Karibu. Karibuni. We are welcome.
This is one of the first phrases a visitor to Tanzania learns. Karibu. I received my first Karibu at the airport, upon responding to the man checking to see I had a visa. In response to my Asante, I received a quick karibu.
You hear Karibu over and over again. It would be easy to assume it is only a pleasantry, much like our American tendency to ask everyone we encounter "How are you?" often disregarding or barely recognizing the response.
Within a few moments, however, you feel Karibu. Once we managed to get our travel worn selves and heavy luggage through customs, Karibu's were joined with bright smiles, handshakes, and warm embraces. Suitcases were swiftly exchanged for beautiful bouquets and a safe hand to guide us to our transport.
We continued to feel our welcome as we arrived under the dark night sky at Msasani Lutheran Church, at nearly 11pm, to enter the rotunda of the Msasani Multipurpose Development Center, welcomed with two joyful songs sung by one of the church choirs.
The welcomes continued as we were each brought to our host locations, well past midnight, and it was made clear that we were entering our homes while in Tanzania. Karibu.
We have spent two full days with our friends from Msasani Lutheran Church. The first day, after being graciously allowed to sleep late and sleep well, we spent a bit of time walking through the Msasani Multipurpose Development Center, known locally as Msasani Tower. The MMDC is a project prayerfully and financially supported by Mount Olivet, though our contribution pales when compared to that made by the members and community of Msasani. The MMDC is a work in progress. The building manager, who kindly took time to not only lead us on a tour but also to answer our many questions about the building and surrounding area, explained how hard she works to fill the many beautiful offices, business spaces, and meeting areas.
Currently a number of businesses, including a Diabetes Center and financial management organization as well as a prominent bank, offer services to the community. The large meeting hall has because a popular site for weddings and celebrations, with bookings nearly every weekend. As Msasani is able to securely pay down the mortgage on the Center, they plan to increase the number of nonprofit organizations housed in the Center by offering generous rental rates and make the Tower a hub for community support and celebration. We could already see it is a safe and secure place for the community to conduct business and the views from the balconies are breathtaking.
We wrapped up our first day making last minute preparations for the next day's health fair.
Saturday we joined Msasani members and many local medical professionals for the first annual AFYA Day - Msasani Health Fair. The first spark for this day ignited when our Msasani friends attended the Great Minnesota Get together, the MN State Fair, with Kirsten in 2013. The sweltering August visit to the Fair was spent mostly in the KARE 11 Health Fair tent. The Msasani team began talking about how they could see a similar idea being beneficial in their community. The returned to Tanzania filled with ideas and plans to talk to their community.
Fast forward two years and the ideas became reality. Supported by many doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and enthusiastic volunteers, 364 members of the Msasani community received medical consultation and a variety of health screenings and information. Some were Msasasani Lutheran Church members, some were from the surrounding areas, others were from local health organizations and health professional schools. All were filled with God's love.
Visitors had their blood pressure taken, their BMI calculated, and their blood glucose level tested. From there they received medical consultation and were sent on to many other stations: nutrition, eye exams, oral health screening, men's health information, breast cancer screening and women's health information, speech therapy consultation, and Healing Touch.
Sophie Pletcher pricked hundreds of fingers, Kirsten consulted on speech issues for many of all ages, and Tracy Dickovich, Kim Dunford, and Marcy Walker, with the help of the rest of our team when their room was full, provided healing touch sessions to many visitors.
The rest of us filled in where needed, got really good at inflating beach balls we handed out to the many beautiful children who joyfully played and smiled with us, and we did our best to share the feeling of Karibu with everyone who entered the Health Fair grounds.
It was a good day. Though we were on the "giving" side for the day, we ended the day feeling like we had received a great gift.
Karibuni - we were welcomed.
- Summer A.