Late one afternoon on our trip in Tanzania, Rev. Corey Nelson and I split from our First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest tour group to meet Faraja School founders Don and Joanne Tolmie in our hotel lobby in Karatu. They had someone they wanted us to meet: the Rev. Robert Temba, a local Lutheran pastor.
The Faraja Foundation started by the Tolmies provides assistance to local causes outside the school, including a special ministry of Rev. Temba. In addition to his own Karatu parish, he also is assigned by the diocese to call on physically disabled people throughout a far-flung, mostly rural district.
“We give him $2 and he has to solve $2.98 worth of problems,” said Don.
Rev. Temba estimated there are nearly 380 disabled people he visits in the district. He makes his rounds on a motorbike, bringing words of support and faith to old and young alike. He sees a wide variety of afflictions, sometimes steering families with a disabled child to Faraja School to receive education they otherwise would never receive. (Read about the Faraja School here)
“I call this my parish for broken parts,” he said.
The Tolmies and Rev. Temba wanted us to go on a call with them. It had been a long, tiring day, but there was no way you could say no to Don and Joanne. They are indefatigable octogenarians and had arrived in Tanzania less than 24 hours ago on one of the many trips they make every year to Africa from North Carolina.
Rev. Temba explained many of his disabled parishioners never leave their isolated homes and the pastor is the only visitor they get. He took us to meet Emmanuel, believed to be 27 years old. It wasn’t easy.
Rev. Temba guided our driver on a 30-minute, bone-jarring, off-road trek on dirt paths, small boulders, and through washes outside Karatu. This is the small town that is a jumping off spot for safari-bound foreigners headed to Ngorongoro Crater. We traveled in the opposite direction. The land was dusty and dry, much like the harshest red clay turf found in Georgia.
Emmanuel’s home is a three-room, lean-to affair made of mud, boards, and stones. There are three pieces of furniture. One is a bed reserved for Emmanuel. It is made entirely of poles strung together to serve as the mattress and corner posts. Recently, the structure got an upgrade of a sheet metal roof to replace straw and makeshift shingles. This is helpful during rainy season.
There is a smaller, nearby lean-to structure that serves as a detached kitchen. Its roof is a tarp. The sole cooking utensil is a large pot over a small fire pit fueled by firewood. There is an outdoor toilet 50 yards away. There is no running water or power. Nighttime is simply dark; the days are hot and sunny.
Like many in Tanzania, there is no official record of Emmanuel’s existence. He is slowly disintegrating from an apparent form of polio contracted at an early age. He receives no medical attention as we know it.
Emmanuel has a doting father, but his mother, explained Rev. Temba, is an alcoholic and mostly absent. He has two brothers. There was a sister who died at a young age. She is buried in a small, rock-lined plot in the middle of the structures. The family’s seven goats frequently doze, or squat, on the grave.
Emmanuel is unable to control his body parts. His head wobbles from side-to-side, though a smile occasionally breaks through like the one you see here. Conversations were one-sided.
Every morning, his father, Ammi, carries him outside to the kitchen hut and places him on a small, chair. He is left alone for the day on this seat while his dad, on foot, goes searching for food or tasks to earn a little money. We found him sitting there when we arrived.
In the evening, Ammi carries his son into their house. The family is then joined by the goats to protect them from wild animals that roam outside at night. Hyena bites are a major reason for visits to hospitals for those able to get to one.
Rev. Temba’s efforts are one way students learn about Faraja, one of few institutions in Tanzania offering care and education exclusively for physically disabled youth. It is too late for Emmanuel, who is both too old and too challenged to qualify.
On the return trip to our hotel, Corey and I did not feel so tired.
Interested in learning more? The complete Faraja Foundation story is explained and can be followed on these links: