Sharing the Kindness of Strangers

April 13, 2011 Updated: January 17, 2019

MAHANGO, Tanzania—Thanks to the generosity of an Epoch Times reader in California, people in a Tanzanian village are getting fresh milk.

One year ago, an The Epoch Times reader in San Francisco, Calif., donated money for a cow and a calf to an elder in Tanzania after the man said in an interview that what he most needed to improve his home, health, and community, was a cow.

“Because I’m old and weak now, and cannot work in my field anymore; I would like to have a cow that could give me milk to improve my health,” said Abel Thomas Simwaba, known affectionately as Babu, which means grandfather in Swahili.

“I can also make some money from it as there is a high demand for milk here,” he said last April while answering a question for the weekly column, “Global Q&A .”

Babu had been a laboratory assistant in Kilimanjaro. After he retired, some 30 years ago, he left the relative comforts of city life to return to his home village, Mahango, to start a clinic, school, and mission house with an orphanage, among other projects. Mahango has no electricity and only a few public taps with running water.

When The Epoch Times spoke with Babu this month, we found him working to finish a shed for the cow, hopefully before she gives birth to a new calf. The calf Babu originally bought, unrelated to the full-grown cow, is still with its original owner while Babu finishes the shed.

“I have built a shed for my cow, plastering it down with cement. Now what is remaining is just the roof. I’ve bought the iron sheets already,” Babu said.

GRATITUDE: Abel Thomas Babu Simwaba (L) stands with his friend Bago (R), who cared for Babu's cow during the six months Babu had to be away from the village. Babu says to repay his friend's kindness, he will give him a calf from the cow. (Ondrej Horecky/The Epoch Times)
GRATITUDE: Abel Thomas Babu Simwaba (L) stands with his friend Bago (R), who cared for Babu’s cow during the six months Babu had to be away from the village. Babu says to repay his friend’s kindness, he will give him a calf from the cow. (Ondrej Horecky/The Epoch Times)

Babu’s work on the shed took longer than anticipated because of a family tragedy. In July, his grandson died and he had to return to town for the funeral. “So we buried him, but then my sister-in-law died within one month,” he said. Another two relatives died in the fall.

Then Babu himself fell weak and his arm was in constant pain so he underwent treatment in town. “Now I feel a little bit fine,” said Babu, 82, his beaming face affirming his words.

Even in town, Babu kept busy, working with his peers to set up a self-sustaining group, giving advice, and working to improve their standard of life. Some of them are retired officers, and some are farmers. Now, half a year later, he is back in his home village, finishing the shed for his cows.

Initially, Babu said if he had a cow, he would sell the milk. But since he was gifted the animals, he felt that one gift deserves many more. So he plans to give away the calf, once it’s grown a little, to the Catholic nuns who run the orphanage and work for the community.

The next calf he will give to the friend who cared for his cow while he was away in town, “because it was a gift.”

Babu explained his philosophy on generosity. “You have given me a thing that I should contribute to other people,” he said. “That is my policy. It is not for me only.”

“If I get another [calf from the cow] I’ll give it to other people, old people.”

“After the cows I want to have pigs,” he said, “There is enough grass for the cows here and then we are going to have little milk.”

“A little [milk] I will give to sisters, a little I’ll drink myself and then I’ll become very strong.”

“I thank you!” said the happy elder with a laugh.

With additional reporting by June Kellum