A Visit to Luhombero in January, 2018

Who do you think of when you think of a Renaissance man (or woman)?

Leonardo da Vinci? Dude who painted the Mona Lisa and harnessed solar energy 450 years before green energy was cool.

Ben Carson? The neurosurgeon and presidential candidate who is currently dismantling the US Department of Housing and Urban Development?

Lisa Kudrow?  She was a biopsychology major before becoming Phoebe on Friends.

Julia Shinnick and her mother visit Luhombero 2018
Julia Shinnick and her mother visit Luhombero 2018

I think of Father Placid.

I first learned about Father Placid Kindata when he was the bursar at Kasita Seminary, one of the premier Catholic secondary schools in Tanzania. Having completed a masters degree in business administration, that administrative role made sense for him.

Then, I met him when he was a parish priest at Kasita parish, a small parish down the road from the seminary. He started a kindergarten there. Due to an unwavering belief in the power of early childhood education, he could often be seen with a swarm of 5-year-olds following him.

Water access is a huge issue in Mahenge, and when there was not enough water to irrigate the small farm he created on Kasita land, he found a natural spring to water it. Then he set about trying to implement year-round farming.

At the same time, he oversaw the construction of a massive, new building to replace the parish church, serving as a contractor for the project. And he taught people how to look after livestock.

Over beers during a visit in the rainy season, Father Placid has told me the stories of how he used to trap animals of all sorts—warthogs, hippos, antelopes, to feed his grandparents and others in his village. He learned to fish and farm around the same time.

During one of these stories, two little girls came and joined us for lunch. Before long, Father Placid was laughing heartily with them over rice and beans. They were born with HIV and their classmates refused to sit with them at lunch, so Father Placid invited them to his house instead.

Julia Shinnick and a mysterious beekeeper
Julia Shinnick and a mysterious beekeeper

Father Placid fixes a myriad of problems arising from life in the under-privileged and remote village of Luhombero, and he’s also fixer of problems of the heart.

As well, one of the things that makes me love Father Placid and proud to call him my friend—beyond his great sense of humor and his talent as a conversationalist and his infectious laugh—has been his unwavering commitment to help people with epilepsy.

A generation ago, many people in the Mahenge region believed that epilepsy was a curse from the devil or ancestral spirits. To this day, many people with epilepsy in the area are discriminated against and thought incapable of working.

Having worked to help Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall provide medications and rehabilitation for people with epilepsy, Father Placid sees the potential and ability in those who have been viewed as hopeless cases.

This especially matters to me in particular because I was born with refractory temporal lobe epilepsy.  I would have been seen as a hopeless case had I been born in Luhombero rather than the United States.

If I had been born in Luhombero there’s a pretty good chance I would have been ostracized at elementary school, too, like those two girls afflicted with AIDS, and I’d most likely be unemployed as an adult.

Julia listens to Father Placid explain more irrigation plans
Julia listens to Father Placid explain more irrigation plans

Instead I’m applying to Ph.D programs. I live and normal and often privileged life.

Father Placid is the sort of person that every young person with epilepsy needs: the teacher who treats them as capable, the social worker who makes sure they are not too anxious, the case worker who makes sure they took their medications, and the friend who invites them to a meal all in one.

Having now visited him in Luhombero, I’ve seen how he serves as the epilepsy jack-of-all-trades for the communities of Luhombero and Mahenge.  Genetics or fate didn’t call him to this work. This is a man who pours his heart and soul into working with people with epilepsy simply because he sees their need and believes that everyone deserves a fair shot at a decent quality of life.

Too often this work with people with epilepsy day-in and day-out goes unrecognized.

It’s important for my good friend Father Placid to know he has allies in North America.

If you’re reading this far, you are likely someone who cares about such matters.

Please help Father Placid help Luhombero.

Please made a donation by contacting us. Even a little makes a huge difference.. Thank you!

— Julia Shinnick

Beekeeping comes to Luhombero

Donations from readers of the literary newspaper BC BookWorld in Vancouver, Canada, continue to make a huge difference to the lives of people in the remote village of Luhombero.

Placid on zip line over river
Father Placid en route to his beekeeping seminar, crossing Little Ruaha River.

Empowered to purchase extensive irrigation equipment, Father Placid has been able to develop two large farming projects at Luhombero and Kasita. These agricultural projects will soon be self-sustaining.

Now, to start a new industry in the area, Father Placid, has graduated from a course taught by Ted Rabenold of AfricanBeekeeping.com to train African beekeepers in both English or Swahili. This course was taught in a rural area outside Ifakara, accessible by ‘zipline’ ferry that enabled people to cross the Little Ruaha River one at a time.

Working with the widespread Apis Mellifera Scutellata bees, Rabenold’s organization has held seminars in Mbeya, Iringa, Sumbawanga, Rukwa Valley, Ufipa Plateau, Nairobi, Kijabe, and Maasai-land.

Meanwhile ten thousand dollars has now been set aside for the eventual purchase of a vehicle in conjunction with MIVA, a European organization that will pay 50% of the purchase and delivery costs.

We still have a long way to go before a vehicle purchase can be made—another $5,000 at least—but Rome was not built in a day, and Luhombero cannot be uplifted overnight.

Thank you to all who have given.

Placid and beekeepers
Placid and beekeepers

Inge Bolen Writes to Father Placid

Here is a letter we received from a wonderful woman who helps poor people in the Andes.

Inge Bolen dancing
Inge Bolin, a Vancouver Island University anthropology professor, joins in celebrations to honor the deities of nature, continuing halfway through the night. The more one dances, the happier is Pachamama and the better will be the meadows and harvests.

Recently I came across the beautiful letter written by Father Placid Kindata “The Irrigation Systems are installed at Kasita and Luhombero.”  Given climate change, water scarcity and its pollution, it’s wonderful that an irrigation system took priority in your village. Father Placid might want to investigate that work “Engineers without Borders” do in different parts of the world.

This organization was brought to my attention by one of my former students at Vancouver Island University, Lori McFadyen, who built a school in India and has been running it for several years. The school and the village of Sainji are very happy about the work of “Engineers without Borders.” I also will inquire if they can help us in Peru with our water-related projects there. I will be in Peru again in April.

Isn’t it interesting that places without electricity, running water and other amenities always call us back?

Inge Bolin
Vancouver Island

Link to information about Inge Bolin’s work in the Peruvian Andes

The Irrigation Systems are Installed!

We appreciate greatly!!!!!

I am here, Father Placid, to express my appreciation and sincere thanks to everyone who has so kindly donated funds to improve life here at Luhombero and at nearby Mahenge where we help the epileptics.

Your personal commitment is incredibly helpful and allows us to reach our goals. Your assistance means so much to us and actually gives a light to the dreams we want to realize. It is something which is so touching to me to see people from the other continent taking such a concern to help.

For me, this is something which goes beyond my imagination. Growing up here, I would not have thought it was possible. Indeed, your sympathy and love will be a healing to the needy and many disadvantaged people.

I believe whoever helps is a hundred times returned.

So much has been accomplished.

It was a big task to lay down the irrigation project at Kasita and Luhombero. The systems now are done. At the Kasita irrigation project, harvests have started. How joyful it is that we have started harvesting maize and water melons.

Different kinds of vegetables are also planted. This was a dream to the many, but now it is actual. This would be impossible without your support. We thank you very much for being such kind to us.

Here are just photos of the crops. We appreciate greatly!!!!!

Click pictures to enlarge.

Now, with this irrigation system, if will become possible for us to grow food all the year, not just in the growing system. This is something I have long wanted to do, to encourage to the people to make their food always.

It took much time to get the necessary pumps and pipes. I had to make the long trip to Dar es Salaam. But it has all become worthwhile.

Also, right now, at the Mahenge Epilepsy Clinic, the place that was created by “Mama Doctor,” Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall, back in 1960, we have Nurse Grace Kibiriti providing anti-seizure medications to 423 recovering epileptics. It is a wonderful thing that Nurse Grace can dedicate herself so well to this work.

If some people in Canada don’t realize this, I should mention the rate for epilepsy in our Morogoro region, as Mama Doctor discovered, is ten times greater than the global average. Here, like lepers, the epileptics are often discriminated against, and made to feel badly about themselves. That’s why the work we do helping with these people is so necessary.

Currently our rehabilitation program has twelve epileptics working under my direction, doing agricultural work, and receiving proper payment for their labour. This is very important for their self-esteem and also vital because it enables them to live independently, so they are not made to feel they are a burden on their families.

We remain most grateful to all the donors from British Columbia, Canada, who have supported this ongoing program. I particularly wish to thank Ken Morrison and his Provision group for regularly sending along the funds you have all donated to help pay for the workers’ salaries.

A very small amount goes a very long way to changing a person’s life here.

I will be ungrateful if I do not mention Mama Doctor who lies behind the entire scene. It has been her efforts to help the epileptics in Tanzania for more than fifty years that has brought all of us to this point.

The seed that she planted in order to help the epileptics for sure will be continued and improved in a wider perspective. If, as we have hoped, your generosity and support will soon make it possible for us to purchase either a pick up truck or a tractor, that will make our lives so much better.

Click pictures to enlarge.

Luhombero is a very far away place, even in Tanzania. Luhombero is very far from Canada, but this does not mean that one who intends to be at Luhombero cannot reach. Luhombero is reachable. May I take this opportunity to welcome all of you at Luhombero. Alan Twigg is a good link for whoever wants to come to Luhombero or Tanzania in general.

It is a grace to me to know Alan Twigg connects us all here to all of you. And I thank my Bishop for encouraging our efforts to help the people here who need help most. I believe our efforts together will bring a lot of changes not only to the epileptics but also to other people in our area. It is my expectation that the support given will truly solve so many problems and hence realizing a better life full of joy and respect to all of us.

We, the people of Luhombero and Mahenge, wish you all a prosperous life.

And on their behalf, I heartily thank you for your donations.

Yours sincerely,

Fr. Placid Kindata.

workers in Luhombero
Workers Digna Mathias Mayowa, Wenceslaus Wenceslaus Lyamba, Nurse Grace Kibiriti, Kasian Francis Mnyankuli, Fr. Placid Kindata, Sangtus Paul Chidowi, Scholastica Frank Mbawi.
Nancy Morrison visits Father Placid at Luhombero
HELPING HANDS TOGETHER: Nancy Morrison of Provision Group made the difficult trip to inspect Father Placid’s progress in the summer of 2017, along with her husband and co-supporter Ken Morrison.


Rainy Season in Luhombero

Flooding results in less food

“Heavy rains destroy the environment terribly,” says Father Placid. “Cultivation becomes more difficult or impossible. Our crops at Luhombero have been flushed away as water passes over them. These photos show people passing across some difficult places along the road. A better road would help. But year-round agriculture would be an even better solution. Certainly there will be hunger this year.”

School in Tanzania

children playing with Wheelbarrow
Toys in Luhombero are hard to find. Two sisters give Ricado a ride on an abandoned wheelbarrow

In Tanzania there are two systems of education, those that are run by the government and those that are run by the private sector. Schools run by the government receive a subsidy from the government and those run by the private sector receive none. This means children studying in government schools pay no school fees while those in the private sector must pay school fees.

Parents just pay for uniforms, stationery, etc. So to educate a child in the government schools is less expensive than those in the private sector.

At the primary level in the government schools, the cost can be USD 150 up to 250 per year, depending on the school. In the private sector, it can be USD 350 up to 450 as school fees only, apart from other needs. And this depends if the child studies at a boarding school or day school.

If it is a boarding school, the cost is higher than that. It can be up to USD 1500, depending on the school and its quality.

The rains are late

Young corn growing.
Probably no harvest because the rains are late

This year the lack of rain has made it very difficult for the people.

Crops, for instance maize, were planted but now are greatly affected as shown in this attached photo. This is the period normally people start eating fresh maize, rice, groundnuts, etc. This year none of them are ready to harvest. The picture shows maize plants that are not in a good state. They have retarded growth and likely there is no hope of harvesting anything out of them

“So we have a very special guest of honour in our homes this year. His name is Hunger,” said Father Placid.

Let us hope and pray that the rains continue and that some of the crops ripen soon for the people of Luhombero.

Daily life in Luhombero

If you live in North America, it is hard to comprehend the level of difficulty people face in Luhombero, to do the simplest of things; like boiling water for dinner. Wells with potable water are quite a distance away, and women and children spend a significant portion of their day collecting water and walking it home or carrying it on a bike.

Some families take 10 minutes to 15 minutes to each a well. These wells were made by the government but there are not enough of them to service the population. Sometimes it is difficult to fix such wells because the machines used to drill them are very primitive. They cannot dig very deep into  the earth. They normally make such wells alongside the basin where the depth to get water is not so deep.

The two wells in the parish, if they are renovated, can help to serve the nearby families. They need the pumping machines to be repaired. To fix them would require approximately $300-to-400 USD per well. There are machines which can make bore holes to have water but they cost up to $3,000 USD to order.

Some local people can make simple bore holes. It is the matter of negotiation. It can be $500 USD up to $1,500 USD, depending on the depth they dig, for these low-tech wells. So fixing our two parish wells is the most logical approach to help the people with the water shortage.

The “waiting room” for medical attention in Luhombero is under the shade of a tree. Below, you see women and children gathered, awaiting their turns at the small clinic.

Schools in Canada and the US are free. Schools in Kenya are not. Most families have to pay to send their children to school, and make huge financial sacrifices in order to do so. Lots of bright children must drop out of school because their family cannot afford the school fees.


How to kill crocodiles and wildebeests

crocodile“You have the boat as usual. We drive the boat with the bamboo poles. We know those areas where the depth of the water is very low and in the night the crocodile is there. The crocodile knows that the fishes are there. So he goes to that place. And together we are there. We go with a torchlight, a very strong one. We switch it on. We see the reflection of the eyes. It is very easy to see the crocodile this way.

“First, we go with a spear with a hook on it. Then the crocodile is shot at the centre of its head. It is important to make sure that you apply the spear properly because if you shoot the crocodile without securing the spear, it can go away. The spear is tied to a very long rope. Sometimes we go first with the gun. If it is shot well with the gun, it won’t be strong. If it is not shot well, the crocodile becomes very dangerous to the people. It can go to the areas where the women are doing the washing.

The meat is delicious. Very, very good. But is very dangerous to eat the crocodile meat. The crocodile has bile. The bile of the crocodile is so poisonous. The moment you touch it, you die. It is so, so strong. You have to be sure the crocodile was killed well and the bile didn’t contaminate the meat. Maybe you test it first with your dog. [laughter]

“The intention of killing the crocodile is getting the skin. The coating of the crocodile is very demanded. They use that skin to make shoes. There is a market for the crocodile. I learn these things from my father when I was a boy.

wildebeest migration“Together with other boys we go to the bushes to hunt. I killed so many wildebeests with the dogs. And with the spears. The dog now is the gun. The wildebeests get tired. When he stops, that’s advantage we have. The dogs can chase the wildebeests for five kilometres. Just running. We can hear the dogs barking. Normally the wildebeest would never run such a long distance. When it stops, it wants to fight against the dogs. Sometimes it injures the dogs. Sometimes it can come for you.

“Some dogs are very stupid. When it sees the wildebeest, it runs to you. [laughter] But some dogs are very fierce. We know the good dogs. But that was before. Boys growing up now do not learn these things. It is not allowed.” — Fr. Placid