Local generosity helping to build needed school in Tanzania

URBANA — David Kraft remembers that when he was a child, his family would gather to pray the rosary before opening gifts on Christmas morning. Now he’s hoping that continued prayer and the generosity of the people of central Illinois will bring about a tremendous gift for the children of Bukoba, Tanzania — a new school.

The project to build a secondary school is being sponsored by the Diocese of Bukoba and overseen by Father Stanislaus Mutajwaha, who is the primary fundraiser. The Tanzanian priest served at parishes around the Diocese of Peoria from 2004 to 2009, including St. Patrick’s in Urbana.
That’s where he got to know Kraft, who continued to visit him when he was transferred to St. Lawrence in Penfield.

A native of Peoria, Kraft attended Father Sweeney School and Peoria Notre Dame and went on to the University of Illinois, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in real estate finance in 1993. He now owns Kraft Properties in Urbana and is a member of St. Patrick’s Parish.

Kraft helped a little bit with the fundraising while “Father Stan” was at St. Patrick’s and learned more about the need for the school over coffee and conversation following Masses in Penfield. When Father Stan returned to Tanzania to work in the Kashelero Sub-Parish of the Diocese of Bukoba, he invited Kraft to visit him and see the project firsthand.

“I said I’d try, but I had never committed to going,” Kraft told The Catholic Post. Chance meetings with other Tanzanian priests, including one who had Father Stan as a teacher during his seminary training, kept the idea alive, however.

When he heard donations were slowing down, Kraft decided to take action.
“When they run out of money, the work stops,” he explained. “There’s no ‘You can pay us later.’ You pay in advance or pay as you go. So, for awhile, there was nothing going on.”

To create awareness about the school — named Kwauso, a combination of two words meaning “through and to the honor of his merciful face” — Kraft traveled to Tanzania last spring to visit his friend and meet the people.
The trip took him from Champaign to Detroit to Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro to Mwanza to Kayanga and finally to Bukoba.

“The day we went to the school I saw that 100 children were there and
they had walked miles. Parents don’t have cars. They weren’t dropped off,” he said.

“The mayor was there, too. I didn’t expect that. Father Stan said we were going to the school and take some pictures,” Kraft remembered. “He said there might be some people there.”

While his visit generated a lot of excitement, he’s quick to set the record straight.

“It could have been anyone — it wasn’t me that was special,” he said. “It was the fact that I would go there that was so special to them.”

What Kraft found is four buildings with blue roofs, which are visible from the air. That includes not only classrooms, but a kitchen and dining hall large enough to accommodate 250 students, and dormitories.

In a recent update, Father Stan said they failed to get power from the National Electricity Company and have decided to use solar panels for lighting and a small generator to run the water pump.

Kraft said much of the work, such as making the bricks and digging the well, was done by hand since there is very little equipment available. To dig the well, for example, people had to be lowered into the hole to do the work and they had some anxious days when they hadn’t found water at 60 feet.

They went another 20 feet and were rewarded for their efforts, he said. If they hadn’t, the whole process would have started over in another location.
The dream is to enroll 400 students, but 80 students are anticipated for the first year. Father Stan said some procedural formalities on the part of the government are preventing him from announcing the opening date, but he hopes it will be soon.

“Those children walked for miles because they want to go to school there.
We’ve got to get it opened first,” Kraft told The Post. “There are no other good options that are going to get them to universities and eventually secure positions that will allow them to help their town.”

The people of central Illinois have been extremely generous so far, donating much of the $200,000 that has been received. More than half of that amount has come from an anonymous source in Peoria, according to Kraft.

Another $20,000 to $30,000 is needed to finish the buildings and provide sufficient furnishings to open the doors, he said, adding that they will need assistance on an ongoing basis.

Before they ever open a book at the Kwauso School, however, the children of Bukoba have become teachers for their benefactor. That lesson was taught when Kraft observed their respect for the holiness of the church and Christ.

“It made me think that maybe sometimes I take it for granted. Even though I go to church every day pretty much, I felt like I had so much to learn from a 7-year-old child’s faith,” he said.

Donations for the Kwauso School may be made by sending a check to St. Mary’s Parish, 79 Third St., El Paso, IL 61738. Please make the checks payable to St. Mary’s Parish and write “for Kwauso School” in the memo line.

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