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The remote and isolated island of Ukerewe is the largest of a number of islands located in the north-west sector of Tanzania in Lake Victoria across from Mwanza which is situated on the mainland (a 3-4 hour ferry ride). It is 20km by 50 km and has an estimated population of 350,000 people. There is only one town, Nansio, and many villages, making this a densely populated rural island. Children are most at risk in Ukerewe and suffer most from poor nutrition and economic hardship, although when parents do not have enough to eat and cannot support their children, the hardship is exponential.

Cathy has been a participant in Canada Africa Community Health Alliance (CACHA) medical missions to Tanzania since 2008, taking on the role of team co-lead in 2009 and team lead in 2012. Leading teams of 15-22 Canadians including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, surgeons, pharmacists and logisticians, they travel together to Tanzania. They work closely with their Tanzanian partners to offer free primary health care to rural villages on the island. They also offer free surgeries with the assistance of the Nansio Hospital.  On each medical mission, the combined team of Tanzanians and Canadians see approximately 3000 patients for health issues including malaria, cholera, severe diarrhoea, malnutrition (read Neema's story here), diabetes, worms, and skin conditions. Each person is diagnosed, prescribed medications as needed and referred to the hospital when necessary. Community health education is also provided either by video in Swahili and/or by Tanzanian clinicians.


As a result of visiting Ukerewe Island 1-2 times per year, Cathy has joined with others to assist the local people in meeting some of the challenges they are facing.



Canada Africa Community Health Alliance’s (CACHA) Ukerewe Scholarship Fund

The Ukerewe District Scholarship Program is an educational scholarship for the benefit of disadvantaged students residing in Ukerewe District, Tanzania.  The Program is grounded in the principles of fairness, transparency, and accountability. For Ukerewe individuals, the scholarship program provides much needed financial assistance to allow them to develop their skill sets and expand their knowledge.  For CACHA’s partners in Ukerewe, the program helps to strengthen the competence in their communities in the student’s chosen sector of study.  For CACHA, the program helps to achieve their overall mission, particularly by empowering local staff and volunteers to be leaders in the African communities that they serve.


Antonia and Emma: Two caring and ambitious young physicians living in Mwanza, on the mainland across from Ukerewe Island. They wanted to increase their skills to assist the people living in their communities. Cathy and friends were able to provide some financial assistance. Antonia and Emma are currently living in China where Antonia is studying Dermatology and Emma is studying Surgery. They will return to Tanzania in 1-2 years to add their new skill set to the understaffed health care system.

Supporting Ukerewe Island in lieu of CACHA medical caravan 2020


Due to the COVID pandemic CACHA is not able to travel to Ukerewe Island in 2020. With that in mind many of the CACHA caravan participants reached out wanting to see how we could help our partners there, even if we were not visiting. Our partners responded with areas of concern for the island which included Community Health Education; Health and Education for Vulnerable Children; and Water and Sanitation. Along with many returning participants Cathy is working to raise funds to assist in these areas.

A few years after they began doing medical caravans on Ukerewe Island, and had been passing by a building that said Lake Victoria Children, Cathy and Elizabeth decided to go in and see what they do. A small Tanzanian non-government organization, they run a nursery school that feeds and teaches two classes full of little ones. Parents paying only what they can afford which is sometimes nothing. They run a Back to School program to assist vulnerable children with uniform and school supplies. They also have volunteer community ambassadors in 68 villages who monitor communities for families in urgent need. LVC works very much from a volunteer basis and finds funding for expenses where and when they can. Cathy has been supporting the work of this small local registered non-profit organization working to provide children with a better today and a brighter tomorrow with no government or stable, ongoing funding. LVC provides project management for the infrastructure projects completed on Ukerewe Island.


Lake Victoria Children


Lake Victoria Children’s Emergency Health Fund

The Lake Victoria Children’s Emergency Health Fund assists vulnerable children and their families when dealing with emergency medical situations. The children live on Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania, one of the most isolated, poverty stricken communities in the country. Health care practitioners see many medical diseases and life threatening emergencies including, for example, malnutrition, club feet, malaria, schistosomiasis, broken and infected bones, cholera, intestinal worms, and TB. This fund can cover the cost of health insurance, medical testing, treatment, surgery, transportation, food, and medications. This fund supports children who cannot afford medical treatment and would otherwise go without, at great risk to their health and wellbeing.


Imani Women’s Income Generating project

Along with Elizabeth Good, Cathy met the women of this group when visiting their village with the Bishop. Elizabeth and Cathy purchased sewing machines for the women and helped with seeds and land for their agricultural projects. Meeting each year the women often spoke about wanting the build a maize mill. This would allow them to process their corn and rice at little cost as well as process the products of other farmers to earn an income.   Through a proposal written to Women’s Inter-church Council of Canada, they were able to make this dream come true. The women now have a maize mill income generating business along with two sewing machines close by where they sew and sell their creations.