Waking up to a 3 a.m. phone call on Monday, October 12, Tammi Murray saw a Ugandan phone number flash across the screen. Thinking that it was probably one of her Ugandan friends placing the call by accident, she ignored the call, and resolved to go back to sleep.
The phone rang again. This time, awake enough to realize what day it was and who it was likely to be, she answered, “Hello? Is this Charlene?” Charlene Turner, Executive Director of Solar Light for Africa (www.solarlightforafrica.org) had called to let her know that she had reached the village (Kajumiro). “I’m standing on top of a mountain with Fr. Reuben,” she said. She had called to confirm that she had our blessing to proceed with a change in the plan for the solar installation at Nyakishenyi Catholic Health Centre.
“Please do the installation as they wish.” Even not quite awake, one thing was clear – the Parish had progressed far enough on the new ward to now request this change. It was a decisive moment. We may not like to admit it, but too often we want to be in control, thinking that we know what is best. Too often, we want to follow our plan. We are reminded in the Catholic Relief Services Parish Partnership Manual to “Follow their agenda, not yours.”
The solar project has been providential from the beginning. On a flight into Entebbe from Dubai last winter, the flight attendant was asking a woman, “What brings you to Entebbe?” “I install solar power on health clinics,” the woman said. When the flight attendant had moved on, introductions were made.
During the visit to the Health Centre on that trip, Tammi told Fr. Reuben Mubangizi, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church, Nyakishenyi Parish, and the Health Centre staff about the woman that she had met on the plane and asked if solar power was something that the Health Centre would be interested in. Although everyone agreed that they would like it, the priority at the time was moving forward with construction of a maternity ward. A solar project would be placed on the back burner.
This past Spring, our first delegation visited our Sister Parish. The group consisted of a young couple, Cody and Stephanie Stinnett, Joetta Dixon, and Tammi Murray. The team visited the Health Centre and delivered a duffel bag of medical supplies donated by Star of the Sea parishioners and others, along with blankets, bed nets, and soap purchased with funds donated by another parishioner.
As in the prior year, Tammi asked the staff at the Health Centre about their needs. Topping the list were a microscope, a refrigerator, delivery beds, mattresses with covers, delivery kits, and a motorcycle. Turning to Fr. Reuben, Tammi questioned her understanding of the priorities discussed the prior year to determine where these smaller items might fall. Knowing that even the priest’s house did not have sufficient electricity to support a refrigerator and understanding that a refrigerator for medication and vaccines was one of the items most needed by the Health Centre, Tammi asked Fr. Reuben if they wished to prioritize the solar project over the construction of the maternity ward. His answer was yes.
The small Solar Light for Africa team, comprised of Charlene, her contractor, Timothy, and her technician, Charles, completed installation of solar panels, lighting, and a refrigerator on Tuesday, October 13. The Health Centre currently provides services to about 400 people and delivers about 7 babies per month. It is anticipated that the installation of the lighting will increase deliveries by about 40%, which will help reduce the infant mortality rate in the area.
We are continuing to fundraise for the construction of the maternity ward. The total cost of the project is estimated at $28,000. If you would like to help make a difference in maternal health care in Nyakishenyi Parish, you can make a donation by placing a check with “Sister Parish-Healthcare” in Memo and placing it in the Sunday Collection or by making a donation online.
In addition to our projects to help improve healthcare in our Sister Parish, we are continuing to fundraise for our water projects. At our Dessert Auction we introduced “Tank Teams.” Each Tank Team is comprised of individuals, families, classes, or groups who join together to raise $300 per month, which will fund a rainwater storage system in one year. Each team will be paired with a community in our Sister Parish. Teams are encouraged to reach out to that community in prayer and through correspondence.
We are hoping to fill Team #1 by October 31, 2015. The community that this team will connect with is called Nyabishaki. Nyabishaki is situated on a hill at one of the furthest points from Parish Centre. Because the community is on a hill, the nearest water source is about an hour and a half walk down the hill. This community was the recipient of a rainwater storage system installed by Ugandan Water Project in November 2013. Although this new water system is of great benefit to the community, the 10,000 litre tank only has the capacity to provide clean water for about 400 people, about half of the population in the area. Won’t you join us in bringing clean water to this community?
If you would like to learn more about our Sister Parish Ministry, please see our Facebook page or ask to join our email distribution list. If you have questions, would like to get involved, or would like to join a Tank Team, please contact Tammi Murray at (360) 990-0900 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.