By Ann Evans
A few weeks ago, a representative of the charity SURVIVE-MIVA gave a talk to the congregation of the Catholic church I attend. I thought the work they did so worthwhile, I wanted to share it with you all.
SURVIVE-MIVA is a Catholic lay association that provides transport grants for those who share their lives with the poor. These transport grants benefit the poorest throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The charity was officially established in 1974 and has, for more than 40 years, been providing various modes of transport to enable missionaries, priests, pastoral and healthcare workers to reach hundreds of thousands of adults and children in these countries. These being people of all faiths and people of no faith, who previously had little or no access to health care or pastoral support.
In 2014 alone, SURVIVE-MIVA funded the purchase of 469 modes of transportation. This was 14 ambulance/community health outreach vehicles, 26 motorbikes, 1 boat with outboard motor and 428 bicycles, helping people in the remotest of areas.
The vehicles make the world of difference to the people living in these poor, remote areas and the workers who are trying to help improve the quality of these people’s lives. The boat for example will make a huge difference to the population of Kala, Tanzania.
Kala is a small rural parish located along the south-eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika. Fr Sospeter Lyela of Saints Peter and Paul Parish in the Diocese of Sumbawanga says, “We were founded in 1892 by the White Fathers, and currently have a Catholic population of 20,000 out of a total of 26,000 in all. They live in the small communities which constitute our 26 outstations, 21 of which are located on the shore and can only be reached by water. They vary in distance from us by 6 to 90 kilometres away.”
Fr Sospeter went on to describe the challenges he is faced with, and the conditions in which he lives and works: “My parishioners are small-scale farmers who grow maize, cassava, and beans – but for home consumption. They have no cash crops to gain an income, but transport to a market is virtually impossible for them anyway. By the same token, they have little access either to health services or education and awareness of the various preventable diseases which are prevalent here.”
The work he and his team undertake is huge. Such things as visiting the needy, the sick and the dying in their homes; providing religious education to schools, saying Mass at the outstations; helping AIDS orphans; collecting and delivering medicines; helping pregnant women, disabled persons, children and the elderly from their homes to a health centre or hospital; giving seminars on nutrition and how to improve the situation of leprosy and preventable diseases; bringing doctors to different areas where TB and Cholera control is needed – and much more.
He concluded: “We are obliged to do all the works both at the parish headquarters and in the outstations on foot. You can imagine how difficult it is to fulfil all these duties in this way.”
Happily, a SURVIVE-MIVA grant of £2,800 has now provided a Yamaha 40 horse power outboard motor, fitted to the locally built boat pictured here making life a little easier.
Recently, Simon Foran, Director at SURVIVE-MIVA wrote in their magazine, Awareness, about the huge benefits even the simplest mode of transport can bring to a remote area:
Simon talked of: “Countless lives saved by the timely intervention of trained medics and midwives, and the innumerable hurried trips to referral hospitals from rural clinics to save the unborn and the many expectant mothers experiencing complications in delivering their babies… not to mention all those lives saved, for example, by vaccines which cost pennies but are so often unavailable to so many youngsters in the developing world.”
He continued, “At the same time, on a less fraught note, we recall all those people and places across the continents where communities have grown closer, where Mass has been celebrated regularly at a time and place people can count on, where sick calls have been made, the homes in which comfort has been given to those who have lost loved ones, and the villages where both children and adults have been baptised and received into the Faith – people and places we will never know nor meet, it’s true, but whose lives we have touched, albeit indirectly.”
Often villages are situated in the most remote and difficult to reach places. Roads are treacherous, no more than dirt tracks with rocks, potholes and precipices. Severe weather conditions can make travelling even more hazardous.
There are many stories showing the need for vehicles for the health care and pastoral workers to reach the people which you can read about by subscribing to the charity’s free Awareness magazine. Here’s just one example from St Francis Hospital in Buluba, Uganda. The hospital was established in 1934 as a leprosy isolation centre and run by the Little Sisters of St Francis. The centre officially became a hospital in 2003.
Sr Dr Elizabeth Nionzima of St Francis Hospital said: “We now provide curative, promotive, and preventive health care services to a catchment area of about one hundred and eighty thousand people, who are generally rural agricultural workers or fishermen. Nevertheless, we also receive patients from the neighbouring districts, meaning that the service population is in fact over four hundred thousand.”
Buluba district is traversed by the main road to and from Kenya, and along with Lake Victoria on one side, the population is largely migratory. Although this has led to some scattered commercial ventures Sr. Elizabeth explains that, “There are large areas of slums, and family ties are weak, leading to early marriages, unstable relations and polygamy from a tender age.”
The hospital had over 52 thousand out-patient visits in 2012, a 10% increase on the previous year, and the major causes of morbidity across the age groups were malaria, respiratory infections, skin cancers and HIV-related illnesses, most of which would be either manageable or treatable in the UK.
Sr Nionzima continued, “The road network here is purely murram [crushed gravel and earth] which is always a challenge due to potholes and mud in the rainy season and dust when it is dry. The main aim we have is to improve access to our services through outreaches and community health visits. Currently, most patients reach us late and with complications, and maternal and infant mortality rates from preventable causes is still very high.”
Thanks to a SURVIVE-MIVA grant of £26,400 enabling the hospital to have a dedicated vehicle, health workers from the hospital can increase their visits to fortnightly ones along the shores of Lake Victoria where there is no health unit, concentrating on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, testing for the virus and offering counselling for those affected and infected by it.
SURVIVE-MIVA receives more than 400 requests for some form of mobility every year. They do not have the funds to meet the needs of all those who match their basic criteria of urgency, impact and sustainability. This means there is always a queue of applicants hoping and praying the charity can increase its funds.
YOU CAN HELP IN MANY WAYS
- The charity is always grateful for donations.
- They need people who will speak for them at Catholic churches in their own area to help gain support for the work SURVIVE-MIVA does.
- Sign up for their free twice yearly Newsletter.
For more details please visit: www.SURVIVE-MIVA.org
(Registered Charity Number 268745)