My name is Arnold Fuchs. I am a geologist and even as a child I used to dream about the big wide world. In the GDR I was very restricted but as a youngster I corresponded with Christians in Papua New Guinea during my Christian religious instruction: that was unusual in East Germany but it just illustrates the longing I had. With reunification I was thrilled when opportunities opened up. After the first journey to Tanzania, as the partnership was developing, I heard this saying. There are two alternatives. Either you never go there again or you are infected by the Africa virus and you just have to return again and again. The latter case was true for me - it was inevitable. And in Güstrow there is a cathedral parish and I am a member of the Tanzania circle and assist with projects.
It is important that we have this partnership with Mtii and there are some projects that go hand in hand with this partnership. A partnership is like love between two people and the projects in this partnership are the kisses. I am responsible for the projects, so I am responsible for the kisses. But in a partnership it's important that you always like each other but you don't need to kiss each other the whole time. Dorina has already said that it started in 2007 and during the first and second trips there we got to know each other - coming from completely different cultures. Then we got down to discussing the projects and it got concrete. I thought in clicheés - that they would come up with a water or a school project. But then our partners said they needed time-out; so they left us and then returned. Then they said 'It's really hard to talk about it but we have a serious problem in our parish. We have so many Aids orphans. We have a problem with Aids. It's really hard for us to talk about this. We want these Aids orphans, who generally live with their grandparents because their parents' generation have died out, to be able to stay in our community and not to go and live in orphanages or slums. We want to support the grandmothers and grandfathers so that that can happen. The children need money for school, they need food and medication, a training. We have so many plans but haven't got the resources or strength to carry them through quickly.'
For both parties it was initially necessary to win each other's trust. Where one looked straight into each other's eyes, where we talked for a long time and then had a period of silence. I walked round and about there and was deeply affected by what I saw. I went around the huts. Three boys on their own; the oldest was 15 and bore all the responsibility, grandmothers with their grandchildren. Those were the moments when I didn't take any photos but stored the images inside myself. It was a great challenge to overcome that. The project has two pillars. For one of them we had fieldworkers trained; there were three women and one man. They received training near Kilimanjaro which was specially designed to help cope with the Aids issue. They then went around the huts once or twice a week to ascertain what was needed. They regulated the individual support for the Aids orphans. One needed medicine, another a new school uniform and a third didn't have enough to eat because the harvest had been very bad. Apart from that the fieldworkers also offered pastoral care. In addition they played with the children, looked after them. That is not to be decried. It was astonishing for me that there was also a man in the project and how important he was for the boys. He played an important role, not just the women. I was very positively surprised. Then the youngsters reach puberty, school is completed and what next? We established a carpenters' and a dressmakers' workshop where they could receive specialised training so that they could gain skills to earn their livelihoods later.
That went well until the number of orphans diminished and this structure became superfluous. That was a project run by the Lutheran parish but was not restricted to Christians.
I was surprised at that responsiveness that we met with. For me that was the key to a successful project. Not that we just arrive and say - 'Here are the solar stoves, you have to use them now'. They have to do a needs-analysis and say what their main areas of concern are, which ones have priority, how can we carry them out and how can you help us. That is how we carry out a sponsored project. And that is how our project work has continued. Trumpets for the trombone band were taken there as well as well as overhauled church bells for the small parish communities. It was always important that the parish contributed to the projects. They did that to a great extent not only with the Aids orphans but also with the bells. We took the bells and they built very stable bell towers. They were really solid and they invested a great deal. The largest project that we have had is the water project. That was really a huge undertaking to take water pipes into the scattered settlements - the pipes were 20km long and had different taps. Water is available so we didn't have to bore but there is no water where the habitation is. The problem was that women and children had to go and fetch the water and the men had an easy life. The social and socio-political background was important. The community contributed to the water project. We only had a partnership with the Lutheran parish but in this case it means the whole community including the Moslems (about one third of the population) and followers of natural religions (also one third) was involved. The water pipes were laid as far as the mosque. The pipes were laid under the earth's surface in a culvert so that they couldn't be damaged. We completed this project in 2012 and it is still working. Technically it was very ambitious because it functions without electricity - only gravitation. The water is distributed. It's really brilliant because it was developed and monitored by Tanzanian engineers. We only gave the support. Currently we are supporting a nursery school which is probably the most interesting from a historical point of view. In 2007 we had the orphans' project but after a few years there were no orphans left. To start with we had 400 orphans and then only about a dozen were left. As a result of our project not only did the orphans remain in the area but the Aids problem had also disappeared. They are now adults and there was no longer a problem. A positive effect but with the disadvantage that what we had built up was no longer needed. We discussed that: they said, 'When we visited you we saw that you have children's and youth work in the parish. We don't know that. Church life begins for real when we are adults. We would really like to develop that aspect and set up a nursery. We saw the Rainbow Nursery in Güstrow.' And so together we took this matter in hand and the Rainbow nursery there now has 40 children. We support the training of two nursery nurses and paid for a Montessori training that was really welcomed and the project continues to develop. That was the focus of our next visit to discuss how to continue with the youth work. What we have here can be transferred there. So that our visits are not just holidays but are also a question of an exchange in respect of our partnership activities. That you get to know another cultural milieu and have understanding for each other and that we are able to help each other.
We are certainly interested in a partnership but it is important that it isn't a one way street. Not only that we go there to implement projects but also that the cultures exchange presents. As Germans we are all to ready to consider everything in cheques and balances. You have the money. You pay the tickets. But what we receive there cannot be offset. To experience an attitude towards life in their culture that is so different from our own, but that endows us so much for our own lives. That we get other criterion for things so that we can set different priorities for our lives; that is a huge present for this partnership. (That the material tension is there hurts both sides. It isn't a pleasant situation. But it can't be changed so we have to deal with it openly.)
They see so clearly what works. But they present it differently. You really learn a lot. You might smile to yourself but it can also be dangerous because of misunderstandings. Oh, no! Perhaps you say something wrong and you don't think anything of it. It can, however, be hurtful and backfire. That happens sometimes and I'm always really sorry about that. The cultures are so different; it's not just the material aspects. That's why it's so important to have exchange visits. To be able to say 'We trust you.' The same goes for the projects. We know how to do the accounts for the projects. They often don't understand that. A handshake is enough, like it used to be here. That every detail has to be documented is a sign of mistrust. It's really difficult to 'translate' that for the donors here. It's difficult when you have to broach the subject again and again so that the queries from the foundations can be answered. 'Why don't you trust me?' That's how it is in our partnership - some say it's naivety- I say it's trust and up to now we haven't been disappointed. Not that pastor had bought himself a car or something like that. We have heard about things like that but it hasn't happened with us. There was often a change of pastor and then we didn't hear anything for a while. We thought - what now? What's happened? But they were so embarrassed to tell us that the pastor had gone astray. So they carried on with the head of the church council taking the responsibility. Very responsible. It's just that they didn't inform us. No news is good news. We just had to comprehend that. Sometimes we're on a slippery path with the misunderstandings. Then one side misunderstands something and then the other and then we suffer, too. It takes a while to sort everything out.