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

Facts about Life Expectancy in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and the second most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. With a population of 6.4 million, nearly 50 percent live on just $2 a day. Though Nicaragua’s odds seem to be against it, the last two decades have shown an increase in life expectancy, averaging 74.5 years, which is an increase of six years since the late 90s. There are many contributing factors to this increase. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Nicaragua.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Nicaragua

  1. Nicaragua’s life expectancy is one year higher than the world average. As of 2019, the world average life expectancy was estimated at 72 years. One can follow life expectancy back to the Age of Enlightenment when only certain countries had the resources to industrialize. Consequently, this affected the distribution of health across the globe. Wealthy countries were healthy, whereas poor countries were not.
  2. Malnutrition and undernutrition is the primary cause of child mortality. Although Nicaragua is an agrarian economy, finding food and clean water is difficult. According to Project Concern International (PCI), nearly one of every five children have chronic malnutrition. PCI implemented the Food for Education project and feeds over 77,000 children every day. The integration between food and education encourages students to continue schooling without worrying about an empty stomach.
  3. Education is free and compulsory. However, travel expenses are costly and serve as an obstacle for low-income rural families. Only 29 percent of children attending school finish their primary education and roughly 500,000 children under the age of 12 are completely out of the education system. Those with more wealth and better health typically have an education of more than 12 years.
  4. Access to onsite health services is widely available. Nicaragua has a total of 32 public hospitals, 21 of which are departmental reference facilities. This means that medical professionals perform a variety of health services like inpatient care for internal medicine or surgery, and even diagnostic lab testing, in one central location. The majority of the hospitals, however, are on the Pacific side of the country, limiting access for those unable to travel.
  5. Nicaragua has the lowest HIV infection rates in Central America. Although case detection is slow (anywhere between two weeks and six months), preventive measures are stopping further spread of the disease. The Ministry of Health implemented case-based-surveillance (CBS) information systems. It continuously collects data on demographics, health events, diagnosis and routine treatment. The system also tracks outbreaks, viral mobility and mortality. CBS information systems support faster public health action.
  6. The Sustainable Sciences Institute (SSI) developed and implemented technologies for low-income health settings. Diagnostic kits are readily available to test for communicable diseases like dengue and leptospirosis. Testing and sampling happen at local or regional labs and lab techniques such as cell culturing receive modifications on-site in low-resource settings.
  7. Nicaraguan health care systems have the support of nonprofits. To name a couple, Project HOPE created the International Diabetes Educator and E-Learning Program to combat the rising threat of diabetes. The program’s aim is to train health care professionals and volunteers. Similarly, the Manna Project created adolescent health education programs in response to teen pregnancy. It also implemented Community Health Promotion, a program to teach communities about healthy lifestyle changes.
  8. Life expectancy for males and females follows the same pattern worldwide. As of 2019, females outlive their male counterparts by four years, averaging 76 years. This is one more year than the world average.
  9. The primary cause of death is noncommunicable disease. Diseases of the circulatory system account for 27 percent of premature deaths. Roughly 13 percent are due to external causes such as suicide and accidents, and nutritional/metabolic-related diseases like chronic malnutrition cause 9 percent of deaths. The Family and Community Health Model that the Pan American Health Organization implemented has improved health service accessibility by renovating the technology and health infrastructure.
  10. Health expenditures are the lowest per capita in Central America. Nicaragua spends about 8.7 percent of its total GDP on health care services and resources. Nicaragua spends roughly $59 on one person with an average of $27 out-of-pocket payment. Out-of-pocket payments directly influence the increase in privatized health care facilities.

The years of dedicated collaboration and innovation created health modifications that directly impact the life expectancy of Nicaraguans. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Nicaragua illustrate how far it has come in the last 20 years and how far it has to go before it has health, wealth and happiness.

– Marissa Taylor
Photo: Flickr