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Member of ARISE Together in Christ group
inspired to join mission helping families in Tanzania

A conversation between members of an ARISE group led to a moving visit to Tanzania for an Ontario man.

John Couto of Listowel, Ontario, said he had thought about joining a mission trip but didn’t act on it until Patricia Graham—a fellow member of an ARISE small group—spoke, during one of the group’s sessions, about Chalice, a Catholic organization based in Nova Scotia.

John learned that Chalice assists people in need in Asia, Haiti, Latin America, Ukraine, and Africa.

The opportunities Chalice offers include sponsoring individual people—mostly children, but some adults, too—with donations of $33 per month.

“When I heard of Chalice,’’ John said, “I contacted them and sponsored two children—one in Peru and one in Tanzania.

“After a few weeks, Chalice contacted me with information about a mission going to Tanzania. I signed up for it, and we went in August of 2012.’’

John said the group, comprising 24 people from across Canada, conducted a two-week medical mission in two regions in the southern part of Tanzania, which is situated on the Indian Ocean in East Africa and is one of the poorest countries in the world.

The trip John joined was the beginning of a three-year mission to the two locales in Tanzania, focusing on maternal and family health. He said the mission group consisted of medical doctors, dentists, nurses, and some support volunteers like him.


ARISE participant John Couto
John Couto of Listowel, Ontario,
visted Tanzania last year.
He had thought about
joining a mission trip
but didn’t act on it until a member
of his ARISE small group spoke,
during one of the group’s sessions,
about Chalice, a Catholic
organization based in Nova Scotia.

Throughout the mission, Canadian and Tanzanian volunteers were paired so that they could work together and learn from each other.

“I was overwhelmed by my experience there,” John said. “It’s hard to put it into words.’’

He said seeing first-hand the level of poverty in which the people live “is just overwhelming.’’

“We also got to see first-hand the wonderful work that Chalice has done,’’ John added, “building schools, supporting each of the children and their families. Without the support of Chalice, some of these children would never get an education or a decent meal.’’

The mission provided medical care for about 1,900 people and took blood samples to identify diseases and a baseline survey of the local population, in particular the children enrolled in Chalice’s sponsorship program. This survey will guide the course of action at the site over the years to come, John said.

The Chalice volunteers also raised funds for the construction of a much-needed maternity ward in Songea, where the Sisters of Visitation currently operate a pre- and post-natal clinic. Construction of the new maternity ward is under way.

John said members of the group were able to visit the homes and exchange gifts with families of the children they sponsor.

The volunteers also spent some time at an orphanage, where the children performed a play for their visitors and the Chalice group served a meal.

The Chalice group also provided a meal at a public school that had a student body of between 700 and 800 children between the ages of six and twelve. Afterwards, the volunteers played ball with the children and otherwise interacted with them.

John said the volunteers were well received by the Tanzanian people:

“They were very happy to see us. They couldn’t do enough to accommodate us; they were very hospitable.’’

Many Tanzanians are Catholic, and John said he found them to be devout.

He said he attended Mass at 6 a.m. on most mornings during his visit, and was joined by about two dozen local people.

He was impressed by the depth of the people’s participation in the liturgy, and particularly liked an aspect of the Sunday celebration.

“At the offertory,” John said, “everybody goes up to the altar with their donations. It starts with the children, then the women, then the men. They’re poor, but they always have something to give.’’

The second-year mission group recently left for Tanzania, John said, and when next year’s group leaves, he plans to be with them.

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