The East African country of Tanzania boasts one of the largest population growth centers in the world, yet is also one of the poorest countries in the world. With two-thirds of the population below the age of 25, there is an incredible need for more access to healthcare, especially maternal and pediatric care. In a country that already lacks a basic healthcare infrastructure, the burden of providing adequate healthcare to its burgeoning young population is ever increasing.

Arusha is the third largest population hub within Tanzania. It’s popular with tourists as a gateway to safari destinations and majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro. More importantly, though, it’s home to the Sombetini Health Center, a state-of-the-art medical clinic built in 2011 as part of the mission work of Sacred Heart Parish, a local ministry serving the impoverished community outside of Arusha. Constructed with funds donated by parishioners in a campaign led by the parish’s Father Prosper as well as a dynamic women’s group within the parish, this three-story, 60-bed maternity and pediatric hospital celebrated its official opening in June.

The equipping of the hospital will occur in three phases. Phase 1 is completed and consists of a dental clinic, lab, pharmacy, minor operating theater, pediatric clinic and outpatient examination unit, all procured by MATTER through our generous donors.

From left to right: MJ Bailey, Jeannie Buckner, Anne Kimmel and Georgia Kimmel.

Phase 2 involves acquiring “Consultation Hospital” status from the Ministry of Health by completing the 2nd and 3rd floors, which will include outpatient, maternity, and neonatal units, laundry and a major operating theater. Currently, Phase 2 is 71% funded.

Phase 3 will involve training on surgical procedures to expand hospital services to serve a larger population through the implementation of telemedicine technology and a digital healthcare reference library.

Recently, MATTER’s Director of Donor Relations, Jen Ware, led an Insight Trip to Arusha for donors to see the progress of the Sombetini Health Center and participate in its opening celebration. Among the group of donors was Jeannie Buckner and Mary Jo (MJ) Bailey. We asked them to share some “Arusha Insights” from this memorable trip!

What was the highlight of the trip for you?

Jen: The visit to the hospital was incredibly meaningful.  Having visited small clinics in Rwanda and witnessing the lack of access to healthcare in Africa firsthand, I was overwhelmed with hope and gratitude to the donors and women of this community for their dedication and perseverance to make a difference in the lives of so many women and children.  And being a part of an organization that partners in this opportunity is incredible!

MJ: Being invited to participate in the opening celebration, seeing the hospital, and meeting Fr. Prosper and his parishioners.

What most impressed you about the hospital?

Jeannie: The fact that the local community has been working on this project for 8 years and had the building up but needed additional help from MATTER to update it in order to meet inspections and fill it with equipment.

Jen: The state of the art equipment and the beautiful building that will be a safe place for so many woman and children to get the healthcare and services they need.  Most importantly, the community of dedicated, joyful and grateful woman, men and children that believe in helping their community.

Mary, who led the campaign to raise funds from parishioners and community leaders for the Sombetini Health Center.

Briefly describe a memorable interaction you had with someone in the community or the hospital.

MJ:  I had the opportunity to speak with Mary, the leader of the women’s group. She is so well spoken and has keen insights into her community’s needs. She’s working actively to innovate and create positive change with grassroots micro-funding of small donations made by the women and participants. Again and again, I was impressed by the community’s determination and ability to create relatively large projects given the extremely limited financial means.

Jeannie: I was extremely impressed with Father Prosper – his enthusiasm and energy. And the women who have worked so hard for this hospital.

How did this trip affect you?

Jen: Seeing MATTER’s work firsthand and meeting our partners encourages me to give generously and also lead people to play an integral role in making a difference in the world!  Seeing the impact on the incredible women/donors that I traveled with connected me even more to the work we are doing and the support that we need to continue to change lives.  The lives of these donors have been greatly impacted by the gifts they are giving!

MJ: It inspired me to continue to do more to support worthy organizations like MATTER to partner with communities to make them better places for people who are already motivated to make the world a better place. I had suspected traveling for a purpose/cause would be something that would enhance not only my travel experience, but would also serve to enrich my sense of my place in the world overall. And it certainly did!


You don’t have to be a charity to change the world.  Father Prosper and the women of Sacred Heart Parish, along with our generous donors, are changing the world for the people of Arusha. Want to join them? Please fill out our Insight Trip Interest Form and Jen will contact you or go to our website to learn more about the Sombetini Health Center. We’d also love for you to join us on a future Insight Trips visiting MATTER projects, meeting community partners and enjoying the amazing sights of the beautiful countries we are working in. Learn more about our incredible Insight Trips here!