Dear Tumaini community,
I am very sad to share that Amini Goodluck Mbwambo, a dear friend and cherished member of Tumaini Tanzania, has passed away. Mbwambo became very sick about a month ago. After experiencing chest pains, he went to a hospital in a nearby town, where he was admitted to the ICU. He died the next day at the age of 31.
Mbwambo helped to start Tumaini Tanzania in 2007, when he was a science teacher at the Sakila Secondary School. Over the following nine years, he served as our primary partner on the ground, mentoring our students, supporting families and other teachers, and facilitating the graduates’ entrance into advanced levels of secondary school, teachers’ college, and university. He has been the backbone of this organization and a central, respected figure in the communities we serve. And he did all of this for free, sacrificing his time and talents simply because he cared about these children and their families. You can see Mbwambo's sweet spirit in this video.
Mbwambo continued his commitment to Tumaini Tanzania despite being promoted a few years ago to be the Headmaster at Nkoanekoli Secondary School, a new school in the village neighboring Sakila. Mbwambo literally built the school from the ground up, using his big imagination and creativity to design curriculum and facilities, and handling with great poise and determination the tremendous responsibilities that came with the position -- from managing a new staff, always on a budget that was dwarfed by the schoolâ€™s actual needs, to persuading local families, none of whom had attended school, of the importance of education. He felt personally responsible for the students in his charge, never satisfied with the status quo and always pushing to get another book, another desk, or another teacher. He was a consummate educator.
Just as I cannot overstate Mbwamboâ€™s dedication to Tumaini Tanzania and to his school, I cannot exaggerate the largeness of his personality or the loyalty that defined his relationships. Mbwambo was utterly devoted to his friends -- and his immediate embrace of anyone he ever met, coupled with his disarming sincerity and his eagerness to passionately discuss any issue, meant he had many, many friends. A big smile constantly adorned his round face, a worship song was never far from his lips, and a great sense of humor was made even better by a distinctive laugh that shook his belly with each joke. Spending a week with such a genuine, unique friend during my annual visit to Tanzania -- walking miles each day to visit studentsâ€™ homes and spending hours each evening sharing stories over meals lit by lanterns â€“ has provided a set of memories I will forever cherish.
Mbwambo matched his fun, bright personality with sweet empathy and sensitivity, always seeking opportunities to lead and advocate for others. In a place where needs are ubiquitous, I frequently marveled at his ability to navigate difficult conversations with grace. His judgment was a sound compass, helping Tumaini Tanzania to discern how to most compassionately, wisely, and effectively care for his community. And just as he tirelessly advocated for his students, he also fought hard for the best interests of his friends. That was illustrated most clearly to me when he personally ensured that I would have a huge engagement party the evening I proposed to my wife on a hill in Sakila. As he emceed the event -- a role he took very seriously, initiating the party with a formal, 20-minute toast -- he was as giddy and excited as I was, and he provided constant encouragement of my marriage ever since. But Mbwambo reserved his greatest love and passion for his family. Sadly, he leaves behind his beautiful wife, Asnath, who is a fellow teacher, and their three young boys.
Mbwambo helped us to choose the name â€œTumainiâ€ -- â€œhopeâ€ in Swahili -- because it describes the gift that education represents for our students, and, in turn, describes what these students represent for their community. Mbwambo exemplified this truth in his own life: he was able to attend school because a generous friend sponsored his education, and that education made possible a career dedicated to igniting the potential of the many students whom he taught and inspired. But he also exemplifies â€œtumainiâ€ in his death. For although we are committed to working with our Tanzanian friends to effect tangible change, we seek to practically mend the painful brokenness of these communities because of a true hope â€œnot in what is seen, but what is unseen. â€ 2 Cor. 4:18. While we grieve that Mbwambo is no longer with us, and we grieve the ever-present reality that sickness and disease steal too many lives too early in Tanzania, his death is marked by â€œan eternal glory that far outweighs,â€ 2 Cor. 4:17. That is the tumaini that drives us forward in joy, even as our hearts ache and our minds struggle to understand.
We will miss Mbwambo tremendously, but our organization is in good hands and will continue to run smoothly thanks to several other local partners who have long been committed to this project. I am traveling to Tanzania next week to meet with these partners, hold our annual workshop with our students, and visit with Mbwamboâ€™s family. I am determined to honor his legacy by ensuring that the education he worked so hard to bring to our students empowers them to have the kind of impact on their communities that he had on them. Thank you for helping to make that possible through your generous support.
Nawashukuru, (With deep appreciation for you,)