The Chimala Mission
Within the Mbeya Region of Tanzania lies the Chimala Mission. Founded in the early 1950s, the mission seeks to improve life for the people around the region. Despite numerous challenges, the mission remains a vibrant act of hope for the communities around it. The Borgen Project spoke with members of the Chimala Mission: Howell Ferguson, Zavier Hofstetter, Mattie Adams and Hailey Watson.

Starting a Mission

Tanzania achieved independence from Great Britain in 1961. Consequently, the country experienced several jarring transitions as it moved from colony to self-governing state. In 1964, the country, then called Tanganyika, merged with the Republic of Zanzibar. Today, it is the state of Tanzania

Amidst this transition, the country granted access to missionaries affiliated with the churches of Christ. The same year that Tanganyika merged with Zanzibar, missionaries began construction of a 50-bed hospital in the Chimala region.

Growing a Mission

During its first years of independence, Tanzania faced extreme poverty. It was “one of the poorest and most aid-dependent countries in the world.” While Tanzania’s poverty rate declined in recent years, it still hovers above 20%. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated poverty. Between 1965 and 2021, the Chimala Mission experienced spectacular successes, resulting in it meaningfully improving the lives of countless Tanzanians.

For the community, the hospital—long the focal point of the mission’s benevolent works—is a godsend. Since its completion, a rotation of American doctors works with Tanzanian physicians to keep the hospital staffed and growing. According to the Mission’s website, it now contains a “maternity ward, post-natal clinic, eye and dental clinic, isolation ward, family shelter, [and] morgue.” The hospital assists close to 60,000 people each year.

In the past two decades, the Mission expanded. For example, it started both a primary and a secondary school in 1999 and 2010, respectively. In 2019, the schools enrolled 700 children combined.

Also in 2019, the mission started its Manna Project. The Chimala Mission leases this 450-acre farm from the government of Tanzania. The Manna Project aims to make the mission more self-supporting, employing people from the community and improving farming methods at the same time. Despite some early setbacks, the mission’s Stateside Coordinator, Howell Ferguson told The Borgen Project, “We are continuing the farm program as best as we can using what we have.”

Discovering a Mission

In May 2021, a group of students from Freed-Hardeman University traveled to Chimala for 11 days. The students assisted the Mission, receiving education from its U.S. missionaries and learning about Tanzania’s culture. Some of their experiences with Tanzania’s culture were unexpected.

For example, FHU student Zavier Hofstetter told The Borgen Project that “We [Americans] like to have everything down to the minute: an hour for this task, another hour for a different one. In Tanzania, each task takes exactly however long it takes.”

Despite this, the group was able to help out in several ways during their stay. They spent their first few days acclimating to the mission’s campus and then dived straight into helping where they could. In addition to daily devotionals, the group helped at the elementary school, where they taught English pronunciation to fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade classes.

As an education major, Hofstetter found his time at the mission beneficial explaining that “it was amazing to see how a school system in Africa worked. The students were all extremely disciplined and eager to learn.”

In the Hospital

Several of the students also found ways to serve in Chimala’s hospital. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Mattie Adams, a nursing major said, “I learned so much from working in the Chimala Mission Hospital! It was such a blessing to see what great things the nurses and doctors were doing with more rudimentary tools than what we have in the states.” He continued, stating that he “got to experience what it was like to be a nurse in a different country than my own by doing hands-on work such as taking vitals, assessing patients, and watching live births.”

Public relations student Hailey Watson related a dramatic anecdote of her time helping at the hospital. A patient with multiple stab wounds needed treatment and was losing blood fast. Since the hospital did not have enough of the patient’s blood type, she, Hofstetter and fellow student Kayley Wadlington were all able to donate, and the patient stabilized and survived.

Looking Forward

There is no doubt that the Chimala Mission improves life for the communities around it. Though the mission is still growing, in the words of one Tanzanian proverb, “those who go slow never stumble.”

– Jonathan Helton
Photo: Flickr

housing in GuatemalaGuatemala is a country rich with ancestral heritage and Indigenous peoples, but the poverty crisis has debilitated many of the citizens. Housing in Guatemala is undergoing a crisis, which has widened the housing gap to well over 1.8 million homes. With 54% of people living under the poverty line, housing access is a rarity. This also affects other major areas like sanitization, food security, finding jobs and accessing education. The main priorities of humanitarian organizations in Guatemala are housing, education and health care.

Bill McGahan

Bill McGahan is an Atlanta resident and involved community serviceman. McGahan is also the leader of an annual mission trip that takes high school students to create housing in Guatemala. The long-term commitment to building housing has also highlighted other areas of need. On the trips, students work alongside From Houses to Homes. The student volunteers spend their time holistically addressing the needs of Guatemalans, including health and education.


Housing in Guatemala is the essential building block to finding permanence and stability. Many Guatemalans live in inadequate housing, are homeless or depend on makeshift shelters built from gathered materials. Housing lessens the risk of diseases from fecal contamination, improves sanitation, strengthens physical security and provides warmth in winter months. These benefits are imperative to stabilizing external conditions and lessening poverty’s effects.

The mission trips each year incorporate the students from the very start of housing to the finishing touches. Each year the participants first raise the funds for building materials. Then the volunteers construct a house in as little as five days. At the end of the building projects, keys are handed to each family, which reflects a new reality for them. In this way, these students “don’t just build houses, they provide a home.”


A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. It is the place to help grow and nurture individuals, including a safe space for learning. Children in Guatemala face constant challenges to their education. The average Guatemalan education lasts only 3.5 years, 1.8 years for girls. Nine out of 10 schools have no books. Accordingly, the literacy rate in rural Guatemala is around 25%. Education is an investment in breaking a pattern of poverty, which is an opportunity not afforded to many Guatemalan children.

Children pulled out of school work as child laborers in agriculture. This provides short-term benefits to families in terms of income but has a high cost in the future when finding work. Contributions to local schools have long-term paybacks for children and their families. Children can further their education, secure future employment and create stable homes for themselves and future generations.

Health Care

Housing in Guatemala is relevant to health as well. The goal is to solve homelessness by providing homes, not hospital beds. Access to quality health care is imperative to providing housing stability. Guatemala needs to improve its health services in order to solve its housing issue, especially since they lack effective basic health care.

Clinical care for Guatemalans is often inaccessible, particularly in rural areas with limited technology. With approximately 0.93 physicians per 1,000 people, there are extreme limitations for medical professionals to see patients. Even in getting basic nutrition training or vaccinations, Guatemalans are severely lacking necessary access. Basic health care is a priority that will be a long-term struggle, but each advancement will create higher levels of care and access for the many Guatemalans in need.

Guatemala is readjusting its approach to finding better access to housing, health care and education, all of which are important for a home. Humanitarians, like Bill McGahan, are finding solutions and implementing institutions that will uplift Guatemalans. Increased housing in Guatemala has been encouraging stability, prosperity and new outlooks on life. The country is seeing great progress in eliminating poverty, one home at a time.

Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr