Tanga 33Tanga in the Swahili language means “a sail”. It is also the name given to a new home for vulnerable youth and children, especially with albinism, built by the SMA Tanzanian Region/District in Mwanza, Tanzania. It is a place where fourteen young girls and boys will find security, high-quality holistic education, good living conditions, but most of all family care and love. In recent years, especially in the last decade, the Albino population in Tanzania has experienced a big increase in violence against them. There have been numerous attacks on the Albino people, in which some of them were mutilated or even killed.

These attacks were caused and fueled by a monstrous ideology that claims that a part of a body of an Albino person used in some witchcraft rituals will bring someone a fortune in their business or good luck in elections. It also believes that sexual intercourse with an Albino woman will cure someone from HIV/AIDS. This resulted in a situation whereby big numbers of Albino children and youth were placed in different centers, which were run mostly by the government, or in a few cases, by some other religious or non-governmental organizations. Most of these places if not all of them, are very much institutionalized and overcrowded, providing just basic security, food, and a semblance of formal education. Some of these centers were originally built to cater for children and youth with special needs, mostly for the blind, deaf and dumb children. Within a very short time, those places became shelters for hundreds of Albino children and youth. In Buhangija Center in Shinyanga, in the peak moment of 2015, there were about 100 blind, deaf, and dumb children and more than 300 Albinos. Obviously, those places were not adequately prepared to cater for such enormous numbers of newcomers, and very often they became big, cold, walled institutions with little if any L.T.C. (loving tender care).

Tanga 22In that context, from the very outset of the "Tanga" project, we wanted it to be a home and not an institution. A home with a family spirit, care, and love. It was not accidental that the building was planned to accommodate fourteen and not forty youths, who would be accompanied by at least two permanent guardians and maybe some temporary volunteers. It is to be a big African family and not a boarding school or dormitory. The name "tanga" itself indicates the main goal of this place. It aims to equip those children and youth with good and well-directed sails to their lifeboats so that they can catch a strong wind and sail a very long and successful life journey. "Tanga has a talent" is one of the main principles when inviting new children to join our family. Each person is endowed by God with some talents and we would like to build upon them. So, the criterium of high marks at school, an intellectual talent, although important, however, is not the most determining one to become a member of the "Tanga" family. Our priority is to help especially those in most need, most vulnerable and most abandoned. We are just enablers assisting them to manage and live their lives to the full, despite many difficulties and adversities which they are facing in their lives. Not only have they to fight that hideous ideology and aggression towards them, but also they struggle with many additional health problems like for example vision impediments and especially the most dangerous of them all, skin cancer, so prevalent among them in the African sun. Albino people, in general, have fewer opportunities in getting good education and jobs. Many of them will never start their own family.

Tanga will not only be a home to a small group of disadvantaged youth, mostly and primarily with albinism, but also it will work very actively and dynamically towards the full protection, promotion and integration of the Albino population in Tanzania in general. In doing so, we want to address the root causes of their exclusion from society and the violence against them, with the goal of coming up with some concrete solutions to these problems and bringing real change to their lives. Another very important goal of Tanga is to bring up deeply rooted social integration, inclusion, and a positive social change. It will be open to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, gender, religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation. It will be a hub of various creative activities, not only for the inhabitants of the house but also for the local children and youth from our neighborhood as well as from other places, where we would like to reach out with our message too. We are planning free tuition programs, games, theater, competitions, films, presentations, etc. It will be a place of the building of bridges and of true and deep integration - a house on the hill trying to make a real difference.

 Tanga44Since January of this year, five Albino girls: Kabula, Tatu, Regina, Felicita and Agnes, as well as their guardian and spiritual “mother” - Sr. Amelia (a Polish Loretto sister associated with the SMA) have been living in it. March 14th, 2020 marks the official opening of the house, with the representatives of the local Church, local authorities, police force, and some other invited guests present. There is still some work to be done to fully complete and equip the house. We are also trying to construct a small chapel dedicated to St. Therese of the Child Jesus just nearby the house. Finally, we need to improve the access road to the house, which will also open new possibilities for the whole SMA land on Bwiru Hill in Mwanza. These are certainly demanding and important tasks ahead of us, but what is even more important than the physical work of finishing the construction of the house and its furnishing as well as looking for funds to sustain this project, is to build up a true family, to create a true home which has been our main goal from the outset

The boat with the sail called “TANGA” is setting off for a lifetime trip from the port of Mwanza to the limitless horizons, to bring our children and youth safely and far in their lives. This worthwhile and life-giving project came up to existence thanks to so many generous benefactors. May God reward all those, who have added even one brick to a house on the hill, which will make maybe a small, but certainly a real difference.

            The sail is up, time to start the voyage...

                                                                                                          Janusz Machota SMA