Nearly 40 years ago, Ivan Lee and I were sitting in a fourth-year Moore College classroom soaking in the wisdom and scholarship of Broughton Knox, Donald Robinson and William Dumbrell, among other luminaries. It was a rich feast of learning for the whole class.

Helen Hoskins spent 35 years as a missionary in Tanzania

Among that year of 1980 sat a young lady by the name of Helen Hoskins. Although our year produced a couple of bishops and a couple of theological lecturers, a few chaplains and a good number of rectors, it was Helen’s ministry with CMS that was to stand out among us all. 

After 35 years as a missionary in Tanzania, Canon Helen Hoskins continues to make the Diocese of Mara her home, where she is revered and honoured as a woman of great faith, joyful hope and constant love.

"A woman of great faith, joyful hope and constant love" 

Visiting the Diocese of Mara

In May I had the honour of visiting the Diocese of Mara at the invitation of Bishop George Okoth. The occasion of my visit was primarily to open the Bunda Girls’ Secondary School. Bunda is a small town in western Tanzania near the shores of Lake Victoria. 

The school was Helen’s vision to provide quality education in a Christian caring environment, enabling girls to qualify for higher education and so open doors for their contribution to Tanzania as educated professional women.  

Quality education in a Christian caring environment

The current principal is Mrs Deninsia Jerome who, with Helen, visited me last year in Sydney and first suggested that I come and officially open the school. I was delighted to accept the invitation and while my diary is ordinarily full of commitments within our own diocese, it was a real pleasure to see the work of the gospel flourishing under God’s good hand in the Diocese of Mara.

A supporter since the beginning

From the beginning, the Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid has been a supporter of Bunda Girls’ Secondary School, along with the Grace and Mercy Foundation, which is based in Sydney.

For readers who donate to Anglican Aid, I can assure you your money is well spent. From its small beginnings in 2014, where 25 Form 1 students arrived to commence lessons in one classroom and stay in one dormitory building, within five years the school has grown to 265 students taught by 16 teachers and 15 support staff members. 

Within five years the school has grown by 53%

All instruction is in English and the school has graduated 116 girls, all passing the final national examinations. The academic standing of the school has enabled it to be placed 7th among the 157 schools in the Mara region – quite an accomplishment for a school after only five years!

The celebrations for the official opening were huge. A representative of the Department of Education was present, along with the current and previous bishops and other community dignitaries. I also dedicated the new Helen Hoskins Library, honouring Helen’s ministry throughout the life of the school, including her work as an honorary chaplain for the first five years. 

Confirming their faith in Christ Jesus

I conducted a confirmation service where more than a 12 girls professed their faith in the Lord Jesus. I also addressed the staff on Christian pedagogy and discipline and held a Q&A with the whole student body. The article on page 12 also mentions the sampling of 400 cupcakes – but I am hoping my wife doesn’t notice that!

It was an overwhelming experience to see the vitality and joy of these girls receiving a first-class education, in a country where the contribution of girls to society is not valued as highly as it might be.

Of course, all CMS supporters will be aware that Helen Hoskins has been a great supporter of Girls’ Brigade in Tanzania. Her commitment to the training of young girls – many of whom have little education beyond primary school – with skills in sewing and handcraft has been life-transforming for many. 

It was therefore a delight to visit the Girls’ Brigade Sewing and Handcraft Centre in Bunda, which opened in 2010. In its first decade it has seen an enrolment of more than 200 girls, with 181 graduating. Applications now regularly exceed enrolments, as the centre also accommodates many of the girls onsite.

Supporting women trying to make their way 

Some of the girls are unmarried mothers trying to make their way in life, and the Christian care and compassion of the teachers and chaplain provide hope for the future and into eternity. It brought tears to my eyes to see the joy in these girls’ faces.

"It brought tears to my eyes to see the joy in these girls' faces"

Both CMS and Anglican Aid are wonderful examples of the proclamation of God’s love in word and deed. We are blessed to have such missionaries from our Diocese whose desire is to see a world that knows Jesus. We can support their work by our prayers and the grace of giving, as the apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthians, whose service 

Is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, people will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else (2 Corinthians 9:12-13).