Neema Market in Iringa

6-18-10 / John: Day two in Iringa. Iringa is the largest city near our village, Ikengeza, thus, Ikengeza is in the Iringa Diocese (as we are a part of the St. Paul Area Synod). Today the mzungus (white people) from Oakdale, MN visited the market downtown. Imagine a Wal-Mart with all its retail goods moved out into the parking lot and down the street in every direction. Now imagine hundreds of vendors specializing in each type of item: electronics, clothing, cleaning supplies, auto parts, bread, fruits, fish, you name it they got it. Nathan was especially taken aback by the strong odor of dried anchovies, piled high as the eye can see. There were huge mounds of these tiny, dried minnows for sale, as well as other smoked fish, rice and produce.

We are staying at the Lutheran Center in Iringa. It is a very nice guest house with plenty of amenities – nice hot showers were a welcome sight after the long journey to get here! They have us in three rooms. Nathan and I are staying in the Bishop’s guesthouse, which includes a small lounge off to one side. It is cold at night here in Iringa and very mild in the daytime. No humidity here to speak of. We have been watching some of the world cup soccer games after hours, and have mosquito nets over our beds as a precaution (though I have only seen one mosquito since our arrival).

Neema: The highlight of my day was our visit to the Neema Craft Store and Guesthouse. The Neema Center is a place that employs people with special needs as artisans and cooks. Andy Hart was our host. He is one of the directors of this not-for-profit organization that provides a myriad of opportunities for people with developmental disabilities in Tanzania.

Solar panels: In some villages 1/3 of personal income goes to buy kerosene to light lamps at night. Children have been held back in school because in the villages where there is no electricity and the kerosene has run out, they cannot study after dark. Teachers, also, have had trouble leading their classes, having been exposed to late nights breathing kerosene fumes and developing sore throats. Neema has introduced solar panels (about the size of an iPad 8×12 inches) that will charge a battery in the sun and can be used to power radios, electric light bulbs and cell phone chargers. These seem to be the main needs of people in remote areas. The Masai are even using them to ward off wild animals in the bush country, so fewer warriors need to stay awake at night. A simple flash of light has proven as effective as a spear in warding off predators. This program will be featured in an upcoming issue of National Geographic.

Hidden away: Probably the most startling realization we had today was the challenges faced by families with children with developmental disabilities. The local language groups nouns in two categories: 1) inanimate objects like tables and chairs; and 2) objects with blood (living things). The word for people with disabilities is in the first category. This means many families hide away children born with birth defects (an estimated 15% of the population) and they have no opportunity to go to school and contribute to society. There is no health care for these children either. The Masai say they have no children like this. This is because, historically, the Masai have left such children in the bushes for the wild animals. Neema is changing all of this, one child at a time, by bringing hope to families who cannot afford physical therapy. Those who are deaf, blind or developmentally challenged now have an opportunity to contribute to society and find dignity.

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One Comment on “Neema Market in Iringa”

  1. Pat Hurlbutt Says:

    This really is a fascinating way to keep up with your trip, even the gory details about dried anchovies. I am especially struck by the sad situation with the special needs children. Thanks to all for your postings.


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