Upendo's Vision: a Vocational Training Center in Idaru
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Upendo's Vision: a Vocational Training Center in Idaru

On Saturday in Mpare, after the official greetings and gift-giving and singing and dancing, we ate lunch. Simon Simon sat next to me. He is an incredibly earnest young man.

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Soon after he sat down, he opened a small bag and produced a worn Zion picture directory from 2002. He said he was a young boy the last time Zion visited. The visits made a deep impression on him. He was He tried to be in touch with Zion people using the directory information, but he never received any response.

In addition to leading in the congregation, Simon Simon teaches physics and geography at the Kirangare Secondary School, which we will visit Monday. His wife teaches there too. He showed me a picture of his wedding in the Mpare church building in 2017. They now have a three year old daughter, who is quite cute. Simon is glad to have an income but is restless. He has greater ambitions.

Originally, he waited for some months for a teaching job elsewhere. His wife waited over a year. But there were simply no other teaching jobs available. So they moved to Kirangare, where Simon is from. (Later I would meet his uncle and see his new coffee plants.) Simon is in a kind of holding pattern. He wants to pursue another degree, even a PhD. He wants to visit the United States but it is very expensive. He seemed to know he had little realistic hope of paying his own way, but he trusts God.

Again and again, I've heard stories of a lack of jobs for young people. We met Lydia, an evangelist's daughter, who is visiting home while on break from nursing school in Arusha. She cannot find a job. Pastor Fue on another occasion asked, "Unemployment is not so high in America as in Tanzania, is it?" Jasper, the Companionship Committee chair, said previously drivers in tourist areas needed little English or diving experience to be hired by the touring companies. But now, there are many drivers with excellent English and many years driving experience who can't find a job.

I spoke with Kirangare's Village Executive Officer while walking back from Mpare. She doesn't want to be in Kirangare either. But out of 700 applicants, she was one of 14 to be offered a job. She was assigned to Kirangare and must serve her time before being eligible for a government training program that she hopes will be a stepping stone to becoming a lawyer. That's her dream. She lamented the extremely high unemployment and its effect on young people. "They become depressed," she said. "They have nothing to do." "They're hopeless," I offered. "Yes, hopeless."

Upendo, Pastor Kivatiro's wife, said, without jobs, young people of the villages lack hope and direction. Her vision is to found a Vocational Training Center in Idaru to train young people to become tailors and seamstresses. There's currently no Vocational Training Centers in the region, so the young people of many villages would benefit.

On Monday, the headmaster of the Kirangare Secondary School (like our middle school or junior high) agreed. Many students do not others past secondary schools, because their grades disqualify them from continuing. In this case, they simply go home with nothing to do. The headmaster believes a Vocational Training Center would offer a much needed alternative.

Many pieces are already in place to make Upendo's vision reality. They already have the teachers, and with an affordable tuition for students, the teachers could be paid and maintenance costs met. And there's already space available in the shuttered but well-maintained Idaru medical clinic building. This location, just below the Idaru Roman Catholic Church building, presents an opportunity for Lutherans and Catholics to cooperate.

The remaining roadblock: start up funding. With 10 sewing machines, the Training Center could enroll 20 students at a time for a two-year program. Five standard machines and five speciality machines would cost roughly $2,000 US.

When we visited Idaru, Upendo and Pastor Kivatiro asked Zion to consider providing these funds. I agreed to discuss it with Zion leaders when I return. The Idaru people gathered were happy to hear this.

This vision reminded me of the Dairy Project, which I wrote about earlier, in it's capacity to provide benefit to many over time. In fact, in Mpare, we met another beneficiary of Zion's investment of dairy cows in Kirangare, Niendiwe Sadik. Unlike many in Kirangare, this Niendiwe was quite talkative. "I wish I knew English," she said in Swahili. "I wish I knew Swahili!" I answered. She is currently caring for a pregnant cow. Its calf will be given to the church for the committee to give to another family in need. The next calf will be hers to keep.Joseph took video of her thanks. You'll see it on our return.

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Unlike many in Kirangare, Niendiwe was quite talkative. "I wish I knew English," she said in Swahili. "I wish I knew Swahili!" I answered.

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She is currently caring for a pregnant cow. Its calf will be given to the church for the committee to give to another family in need. The next calf will be hers to keep.Joseph took video of her thanks. You'll see it on our return.

I don't remember how many cows Zion gave Kirangare or how much it cost. But I can safely say, it was worth it.

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