The idea arrived in July 1990, when I joined my son for a trip in Tanzania, organized for the students of the University of Bologna. During that occasion I understood – only because experiencing certain situations is possible to really understand them – that is a duty and interest for each of one to contribute to reduce the gap with the so called developing countries, especially when, like in the case of Tanzania, the road to progress is long and slow to reach.

Back to Italy, I took the decision, together with my wife Adele, to set aside an amount of money, waiting for the “right occasion” to allocate for a solidarity project in Tanzania. In 1992 we established

Associazione Ruvuma, whose executive board was formed by – beside myself and Adele, by Vittorio Tison, Clelio Motta e Vincenzo Domenichelli. The lawyer Roberto Orlando accepted to be president of the auditor boarding. The name of the Association was suggested by Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, currently Archbishop of Dar es Salaam: Ruvuma is the name of a big river that crosses the poorest areas of Tanzania, and is the border with Mozambique.

storia1The occasion arrived in 1992, when Pope Giovanni Paolo II completed is great journey in Africa in Dar es Salaam, and the fathers of the Preziosissimo Sangue Congregation prepared the “greeting of Africa” for the Pope, a journey where the Pope also consecrated 35 Tanzanian priests. When thanking Father Antonio Calabrese, part of the provincial Congregation, the Pope asked him what he could do for him, and his reply was: “Sanctity, we need a dispensary with annexed maternity, here in Kunduchi”.

The Nuncio Apostolic Monsignore Vincenzo Moreno, who was aware of our intention, informed our objectives to Pope Giovanni Paolo II, who asked to tell to “those people of Milan” that what we intended to do was a desire shared also by Father Tonino.

With the supervision of Professor Vittorio Tison, a pathologist well known all over the world, we started the realization of the dispensary with annexed maternity in Mbweni, 35 km to the North of Dar es Salaam, in the region of Kunduchi, and we dedicated it to Santa Maria Nascente, from the name of the oldest parish of the Italian town of Meda.

I informed about it Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, at the time Archbishop of Milan, who wrote me: “I really appreciated the proposal to dedicate the dispensary to Santa Maria Nascente, and I entrust to the Virgin all those suffering people who will be cured in the new Hospital”.

The inauguration of the dispensary took place in August 1995, blessed by the Archbishop Polycarp Pengo, as well as by the Muslim Mufti of the territory, to symbolically underline that, on the contrary of many other health structures present in Tanzania, the dispensary aimed to offer health assistance to everybody, despite their religion.

Next to the Mbweni dispensary, was later built a maternity school.

To Vittorio Tison – who unfortunately died just few months before the inauguration without the joy to assist to the start of that initiative he wanted so strongly – succeeded Doctor Giuseppe Travaglini, a surgeon, now vice president and responsible of the health activities, who, thanks to his network of knowledge and the respect among doctors, is able to obtain a constant collaboration of doctors, paramedic staff and technicians of different specialties.

However, Vittorio also wished to start in Tanzania a Laboratory of Anatomy Pathological: a wish that was taken over by Doctor Francesco Callea, currently also Head Physician of the Bambin Gesù Hospital in Rome. On suggestion of Cardinal Pengo, we built it in the great Bugando Hospital, in Mwanza, next to Lake Victoria. Francesco became the responsible for it, and after few months, even academic of that discipline at the Medicine Faculty, that the Cornell University of New York established just in Mwanza.

storia2During all these years, Associazione Ruvuma Onlus has kept on its own activity, interpreting in the wider way the objective to give to the people of Tanzania a better access to Health and professional training, both in the Hospital – asking to the Italian volunteers to carry out their activity together with their Tanzanian colleagues – as well as providing every year scholarships to the students of the Professional School of Mtongani, or getting involved in other projects subsequently carried out by other organisations and people. All this, thanks to the credibility acquired with the Tanzanian authorities.

It’s important to remember that in Tanzania, like in the rest of other African countries, many Italian laics dedicate voluntary their holiday to jobs of every kind and to teach the local population many different manual activities. All of them share the same wish to bring help and solidarity to the poor of Africa.

There are many other opportune occasions to help Africa, and the road to carry out them will always have the same name: Solidarity.

Rodrigo Rodriquez