A humanitarian partnership between Whitchurch-Stouffville and a poor East African village will be officially launched at an all-faith church service at the Stouffville Country Market Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
About 1,000 people are expected to witness the kickoff of the Stouffville-Igoma Partnership at the 10th Line Service.
Rev. Dr. Harold Percy of Streetsville’s Trinity Anglican Church is the guest pastor, while partnership coordinators Peter Neufeld and Rev. Lou Geense of the Stouffville Missionary Church will explain the partnership struck recently between the town and the village.
The indoor market can hold more than 1,000 people, Mr. Geense stressed, so “everyone is welcome”.
In September, following a request from a committee spearheaded by the Stouffville Missionary Church, Whitchurch-Stouffville council gave unanimous support to have the municipality partner with Igoma, a village in Tanzania, 35 kilometres from the city of Mwanza.
It’s expected partnership will soon receive support from the provincial and federal governments.
The primary goal, however, is to persuade Whitchurch-Stouffville residents to become involved in improving the quality of life in Igoma, Mr. Neufeld explained.
“The people of Igoma need our help.” Mr Neufeld said. “The economy there is basically on the barter system with people scrounging for food. Life is especially difficult for children.”
While the average household income in Whitchurch-Stouffville is $90,000, a mere $300 a year comes into homes in the African Village.
Life is fragile there; of every 1,000 babies born, 100 die in their first year.
It’s an agricultural subsistence economy with 90 per cent of the population of 42,000 involved in primitive farming.
“Tools and equipment for even the simplest of trades or farming, if available at all, are substandard at best,” Mr. Geense said.
Mr. Neufeld and Mr. Geense know first-hand how the people of Igoma are forced to live.
Last summer, they joined 16 other residents of Whitchurch-Stouffville and Markham to spend a month on a humanitarian project there. They helped build a much-needed medical centre.
“To our group, it was an eye opener as we had never seen such poverty,” Mr. Neufeld said. “Homes were, for the most part, shacks virtually on top of each other and all cooking is done outside with charcoal.”
Igoma’s first medical centre now needs equipment and staff.
“This is where Whitchurch-Stouffville comes in,” Mr. Neufeld stressed.
Arrangements are being made to supply seven pieces of basic equipment, valued at about $13,000. High on the list is a $2,000 malaria detection device.
“Malaria is one of the most prevalent diseases in this area,” Mr. Geense said.
“A detection device is a must-have. We can buy it in Africa and supply it immediately if we had the money.”
Partnership committee members recently met with Markham-Stouffville Hospital officials to arrange for unused equipment to be donated to the clinic.
As well, talks are going on to see if any doctors or nurses from Markham or Whitchurch-Stouffville would be interested in providing medical service in Igoma.
“Our requests were very well received at Markham Stouffville (Hospital),” Mr. Neufeld said.
The partnership committee has also presented the project to Whitchurch-Stouffville clergy. Again, the response has been positive, Mr. Geense said.
Armed with its slogan, joining hands – creating hope, the partnership committee also made presentations to local service clubs in the hopes their members would back the project. This, too, is proving successful.
The youth in Igoma are being offered educational training in the nearby city and vocational facility is available if funding is provided.
At a cost of $250 for a two-semester course, training is offered in fields such as medical lab, plumbing, masonry, electrical, carpentry, computer literacy and food services.
A plan is in the works to have Whitchurch-Stouffville residents sponsor the youth of Igoma so they can take these courses and improve the village’s quality of life.
Local students will be asked to become involved with this aspect of the project.
Through partnership arrangements, the committee is busy reaching out to all sectors of the town.
“It’s hoped individuals, families, neighbourhoods, churches, service clubs and schools will all support partnership,” Mr. Neufeld said.
By Joan Ransberry
Staff Writer, Stouffville Sun-Tribune