Ian & Meg Hazelton

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The Point Community Church has been busy raising funds for a new Compassion Child Development Centre in Tanzania, Africa. Ian and Meg Hazelton have lived and worked in Tanzania and have experienced first hand the difference that can be made to help families and children…

Hi Ian and Meg. What brings you both to Port Macquarie?

Ian: We live in Armidale, and we’ve come to Port Macquarie to work with TPCC for 4 months, building towards an outreach mission from 8 -15 January 2012.

This visit builds on the association we’ve had with the church, going back to 2006 – when we first went to Tanzania. We worked in Tanzania for 3 years, with the church supporting us, so while we’re in Port Macquarie, we’re also keeping our finger on the pulse with what’s happening in Tanzania.

What experiences did you have in Tanzania that first prompted the idea to develop a Child Development Centre?

Meg: I’m a retired nurse-midwife so when we went to Tanzania, I was looking for something medical to help with, and an orphanage gave me an opportunity to be in charge of its nursery. There were 25 babies, mostly orphans – some with HIV. I was drawn to a little boy called Salvatory, who had special needs. His arm had been dislocated at birth, and his father had left him at the orphanage the night his mother died.

I worked at the orphanage for 18 months, and during that time I came to know a lovely lady named Laura, who knew of Salvatory’s background. Through this connection, I came to meet Pastor Raynold and his wife Rachel, who were actually caring for Salvatory’s brothers and a sister! They visited the orphanage and all the children played together – there was a strong family likeness. I asked Pastor Raynold and Rachel if they would be willing to adopt Salvatory. They had not had any children after 10 years of marriage, and after much discussion were overjoyed to adopt him. They changed his name to ‘Gift’, as they felt he was a gift from God to their family and community.

Ian: The Pastor and his wife had a burning desire to do more for the many poor children in their village of Msaranga. We introduced them to the aid organisation Compassion, and through a series of meetings it was decided Compassion would approve a new Child Development Centre in their village, if the required facility could first be built.

So here we are back in Port Macquarie working with the Pastor, his wife and their church in Msaranga to build the centre. After the centre is built, Compassion will open and run it through their child sponsorship program.

What stage of development is the centre up to now?

Ian: The Msaranga church has already purchased the land, fenced it and had the water put on. We’re about to start building – which is very exciting. We hope it will be finished sometime early next year, and during the second half of the year Compassion will be able to register the first children.

A number of us from TPCC will go over for the opening of the centre, and that will be the beginning of a long partnership between the two churches and Compassion.

What will the aims of the Child Development Centre be?

Ian: Compassion has a wonderful program whereby 200 – 300 children will be cared for by teachers, admin staff, social workers, cooks and cleaners at the centre. The program of care includes educational development, health, dental checks and vocational training. Social Workers will go with the children to visit their families to ensure that everyone is cared for – even though it may only be one or two children from each family who join the program, the family still benefits. The program operates right through the children’s schooling years, and if the child wants to go on to do further study at university, they transfer to another program called Youth Leadership Training.

Structurally, what will the centre consist of?

Ian: The centre will consist of classrooms, a community meeting hall, kitchen, toilet block, play area and a basic needs shop – all within a safely fenced, half acre compound.

The centre will be run fully by Tanzanian staff, so it will provide a lot of employment in the area.

What kind of impact do you think this centre and its programs will have on the lives of the children it supports?

Meg: The transforming effect that this will have is huge. It makes such a difference to a child locked in poverty. Poverty is not just a shortage of money, clothing, food and education … it’s also where children become locked into this belief that life will never get any better, and there’s just a blind acceptance that this is the way they’ll always live.

This centre will help break the poverty cycle – give the children a sense of who they are and what their potential is, and not only give them a better life, but help show them how they can become part of the solution to the problem of poverty, through education and training.

Given the length of your stay in Tanzania, what have you personally taken away from the experience?

Meg: It’s been hard to return to Australia and leave all of those beautiful people behind. The people are very open, warm and friendly and grateful for any help. It was wonderful to see how people in another part of the world live – people with so little, but who have a sense of joy. The experience was a great privilege and I’ve been changed through it.

Ian: While Meg was working at the orphanage, my position was as Pastor to students at a big medical school, university campus and teaching hospital. The relationships I now keep up with these people via email makes me realise that somehow we’ve touched each other’s hearts. It was such a special, rewarding experience – and one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done in my life.

How can people find out more information about the Child Development Centre and help contribute to the cause?

Ian: Visit the blog site: msaranga.blogspot.com. There are photos plus a short video, and people can donate through the site as well. TPCC is formulating a program of events to run over the next few months, which will include things like a seniors walkathon, a Salsa night, car rally and trivia night. All of these events will be advertised widely, and details can be viewed on the blog.

The Wauchope Patchwork Quilters Group has also kindly made and donated a beautiful quilt for our guessing competition. Guess the number of patchwork pieces in the quilt, and you could be the lucky person to take it home. The quilt will be displayed at the following locations: Port Macquarie – outside NAB, on 15 December, 19 January and 23 February. Wauchope – outside the Department Store on 5 December, 20 January and 10 February.

Thanks Ian and Meg.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

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