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New life for children with disabilities in Tanzania

By Anne Basye W

hen Betsy Buschkemper arrived at the Building a Caring Community (BCC)

center in Moshi, Tanzania, 5-year- old Brian took her hand and tugged her inside to see his toys. Tis lively, happy little boy had

once been so weak, Buschkemper learned, that he couldn’t hold his head up. Born prematurely, doctors told his mother that he would never walk, talk or function normally. Ashamed of his diagnosis, his

family kept him at home until BCC staff visited and invited them to bring Brian (last names of BCC clients withheld) to the center. Enrolled in its therapeutic day

Calvin, a child with disabilities, receives an in-home medical screening from Building a Caring Community (BCC) administrators in a remote part of the Rau KDC area in Tanzania.

program, Brian flourished. At 3 he began to walk. Now he attends a pri- mary school that serves special needs children. Brian is one of 206 children with intellectual and physical dis- abilities served by the BCC program, a partnership between the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania and Mosaic International, based in Omaha, Neb. Mosaic, a faith-based organization,

Mosaic is a member of Lutheran Services in America (LSA) and the LSA Disability Net- work. The network is a nationwide association of Lutheran social ministry agencies, faith- based organizations and Lutheran professionals that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and related conditions. Its member organizations provide support to more than 150,000 individuals in 32 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The ELCA receives the outreach and hospitality gifts of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. It supports key congregational and educational ministries, as well the Tanzanian church’s 21 hospitals, providing 15 percent of health services in this multiethnic, multireli- gious country. Twenty ELCA synods are engaged in relationships with dioceses.


‘When I work with these children I feel so happy, I see how important it is to live our faith this way.’

serves more than 3,700 people with intellectual disabilities. Te partnership has its roots in

the companion relationship between the Nebraska Synod and the North- ern Diocese. Trough visits and exchanges, hundreds of Nebraskans and Tanzanians have gotten to know one another, including leaders of Nebraska’s social ministry agencies. Mosaic leaders “drank deeply of

the whole experience,” said David DeFreese, the organization’s vice president of church relations. Te former Nebraska Synod bishop arranged for Frederick Shoo, former diocese bishop, to visit Mosaic’s facilities in Axtell, Neb., where Lutherans have cared for people with disabilities for more than 100 years. Aware that stigma against people

with disabilities in Tanzania oſten results in unregistered births and

Jonathan helps prepare the noon meal at the Rau KDC center for children with disabilities.


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