestinal and bone marrow decay. The situation is that at this hospital, even if more clients were to receive proper treatment and prolong their lives even by a few extra months or weeks, there would be no room for them anyway. Since the clients are literally on their deathbed, who can blame anyone for the prevailing attitude that money could be spent better elsewhere.
I left the hospital depressed, but also inspired. There are people out there who care about injustice and often don’t know how to tangibly help. Maybe in the future, the Kiva model– through the use of the internet– will prove to bring more awareness of ways they/we can get involved with issues that may feel so distant.