Members of two Lutheran churches in Cottonwood and New Ulm are going to Tanzania later this month.
Eighteen members of Christ Lutheran Church in Cottonwood and Our Saviors Lutheran Church in New Ulm will spend 16 days assisting with projects at the Kikatiti Secondary School, managed by the Meru Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.
"In 1998-99 the New Ulm church and Christ Lutheran got involved with the church in Tanzania," said Becky Timm, a member of the delegation from Cottonwood. "The school system in Tanzania was in very poor condition. The government had taken them over and didn't manage them very well, so they asked the churches to take over."
Pictured, from left: Terry Timm, Becky Timm, Denise Thomas, Laura Olson, Eric Anderson and Jonathon Olson.
The project, originally organized by Doug and Linda Dybsetter from New Ulm, has since 2000, helped raise funds to build classrooms, dormitories, a dining hall, and science lab.
"I was at the time on the Southwest Minnesota Synod Mission Board, and that's how I heard about it," said Timm. "My husband and I had often talked about going on a mission trip. We were originally there in 2000, the school had 60 students and three teachers who hadn't been paid in three months."
Linda Dybsetter died about six years ago, after their last trip to Tanzania, according to Timm. The project is now managed by Bill Koeckeritz, a retired businessman in New Ulm who has been involved since the project first started.
"Some good friends of mine, the Dybsetters, members of Our Saviors, and I had gone down to Homestead, Florida, to help after the hurricane," Koeckeritz said.
"Doug said, 'Someday I want you to help sell my business, we want to become missionaries.' Well I did. Then they said, 'You have to visit us.'"
In 2000, Koeckeritz helped raise $10,000 to install a concrete floor, windows, and doors in the school. He returned in 2003, and 2006, to help organize the scholarship program.
Primary schooling is free in Tanzania, and about 70 percent of school-age children attend. But secondary school costs from $250 to $400 per year, and the attendance rate drops to about one in twenty, in a country where average annual income is about $600 per year.
Now the school has about 1,500 students and the churches fund 100 scholarships, Koeckeritz said.
Today the church group is raising money to dig a deep water well and filtration system for the school, fund scholarships, provide vision care and dental hygiene.
According to Timm, the only drinkable water is piped five miles from Mount Meru. If the water supply is interrupted the school has to close. Many children miss school because of the necessity of carrying water long distances to their villages.
Digging the well, and installing a filtration system and storage tank will cost an estimated $30,000.
This trip the group will return with a eye auto refractor donated by Dr. Steve Akre, an optometrist in New Ulm. The machine will enable local people to diagnose glasses prescriptions that can be filled in New Ulm. There will also be three registered nurses, two medical technicians and a dental hygienist in the group.