St James's Church, Hampton Hill

Healing hands at St Luke’s Hospital - 2012 March

Benaiah’s grave by Milo church
Benaiah’s grave by Milo church

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The lasting legacy of clinical officer Benaiah Kilwale......Ann Peterken returned to Milo in Tanzania to see how family and colleagues are continuing his dedication to this remote community.

Location and history

Milo sits high on a ridge in the Southwest Highlands, about 550 miles from Dar-es-Salaam. Because of its approximate height of 1200m (Ben Nevis is 1344m) it never gets too hot and there is a definite cold season between June and August, when people have to use lots of blankets.

During German occupation Milo was the District capital, so Lutherans built their mission station there over 100 years ago, including a rather fine house, a church and a health centre. The Anglicans took it over after the First World War and USPG: Anglicans in World Mission has been helping to support St Luke’s Hospital (the upgraded health centre) for many years, thanks to donations from parishes such as ours.

Benaiah Kilwale’s family

Arriving in Milo I felt sad that Benaiah would not be in the welcoming party, due to his death from prostate cancer a couple of months earlier. I was, however, very pleased to be able to pay respects to his widow and family members in person. Mrs Kilwale’s kind invitation to supper in her home made me realise the size of the family. Not all of them live in Milo now, but they had come for this special evening and it is hard to put in to words how lovely it was. I met children, grandchildren and Benaiah’s younger brother, Marko, who is the new head of the family even though living in Dar-es-Salaam. The hospitality was warm and open and many members of the family asked me to bring greetings and thanks back to everyone at St James’s.

Benaiah was born in Milo and had worked at the hospital for the last 30 years, so he was a well known and much respected person. Hundreds of mourners attended his funeral service and burial last July. His grave, alongside Milo parish church, is still a mound of red earth, but later this year a stone memorial will be laid and large crowds will gather to celebrate his life.

St Luke’s Hospital

The hospital has three wards (male, female and maternity), an operating theatre, outpatients’ depart-ment, laboratory and a Care and Treatment Centre for HIV/AIDS. The contrast with our well-equipped hospitals is stark. One very significant development last year was the installation of solar panels to light the wards, thanks to funding from USAID. Panels were also installed on the three houses used by hospital staff. As it gets dark by 6pm, having good light all evening is a wonderful thing. Everywhere else in Milo has to depend on kerosene lamps. The hospital does have a big diesel generator, but it is only used for sterilisation of the surgical equipment during operations. Diesel is expensive and has to be brought to Milo from the town of Njombe, 75 miles away.

We know Milo’s remote location makes it very hard to attract and retain qualified staff. Dr Simeon Mbuligwe has been doctor-in-charge since March 2008, coming to St Luke’s in his retirement. He has a good surgical reputation, especially for gynaecology, and is pictured right, with Joseph Mgina, the senior male nurse — two lovely men.

USPG’s new health programme, Hands on Health, enabled my trip. Teams of qualified facilitators are being sent to help mission hospitals prepare for the future and become more self-reliant. I was invited to join a team going first to Liuli and then on to Milo. In both places my travel companions ran a two-day workshop attended by hospital workers, church and community leaders, the idea being for these different groups to realise they have a shared responsibility for the hospital’s future. The workshop, seen above, is very interactive, including group discussion and visits to local families. It was lovely to observe rather reserved people become fully engaged and have some fun.

Student sponsorships

In 2009 parishioners at St James’s helped with the training fees for three local students. Benaiah’s daughter, Christina, obtained her diploma as a pharmaceutical technician and is now the hospital pharmacist. Sarafina Chaka had recently completed her nurse and midwife training and was due in Milo by the autumn. Our third student is still training as she had to retake a science O-level. It is encouraging to know that other UK supporters of Milo are covering doctor’s training fees for three young men and there is a very good chance at least one of them will go to St Luke’s.

Ongoing support

The grant from USPG is a major component of the hospital’s income. St James’s will continue to help make this possible through its annual donation to USPG. There will inevitably be further occasions when we can assist with a special need, such as staff training fees or a building project like the relatives’ hostel that we funded back in 2000.

I have always remembered the closing remarks of a speaker from Christian Aid who came to give us first-hand information of our millennium project. She referred to Doubting Thomas and I can now make her words mine: I have had the opportunity to travel to Milo and to see the reality of life for the people there. I am blessed by the experience, but more blessed will be the people I speak to who have not seen and yet believe that they need to respond.

Source: Ann Peterken, The Spire Magazine - 2012 March

St James's Church
The Parish Church of St James, Hampton Hill, TW12 1DQ
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