In honor of International Women's Day (March 8) and National Women's History Month, we are highlighting stories of our sisters in Christ in Iringa and the changing roles women play in Tanzania.
Huruma Center is a place beloved by many Saint Paul Area Synod travelers to Iringa. An orphanage and shelter for vulnerable children, it is a place where one sees first hand the commitment of the Iringa Diocese 'to serve the people created in the image of God spiritually, mentally, physically, and economically.' It is also a place that reflects the vision of the remarkable women who have been called to lead it.
Last fall the Diocese celebrated the retirement of Constancia Chilewa, longtime director of the center and a familiar face for many Minnesotans. With characteristic determination and drive, as well as a special knack for connecting foreign donors and projects, she marshaled resources and energy to build the center into what it is today. Beyond her sharp management, 'Mama' is known for her big heart and the love and concern that she showed to the hundreds of children who called the center home during her tenure as Director. The tears that flowed freely on her final day are a testament to the deep connection felt by all who knew and worked with her.
One of Mama's last acts was the establishment of a Day Care unit within the center for infants and young children of families in the neighborhood. Built with an eye to sustainability (profits from tuition will offset the costs of the center's social services), the unit is also a response to changing roles and opportunities for women in Iringa. With a growing middle class and dual-income households, there is now a need for professional childcare. Furthermore, as more young women complete their own advanced education, fewer are available and interested in serving as 'dadas' or 'house girls' for their own or other families.
Following in Mama's footsteps is Pastor Joyce Ndangango - newly appointed director of Huruma Center and an incredible leader in her own right. Prior to starting at the center, Pastor Joyce served as director of the Women and Family Nurture department of the Iringa Diocese. Both there and at Huruma Center, her leadership is marked by deep-felt compassion mixed with business savvy. In fact, if the call to ordained ministry didn't happen, Joyce always imagined herself as a business professional. When working with women's ministries, she pours her energy into the advancement of women through economic development and entrepreneurial activities.
As she begins her ministry at Huruma Center, Pastor Joyce brings a similar mindset to tackle the challenges there. She is constantly looking for opportunities to build the capacity and self-sufficiency of the center, its staff, and its children. At the same time, she is exploring opportunities to expand the services offered by the center to vulnerable children who live at home in the surrounding community. Already she is filled with energy and enthusiasm for what might come next.
For these faithful servants, and for all of our sisters in Iringa, let us give thanks,
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega, Assistant to the Bishop