Sister Lelia Cleary thanks all who helped her raise funds for: A Tractor for Loolera.
Sitting in the plane before it took off from Kilimanjaro International Airport, Sister Lelia smiled to herself. She was thinking about Sikorei’s request as he bade her farewell before she set off on home leave. There was very little hope she would be able to accomplish what he had asked, “Please Sister, see if you can bring us back a tractor.”
Two hundred miles to the south of Kilimanjaro, in the Maasai village of Loolera, Sikorei and the rest of the health-care team went about their daily rounds. They had seen a lot of drought. They had built a grain store to protect the people from ever again experiencing the hunger of a famine year. The tractor they once hired from the Diocesan Development Office in Arusha had been a great help in filling the grain store, but it was more than ten hours’ drive by lorry to Arusha. You couldn’t get that tractor very often! Nonetheless, it gave Sikorei ideas about how much they could achieve if only they had a tractor of their own in the diocesan integrated health-care project in South Maasailand.
Sikorei’s words never let Sister Lelia rest.
“I said I would try but, deep in my heart I thought there was little hope of accomplishing this. Soon after arriving in Drogheda I went to visit friends with four children living in Julianstown. During the course of the conversation I asked them had they any idea how much a tractor would cost. “Oh,” they said, “probably between 18,000 and 24,000 Euro for a tractor and plough.
My heart sank. How could anyone hope to find this much money? My friends said immediately that they would like to help. The father said he was expecting a bonus at work and he would give a thousand Euro. I was speechless – these two hard working people educating their children. I thanked them for their great generosity.
Then I went home to Clare. I was telling my sisters and brothers the whole story. They were most interested. One of my sisters suggested having a whist-drive. She and friends and neighbours got many cards printed for it. Young and old bought cards to support the tractor project. It was a huge success! My family and friends gave generously. My brother put an advertizement in the local paper and this brought in a lot of donations. The Apostolic Workers gave a large donation. I wrote to my Californian friend – an old mission helper who had travelled with me to my first mission in Tanzania over 40 years ago. She had worked with us in Tanzania for several years, and now, once again, worked tirelessly collecting dollars. The money started pouring into the ‘Tractor Fund’ for Loolera.
While at home I visited a dear friend in Kerry whose sister, a Sister of Mercy working in England, was also at home on leave. I told this sister about our project and, laughingly said ,”If you meet any rich man in England tell him about our need of a tractor for Maasailand.”
She went back to England in due course. A few months after my return to Loolera I received a letter from her. She told me that she had contacted two tractor firms and both were most interested in our cause! The first had no back-up for repairs, etc. in Africa but promised to send money to our fund in Dublin. The other firm, Massey Ferguson, said they did have a company in Dar-es-Salaam: Diamond Motors Ltd. The man in charge at Massey Ferguson, Mr. Adrian Short, said he would contact their company in Tanzania. He wanted very much to help our project, and knowing the amount of money collected, said that they would donate the balance for the tractor and the plough and also transport of the new tractor by lorry from Dar-es-Salaam to Loolera, a distance of more than 500 kms.
On January 11, 1996 the lorry bearing the tractor and plough arrived in Loolera. Excitement was high and there was much rejoicing when it arrived. The people came in great numbers to look at it and admire it and tell us how many acres that they had cleared of tree trunks in readiness for ploughing. The parish priest of our neighbouring parish sent his senior tractor mechanic who has used Massey Ferguson tractors for years to supervise and train our own mechanic.
The tractor is a huge gift and a great help for the Maasai people, who only recently have been getting used to cultivating. Traditionally the Maasai are pastoralists, but due to changing conditions have had to take up agriculture. Many acres have been ploughed and the people are very happy to have such a machine in our remote bushland. Because of having a tractor we have now been granted a ten-acre field. Since the arrival of the tractor our families and friends have continued to take a great interest in it. They have also continued to send donations and we have been able to buy a trailer. This trailer was made out of bits and pieces, an old chassis and various important components. It was then painted Massey Ferguson-red to match the tractor.
The trailer has been a great addition. It has been used to harvest, but sadly, not a lot because the rains failed last year. However, there is quite a lot of building going on at present so the trailer is hired out to carry sand from the dry river bed, which is twenty-four kms away, and stones from the mountain behind us. Our own water supply here in Loolera would not allow for the filling of a water tanker. So the trailer is taken to a neighbouring village, six kms away, to collect water for the buildings.
So may God bless and reward all these wonderful people who have helped us in any way to get the tractor and trailer.
MMM handed over our programmes in Loolera in 2003.