Friendship resurrects the life of the elderly in Tanzania
May 9, 2011
On the afternoon of Easter Day, the Community of Sant'Egidio of the University "Sokoine" - a University of Agriculture in Morogoro in central Tanzania - has made a special visit to the institute for elderly "Fungafunga.
Morogoro is a three-hour drive from Dar es Salaam, to the inside. The surrounding landscape is still that of the coast, palm trees, warm and humid at this late stage of the rainy season. The town is small, lively. It enjoys proximity to the economic capital of Tanzania, although there are many poor areas, though a little away from the main road, the paved ones.
It is in one of these areas, next to the railway, which rises Fungafunga, an institution in which about thirty people live. This is a group of houses, nothing more. Most guests are elderly, but besides age they face many other difficulties. The Fungafunga, as often happens in Tanzania and throughout Africa, is a comprehensive institution, where receive shelter and a minimum of hospitality lepers, blind, people with other physical or mental disabilities, albino, refugees from the Great Lakes . All of them have lived stories of poverty and neglect. Everyone has suffered the weight of loneliness and hopelessness.
With the guests of the Fungafunga the community of the Sokoine started a few months ago a weekly service, beautiful friendship, which surprised both the elderly and the young university students. The elderly were happy to share some of their time and their memories with the youth.
The students were happy to discover the treasure of humanity that was in the lives of those elderly people on the margins. As one of them said, "meeting with the elderly gave me a new vision of things".
The climate of the institution has changed. As explains the responsible of the community, "Saturday - the day of service - has begun to have a new meaning to Fungafunga. It became the day of hope, the day after the time of sadness and suffering, the day to find a new family".
Students of the Sokoine recall that at the beginning seniors spent much of their time to complain, to regret the past. But not anymore. The elderly ask young people to live and relate what they see, start small projects for the future. A new time and hope arise from friendship. And not just bending over on themselves is already a sign of resurrection for the elderly.
Here, then, the feast of Easter was a way to witness that there is a new horizon of love and friendship, in which thinking themselves. It was a great time together, chatting, listening to music, taking pictures and eating visheti, one of the traditional sweets of the Swahili coast.