Iambi Hospital

Iambi Hospital SignAs part of its outreach and evangelistic efforts in East Africa, the Augustana Lutheran Mission focused on the treatment of leprosy.  A leprosarium established at Mkalama by the British government was desolate and remote.  Through the efforts of Dr. Stanley Morris together with the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (BELRA), American Leprosy Mission (ALM) and Augustana Lutheran Mission the Mkalama facility was replaced in 1956 with a new facility at Nkungi on 5,000 acres of land provided by the Colonial Government.

Located 15 miles from the small Iambi Hospital, the new leprosarium could treat up to 500 patients (50 in-patient status and 450 out-patient status) and was designed to be self-sufficient.  Crops were planted and harvested, a dam was installed on a nearby lake to ensure the availability of water year-round as well as provide resources for a tilapia fish farm, and cash crops of flower seeds were produced.  With the development of new drugs and the ability to treat the disease completely on an out-patient basis, this leprosarium became obsolete, closed in 1981 and the majority of the leper patients were told to return to their home communities.  The leprosarium was converted into a general hospital and also given the name Iambi.

With the change in status the hospital no longer qualified for funding from BELRA or ALM.  Bishop Gideon Maghina of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania Central Synod enlisted the help of Dr. Denny and Paula Lofstrom and Mr. Floyd Hammer of Outreach Inc. to help give Iambi Hospital a new life.  In 2004 the Lofstroms invited Pastor Bob Ward, a retired missionary, to bring a group of volunteers from the Pacific Northwest to spend a month working on meeting the needs of the hospital.  In 2004 members of this group from St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Beaverton, Oregon and Community of Hope Lutheran Church in Wilsonville, Oregon created African S.M.I.L.E. to continue the efforts at Iambi and Nkungi after the Lofstroms moved on to establish a hospital in the Lake Region of Tanzania.

Since 2007, a number of groups have traveled to Iambi as African S.M.I.L.E. volunteers for the purpose of renovating and expanding the hospital facilities.  In addition to providing support for the hospital, African S.M.I.L.E. has taken up the cause to provide for the 300 lepers that chose to remain in the Nkungi area.  Faced with abject poverty and shunned by the community, the lepers are being provided with housing and equipment to become self-sustaining.  Char De Leco (Charity Relief Center for Destitute from Leprosy in the Community) is a group of community buildings located in Nkungi on three acres provided by the village.  These buildings provide refuge and classroom space for those stricken with leprosy and their descendants.
Endorsed by Bishop Alex Seif Mkumbo, the present Bishop of the Central Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, African S.M.I.L.E. will continue its work at Iambi and Nkungi until these communities are self-sufficient and economically sound.