In 1986 IHSA obtained 1,000 acres of land in Kitenga with the purpose of providing services to empower and educate women and girls. Geographically, Kitenga is remotely located. Health services and educational facilities are rarely available, and those that are lack the vital resources to ensure the health and education of all of the community's children. Schools are few, and students are forced to walk significant distances between their homes and school. Culturally, many Tanzanian girls are expected to take on significant duties within the household including cleaning, cooking, and caring for younger siblings, leaving limited time for homework and other personal enrichment.
But the challenges faced by girls in Kitenga and throughout the country go even further. Early marriages, teen pregnancies, and tribal customs of female genital mutilation are a reality for many Tanzanian girls, especially those living in rural areas. In some communities, education for girls is of little to no priority and many will grow up to be illiterate. Inspired by their missionary charism, the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa responded to a call to help these young women.
And so in 2017, Kitenga Girls' Secondary School was opened.
Kitenga Girls' Secondary School provides a residential, secondary school experience for girls that seeks to form the next generation of Tanzanian leaders. By providing on-site dormitory housing, students are able to engage fully in their intellectual, social, and spiritual development, which is often impossible in their home environments. The mission of the IHSA Sisters is to transform Kitenga into a center of academic excellence where vulnerable girls can access equitable and quality education. The students attending Kitenga Girls develop competitive analytical and problem solving skills, and are committed to respecting themselves, serving their community, and uplifting other women.
To date, Kitenga Girls' Secondary School is home to nearly 120 girls, 20 of whom are on a full scholarship. While the students, teachers, and Sisters, are all passionate about Kitenga Girls', the challenges remain many. Simple things like laboratory supplies for the Science Center or the lack of a grinding mill in the school's kitchen, pose significant expenses to a school that strives to educate girls regardless of their families' ability to pay.
While challenges remain a reality, the resilience of these exemplary girls remains an inspiration for the Sisters, staff, and donors of this unique ministry. With the support of many and by the grace of God, the school looks forward to its first graduating class in 2020.
The Kitenga Dispensary of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa was started in 2014 to meet the urgent health needs of the community. Today, the Kitenga Dispensary remains an essential service to those living in Kitenga and the surrounding areas. The dispensary specializes in the treatment of a range of injuries, illnesses, the provision of referrals, as well as pre/post natal services. Staffed by two IHSA Sister-Nurses, as well as a full-time medical doctor, the dispensary specializes in providing high-quality and fast medical services to a community that lacks both access to medical facilities, as well as the funds to cover related expenses.
While mother and infant mortality still remains a major issue in Tanzania, the Kitenga Dispensary seeks to combat pregnancy-related deaths through the opening of its Herbert and Mary Batt Maternity Ward in 2019. Without this ward, many women in this remote community would give birth in their homes, unattended by a medical clinician. Through collaboration with the local government, the Kitenga Dispensary is able to provide nearly all of its pre/post natal services at no cost to its patients.
While many of the services provided by the Kitenga Dispensary appear to be standard clinical services, it is set apart by its compassionate staff and extensive charity-care. As a medical bill of even $5 remains out of reach for many patients, the staff of the Kitenga Dispenary are committed to treating sick men, women, and children regardless of their ability to pay. While this poses challenges for the financial solvency of the clinic, the staff has shown an incredible willingness to continue working, even at times without pay, in order to continue this ministry of healing.
Through the generosity of donors, the hard work of its staff, and the prayers of the IHSA community, the Kitenga Dispensary continues to welcome new life into the world, to heal the sick, and to allow people "go in peace, and be freed from suffering," in the spirit of Jesus.