The Retail Council of Canada estimates that families will spend an average of $337 per student for back to school supplies this fall. In Igoma, Tanzania, the average annual household income is $300, and for those lucky enough to attend school at all, supplies consist of a single notebook.
Infant mortality rates are 165 per 1,000 in Igoma; in Canada, the figure is seven per 1,000. Malaria is the biggest killer in Africa, claiming about 3,000 lives every day; AIDS and cholera are rampant.
The lack of clean drinking water is a direct cause of diseases such as cholera, and the installation of water filtration systems would go a long way towards lowering the mortality rate. Funding is also urgently needed for medical supplies, mosquito nets, primary schools and vocational training.
In May, 1998, a team from several churches in Whitchurch-Stouffville visited Igoma to build a clinic for future community health care. Owing to a lack of operating funds, the building remained empty for five years, before another local team went back to refurbish it. Medicine, furniture and medical equipment were shipped to Igoma to get the clinic up and running, and by August, 2003 a doctor and staff were providing medical services to residents.
When the team returned home, they asked Whitchurch-Stouffville council to create a partnership with the Tanzanian community and received unanimous approval. The Stouffville Igoma Partnership (SIP) was officially launched in Dec. 2003. Fundraising events to date include a gala dinner in April 2005, a Bach to Blues concert and a summer music concert in the park.
Today, SIP works with Health Partners International, a coalition of drug companies who provide medicines at minimal cost to non-profit organizations. Last year, students from Summitview Public School collected 60,000 items for Igoma pupils and all local schools are encouraged to get involved in this vital community partnership.
Living in abject poverty, with no social services, sporadic electricity and an average lifespan of just 44 years, the people of Igoma need and deserve the support of our community. SIP invites everyone to join the partnership in helping to change the faces of Tanzania from sorrow to joy and from hopelessness to hope.
On Oct. 20, Whitchurch-Stouffville council and Chamber of Commerce will host the second annual Gala Fundraising Dinner and Auction in support of SIP at EastRidge Evangelical Missionary Church on 10th Line. Tickets are $50 each. For more information, or to make a donation, call 905-642-4227 or visit www.sipartnership.org.
By Kate Gilderdale
Stouffville Free Press