Bishop Patrick’s Trip to Tanzania

In October, Bishop Patrick travelled to Tanzania with InterCare to learn more about their important work in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Friday, November 11, 2022
Right Reverend Patrick McKinney

In October, Bishop Patrick travelled to Tanzania with InterCare to learn more about their important work in Sub-Saharan Africa.

InterCare is a small charity based in Syston, Leicestershire. It collects surplus healthcare goods and medicines in the UK and sends regular consignments to health care units in Sub-Saharan Africa. The charity supports around 100 health units across Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. There is only a small team of five paid staff, but the charity is well supported by a team of Trustees and many volunteers and medical advisors. InterCare began its work in 1974 when two local doctors visited Africa and saw the desperate need for medical support. With no free health care service, like the NHS, the poorest people were not receiving the treatment that could save lives and restore better health. Bishop Patrick has been patron of the charity for about six years and was invited to northern Tanzania in October, as part of a small team, to visit ten health units in and around the Catholic Diocese of Moshi, which InterCare Supports. This article is the full version of his diary, partly published in the E-News this month.

Mond October

Travelling to Tanzania

The journey began on Monday 17 October at 4pm with a flight from Heathrow to Dohar in Qatar, where we changed planes, and then on to Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania where we arrived around 7am on Tuesday 18 October. It was the longest flight I have ever undertaken and my first visit to an African country.  

Tuesday 18th October

Arriving in Moshi and Visiting St Mary’s Dispensary

On arrival, and after completion of passport and Visa checks, which seemed to take forever, we were met by Mgr Paul Uria, the Director General of the Chancery Office in the Diocese of Moshi. He took us to visit our first health unit, St Mary’s Dispensary in nearby Kia. We were warmly welcomed in song and dance by some members of the Masai tribe who make use of this rural dispensary. Many of them are prepared to walk quite a distance to this dispensary, in the heat and the dust, because of the quality of the care they receive. The government hospitals and dispensaries struggle to provide the health care that is needed for the growing population of Tanzania. Although there is medical insurance available to help cover some of the costs, and there are some people who receive government exemptions to the cost of healthcare, very many people cannot afford the medical insurance and still do not qualify for the exemptions. The reality seemed to be, wherever we travelled throughout our visit, that a very large number of people, particularly in the more rural areas where there isn’t much in the way of employment, cannot afford to pay even a small amount towards the costs of the medicines and medical support. While the medical health units supported by InterCare do need to ask people to pay a little towards the cost of their medicines, nobody is refused medicines or treatment if they are unable to make even a small contribution. Indeed we came across sick and homeless people who had nowhere to go  who were being housed for a time in some of the hospitals long after their treatment had come to an end.

It became apparent in St Mary’s Dispensary that the staff quickly ran out of the stock of medicines that InterCare ships to them twice a year. The same would prove to be true of all the health units we visited. At St Mary’s we were also shown a very large building, designed to be a Medical Centre (much more than a dispensary), which had been built and was being funded by a German friend of Mgr Paul Uria. This kind sponsor sadly died before the building could be completed and fully equipped. On enquiry it emerged that £68,000 would complete it. Funding of medical buildings is not within the remit of InterCare, but I mention this to give an idea of how some fairly basic funding can make a huge difference in Tanzania.

The accommodation throughout our stay was at Mama Clementina’s Lodge on the outskirts of Moshi, a simple but very welcoming establishment. It was while we were being driven there the first day that we came across a terrible road accident. A young school child, while crossing the busy main road, had been knocked over by a motor cyclist and died as a result. There are many road accidents and deaths. In protest a large number of young men blocked the road with big stones. This brought traffic to a halt and eventually the few police on the scene received support from the army in calming the situation and clearing the road. On finally arriving at our accommodation the electricity was off, something that happened regularly, if not daily, during our stay. However, cold showers and a late lunch revived us.

Wednesday 19th October

Meeting the Bishop of Moshi and Visiting St. Joseph’s Hospital

Today were invited to join Bishop Ludovick Minde, and some of his staff, for breakfast at Bishop’s House. I brought him gifts of a history of our diocese, a short history of our Cathedral and a Robin Hood hat!  I learned that the Diocese of Moshi has almost 300 priests and 180 seminarians, and that it is constantly growing in its mission churches and parishes. I was willing them not to ask me how many seminarians we had but, inevitably, that question was asked. I made use of it to talk of the relative shortage of priests in our diocese and to ask whether the two dioceses might explore ways in which we might help each other. Bishop Ludovick spoke of a new mission church which he hoped we might be able to support. It was arranged that I would be taken there later in the week when we were visiting a health unit not too far away. After breakfast we visited the nearby St Joseph’s Hospital, where Sr Dr Maria Benedict is the Medical Officer in charge. She and 30 other Sisters of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro work in a variety of ways within the hospital. InterCare is the only charity to send them medical supplies and while they greatly appreciate what they receive, they would welcome more. The Hospital was very busy with many patients in all departments.

Thursday 20th October

Kilema Council Designated Hospital

We travelled some distance to visit the Kilema Council Designated Hospital where Dr Sr Mayola is the Medical Officer in charge and a Sister of the Congregation of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro. The hospital is situated in a very poor area of high unemployment so there are very many people unable to pay for medical support. Again, we learnt that InterCare is the only charity that supports the hospital with medical supplies. Some patients have been in the hospital for some years because of a variety of pastoral reasons, such as being homeless. Some of the challenges that the hospital faces include, funding as the hospital grows and the need for more specialists.

Friday 21st October

Kivavu Dispensary, lunch in a parish and a visit to a new mission church

We travelled to the Kikavu Dispensary where Dr Tebu, who helped drive us to several health units, is the lead clinician. He and Dr Julian Brown from the UK founded this Dispensary in a very rural and poor area. I really liked Dr Tebu’s approach in that the majority of the people in that region did receive medicine and treatment free of charge from the dispensary, but only if they worked to ensure that they put in place 10 basic but essential elements of good health. It was a good strategy in that it clearly motivated people to put in place in their homes some basic but essential elements of living a healthier life, including growing fruit and vegetables. He took us to visit some of the homes where these elements had been put in place, and then we visited the nearby government school which was very badly in need of text books and basic teaching equipment. The dispensary in the school provides free dental care and treatment four to five times a week. The children are given a free toothbrush for use at home and at school. After lunch (when there is food!) they are provided with toothpaste to clean their teeth. School runs from 7.30am to 3pm and alongside the Headteacher there are six staff for 700 children. The average class is around 60 children! Later we had lunch with the two local priests who look after the nearby Catholic Church of St Andrew, still a mission church (not yet a parish church) in a very poor area which is made up of Catholics and Muslims who live peacefully, side by side. These priests were very impressive in their real desire to serve and live close to their parishioners.

In the afternoon we travelled on to visit the new, very simple, mission church that Bishop Ludovick would like our diocese to support in some way. One young priest, Fr Dismas, lives there in very basic accommodation, and he also looks after another mission some distance away. The foundations for a more adequate house to accommodate the priests (and some guests) had recently been blessed by Bishop Ludovick who travelled there to show me around. The plan is that then a dispensary will be built, followed by a school and eventually a new larger church.

Saturday 22nd October

A day off!

Today we enjoyed a day off. Why the need for a day off? I should explain that each day we spent quite a bit of time in the evening, back at our accommodation, drawing up a quite detailed report on each of the visits we made.  The day off involved quite a long drive along a very dusty, hilly and bumpy track to the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, from where we walked to visit the very high and beautiful Maturini waterfalls and a coffee plantation where we were shown how to make ground coffee.  

Sunday 23rd October

Celebrating a Young Adults’ Mass on World Mission Sunday

On World Mission Sunday, I was invited to preside at the Young Adults Mass in the Catholic Church of Our Lady, Mother and Queen, where the parish priest kindly assisted me and translated. Mass was in English, with the readings and sung parts of the Mass in Swahili. It was such a joyful, faith-filled Mass with lively singing (and dancing) that, at the end of Mass, I said  that I wished I could pour their joyful expression of faith into a bottle to take home with me! I have already written to Bishop Ludovick to begin to explore how best we might work together. This might involve the diocese of Moshi sending us two priests on mission for a few years and, for our part, we would offer accommodation to some of their priests studying at universities within our diocese.  

Monday 24th OCtober

Kibosho Council Designated Hospital

We travelled out to the Kibosho Council Designated Hospital where Dr John Materu is the Hospital Superintendent.  

Tuesday 25th October

The Rainbow Centre in Moshi

We visited the Rainbow Centre in Moshi where Dr John Materu also works and where Sr Winifrida is the nurse and Coordinator. The Centre works very much with people living with HIV/AIDS offering medical care and counselling. It used to receive support from CAFOD, but eight years ago they withdrew from Tanzania. The Centre clearly does much good outreach work, but it relies a great deal on the medical supplies it receives from InterCare.  

Wednesday 26th OCtober

Haruma Hospital, St Joseph’s Dispensary and Miwaleni Dispensary


Today was a particularly busy day in that we first travelled out on some very poor and dusty tracks, to reach the Haruma Hospital where Sr Dr Marydaria is the Doctor in charge. While the government pays for the salaries of the majority of the staff here,  the amount received from the government is steadily declining, and the hospital has to find the money for the salaries of some staff members.  Other challenges are, supply of water to the hospital, training of staff, lots of road traffic accidents and no CT scanner, and people unable to pay even a little for their medical supplies. We then travelled to St Joseph’s Dispensary, Uchira, again on a particularly bumpy and dusty track. The actual dispensary, where the medical supplies are stored, was very hot and without any temperature control. We also later visited the Miwaleni Dispensary, again in a poor and rural area, to explore whether InterCare might be able to support it in the near future. They have a visiting doctor once a week and are greatly in need of InterCare funding and medical supplies. A very long but interesting day!

Thursday 27th October

Chekereni Dispensary

Today we travelled to visit the Chekereni Dispensary where we discovered they have no back- up generator, or solar power for electricity, so they have to use their phones as torches if the power runs out! What was so impressive here, and in so many other places, was the generosity, dedication, and commitment of some young staff who are not paid salaries but only allowances, but still they give of their best to the care of their patients.  

Friday 28th October

St. Francis of Assisi Orphanage School

On our final day, we visited St Francis of Assisi Orphanage School where there is also a dispensary. The staff salaries are paid by the government, but the dispensary struggles with lack of drugs and equipment, the school often hasn’t sufficient food for the children and staff, and they have no transport to transfer to hospital, when needed, the children (or adults). The orphaned children included albino as well as those who were blind or deaf. In spite of all they are struggling with, the children sang with great gusto. Then on to Kilimanjaro airport for the journey home and much to reflect upon.

To find out more about the work of InterCare  and how you can support their work visit

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