Sister Darlene Jacobs has lived more than 30 years in Tanzania, East Africa. In 2006, she was invited to a forum held during a session at the United Nations on Human Rights and Poverty.
From her experience of living among the people who are some of the poorest in the world, Sister Darlene spoke of LIFE, especially of women in Tanzania, and how that very basic human right is still such a struggle for too many of them. She shared how poverty affects their human rights, and how their indomitable spirits face these challenges.
Sister Darlene was born in Noonan, North Dakota, and attended Mt. Marty College, SD for one year before entering the Maryknoll Sisters in 1961. In 1969, she received a B.A. in Music from Manhattanville College, NY, and was assigned that same year to Tanzania. After language school Sister Darlene taught at the Music Conservatory of Tanzania for two years. Following this, she did full time research for new ministries in the country; developed a program for “street boys” and managed a Technical School in Dar es Salaam.
Returning to the States, Sister Darlene worked on the West Coast Vocation Ministry Team. On her return to Tanzania in 1981, she taught at the Nangwa Community Girls School in Babati until 1988. In the 70’s President Nyrere had asked the Maryknoll Sisters to start this innovative rural school for girls. Based in Arusha, Sister Darlene continued research for new ministries. She came to the rural community of Msange, Singida in 1990, and after two years of planning, fund-raising, and obtaining 350 acres of land, she founded the Murigha Girls School. This boarding school was arranged so the girls could live in small groups, facilitating community. It is a four year program for about 140 students with education for self-confidence and self-reliance being a basic principle, so that women can make choices in their lives. Graduates are more mature physically, emotionally, and intellectually. They study agriculture, animal husbandry, tailoring, business management in addition to some academic subjects. The students grow most of their own food and the school sells the extra to help meet operational expenses.
Sister Darlene, a farmer’s daughter, joined the girls in planting and harvesting. An accomplished organist and pianist, she used local musical instruments for music and dancing, a piano being too great a luxury when there was no electricity or running water. At Murigha, Sister Darlene encouraged the development of a spiritual family as the girls come from all tribes, and many different Christian and Muslim backgrounds. In the coming together of all these spiritual paths, they are united in their search for God. From its inception the school was meant to be turned over to the people of the area as soon as they were ready. In 2004, the Sisters entrusted the school to the Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Masista wa Mtakatifu Teresia wa Mtoto Yesu). Sister Darlene returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center and served in the Treasury Dept. and the Immigration-Visa Office, as well as helping direct the choir and playing both organ and piano.
Back in Tanzania, Sister Darlene and another Sister opened a new mission, Dodoma. Sister Darlene is very content involved again in education for young women, teaching oral English for class VI and VII primary students where many of the students are orphans and living with HIV+. In January she will be the English teacher at the secondary school which is being built now to accomodate these students plus others. She also participates in the weekly meetings of the Small Christian Communities.
Read her new blog to follow along as she rediscovers mission in the place she has loved and served for so long.