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

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