Sister Maureen assisting children cleaning fish
Children cleaning fish with Sr Maureen

Challenging journeys

The coronavirus pandemic has placed many restrictions on our normal way of life, particularly in the way we travel and get around.  For the Sisters of Mary this has brought even greater challenges in their work visiting the poorest regions in our countries of operation to find those boys and girls who so desperately need our help. In Tanzania, where there have been low levels of the virus, the Sisters have been busy visiting the most needy communities since July. These are located in the most remote parts of the country, which often involves long and dangerous journeys for the Sisters.

Sister and student visiting her family

Ukara Island

In August, Sister Maureen (pictured right) visited Ukara Island in the Mwanza region of the country. To get there she had to endure a 22hour bus-ride from Dar Es Salaam, followed by five hours in treacherous conditions on one boat and four on another to reach her final destination.

She was met by the priest and Chairman of this simple, inaccessible island where there is no running water or electricity. The people depend on solar energy for their light if they can afford the panels. For drinking and sanitation they catch rainwater in tanks or boreholes in the ground. The girls most in need of our care come from these communities.

Sister helping families grind Cassava on rocks

Bleak existence

The islanders live a bleak existence on Ukara and are forced to make the difficult journey to the mainland just to buy bread, safe drinking water and other essential items. For many this is impossible as they can’t afford the boat ticket.

The staple food on the island is cassava which they make into powder using a paddle in a cooking area where there are big stones (pictured Left).

Usually mothers gather there to pound the cassava to make them into flour and from which they make ‘ugali’ (stiff porridge) for food for the whole family. People usually eat just once a day. Their only source of income is fishing or farming which is a challenge during the dry season as almost nothing grows.

A Sister holding a child with a student nearby
Sisters in community work, Tanzania


In this picture is Jackiline, a 15-year-old girl from the island. Her parents are farmers, and she is the second of eight children.

Her education has been disrupted as she has to help take care of her younger siblings while her parents work. Most of these young girls are out of school but if she is able to attend school for a day she goes without breakfast or any food, but she is prepared to sacrifice food for her chance to learn.

Her parents could not afford a school uniform, so she resorts to wearing torn hand-outs, but she does not care as long as she can study.

With thanks to our wonderful donors we have been able to offer Jackiline a place at the new school in Dar es Salaam. From January 2021 she will receive full-time care and a good education to help her learn new skills which will transform her life of poverty and, in time, help her to support her family.

She will be part of a new group of 160 students and will join the 309 girls already at the school . To meet this growing capacity construction on the new school building, which started before lockdown, has resumed since measures have eased.