Our story begins in 1995, with a visit to Tanzania that established a deep friendship and a shared mission. Dwayne Westermann, a Lutheran parish pastor from Roanoke, Virginia, made a sabbatical visit at the invitation of the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, East Africa. His host for the two-week stay was Pastor Yotham Baha, the diocese officer for Christian Education. The two men travelled throughout the Kilimanjaro and Karatu regions to see the many churches, schools and projects that the church supported. And, to see poverty and hunger unlike any Westermann was familiar with even among the poor in the US.
Toward the end of his visit, overwhelmed by both the hospitality he experienced at every turn and the great needs for help in so many ways, Westermann said to his host, “I’m aware there are many well-intentioned, non-governmental organizations, a good number of which are based in the U.S., attempting to help the people of Tanzania in many different ways. But, if you had to choose addressing a single need that would help the people of Tanzania more than any other, what would that be?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Pastor Baha said, “Education! Sending kids to school! There is nothing more important than that. You see”, he explained, holding up three fingers, “when Tanzania gained its independence in 1961, there were three enemies: enemy number one was poverty; number two was disease; and, number three was ignorance. But we have never really eradicated these three enemies. If you can eradicate ignorance by sending a child to school, then this same child can fight the other two enemies by using this tool of education. And, not only for himself or herself, but for the rest of the community.” He pauses, shakes his head and his voice goes up an octave, spitting out the first word like an epithet, “Ignorance is the greatest enemy we should fight if we really want to save this country of Tanzania.”
Godparents for Tanzania was born, not out of the needs most apparent to western visitors, but from the greatest need as understood by Tanzanians who have a vision for the future of their country, the need to send children to school. This is the sole purpose to which we are dedicated. Through the generosity of many donors over the years, Godparents for Tanzania has, as of 2015, sent over 000 young people to secondary school, 00 of whom have gone on to college or university as well as vocational training for 00 others. Our students are serving as physicians, physician’s assistants, nurses, primary and secondary school teachers, and in numerous other fields. Almost all of our students come from very poor families who were unable to help their children. And, those same children, now employed, have lifted themselves from poverty and have returned to lift their families from poverty as well, sending many of their brothers and sisters to school. We were recently informed by several of our students that they are in the process of forming a Godparents for Tanzania Alumni/ae Association whereby they will contribute their own funds to send very poor students to school!
“Ignorance is the greatest enemy we should fight if we really want to save this country of Tanzania.” We have joined the fight and we invite you to join us by helping us send young people to school in Tanzania.