Photo: Bob Kasworm
When Bob Kasworm was approached by his employer, Alegent Health, to investigate whether it made sense for their hospital system to get involved in Tanzania, he thought it would be a three-week investigation, easily summed up in a tidy report. Now Bob lives in the village of Machame, high up on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, where he has been since 2004.
“We (Alegent Health) had been approached by Martin Russell, assistant to Bishop De Freese of the Nebraska Synod. They were developing a sister church or companion synod relationship with the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania,” explains Bob.
The Tanzanians had asked for assistance from an American partner to work with their three hospitals, 24 dispensaries, public health program and more, explains Bob. With a background in both medical technology and business, Bob was a logical choice to evaluate the possibilities.
After the three-week trip, Bob returned to the U.S. and wrote his report, but then he went one step further and spearheaded the Alegent Health efforts in Tanzania. Between 2001 and 2004 he returned to Africa for more than a dozen short visits, while coordinating the building of the relationship and taking on various health-related projects.
When greater support and resources became available from Alegent, he reversed the situation by relocating to Tanzania, returning home two or three times a year for brief visits.
Alegent Health is a faith-based health system based in Omaha. It was formed more than 10 years ago and is an equal partnership of two sponsors — Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems (which is sponsored by the Nebraska Synod of the ELCA).
One project Bob worked on recently was the new Orthopedic Surgery Center at Machame Lutheran Hospital. It took several years of building, planning, collecting equipment and innumerable meetings before the center was dedicated in August 2007. The guest of honor was the president of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.
This orthopedic center was created to increase surgical capacity for the area, with modern equipment and techniques. There are many health needs in Tanzania, but Alegent-Health-Tanzania found this project attractive because orthopedic surgery can often reduce or eliminate pain, enable productive activity and remove social stigma.
Another project Bob developed through a partnership with the Nebraska Synod and Alegent Health is “Face of UKIMWI (AIDS).” Many people in the U.S. have heard stories of AIDS in Africa. This video helps put a face on the statistics by introducing viewers to people who struggle daily with HIV and AIDS.
Single copies of the “Face of UKIMWI” are available by contacting Karen Pickering in the Nebraska Synod office at 402-896-5311, ext. 1000.
You can keep up with the life of Bob by visiting his page at the Lord of Love Lutheran Church Web site. There you can find a series of postings and pictures from the last several years. Bob claims, “It might help you figure me out a bit.”