I am certainly enjoying the sounds and tastes of this garden of Zambia. One morning, I awoke to the sounds of children learning the alphabet. There is a preschool and primary school nearby and they were reciting after the teacher. I laid back and listened to what seemed delight in their voices. Children here are eager to learn. In Kalomo, the primary students are taught in Tonga, their native language, and are also taught English classes. Once they are in High School, all classes are taught in English. This provides a challenge for those students who are taught out in the villages in their own language, where there is less English taught. When they come to a town like Kalomo for High School, it is difficult for them to pass entrance exams and meet education standards once they are admitted. They often need tutoring to help them meet the standards.
The vulnerability of life here is amazing. Imagine these young students, especially the girls who come from a small village. Not only do they have academic challenges, but they also have challenges in finding safe housing. They might stay with relatives, family friends or find a small room to rent in one of the compounds. They may or may not be able to eat with the family, so they may need to make their own food. They have no place to study and are in school from either 7 am-1pm or 2pm-6pm. There are many hours of the day that are open and there is little work possibilities available.
The Mwaata Secondary School we visited this week gave us a copy of their strategic plan for 2013-2017. The report included statistics about student dropout rates; more girls drop out than boys do. Also, girls living in “self accommodations”, rather than with parents or in “protected” housing with guardians, are 5-times more likely to get pregnant. This is why the hostel is so important for the High School. We met again yesterday with the Head (Principal), Mr. Zulu, and he has high educational goals for both female and male students. He said the girl child is so much more vulnerable than the boy child is and we are committed to make education available to all. What a compelling goal when one sees these beautiful young girls who so desire education and careers as teachers, nurses and doctors … and Zambia needs their leadership.
We arrived in Kalomo on Tuesday and been on the go ever since. Sister Deb lives with Sister Teresa, a nurse from Ireland and Sister Irene, a teacher from Zambia. They have shown us wonderful hospitality! Sister Deb has introduced us to her many projects and people with whom they work.
Today we went to the Mwaata High School. The students who attend the school come from Kalomo and surrounding areas. The students, especially the girls from surrounding areas, do not have a safe place to live when they are in Kalomo going to school. The school has decided to build a hostel for the girls. They have just started building the hostel and of course do not have enough funds for this project yet. Through Sister Deb’s work with the school, Shary Bozied, Gloria and Larry Englert contributed to the hostel and today, we were invited to the school to meet the students and present the contribution for the girls’ hostel.
We were warmly welcomed with song and dance. Head (Principal,) Mr. Zulu, School Board Chair, Mr. Situngu and the District Education Standards Officer, Mrs. Daka, spoke to the students about the importance of education and their desire to make it possible for a quality education and a safe place for both girls and boys to live during school. Mrs. Daka told the students that people have been generous in helping them, and they are to follow this example when they are adults. What a wonderful message for these students…and they clapped in response.
We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the students, teachers and administrators. In the picture below are Gloria, Shary, Sister Pam and Sister Deb presenting contribution to Mr. Stiungu, Mr. Zulu and Mrs. Daka.
We arrived in Kalomo on Tuesday around 7:00, after stopping for a wonderful turkey dinner at Pemba. Sisters Anne, Bernedette and Mary Lucey did the cooking. It was delicious. We had Christmas pudding for dessert. We all purchased gifts from Sister Mary Lucey’s sewing students. We bought her out and she was delighted.
We were very tired on Tuesday and today was full as well. We went to a tiny clinic with Sister Theresa today. She met with about 25 patients, all of whom have HIV/AIDS. About 10 of them were children….very precious! One small child I fell in love with is named Jenny. A caregiver adopted Jenny and her brother after their mother died. We have amazing stories to tell. Tonight, we were eating supper and the head master and two other school officials stopped to greet us. Tomorrow, we will be going to the school to learn more on the education system, and the students will dance
We are at the airport and just made our way through security. Realized that three of our bags met the 50-pound maximum and one was only at 45-pounds. Guess I could have packed one more thing!
We are so glad to be this far. Two days ago, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about my top 10 list of things to do and I fell asleep at number 27! Now the time has come and through the help of many friends, we are prepared and ready to go.
I read recently that a person should enter a missionary trip as one enters a flower garden…stepping in with wonder and awe. That is how I am beginning my pilgrimage to Zambia.
We thank you for your prayers as we begin our journey.
In 2008, I had the privilege of visiting my Presentation Sisters in Zambia, Africa. Our Aberdeen Sister Virginia McCall had joined Presentation Sisters who were missioned there from Ireland and India. It was a journey of a lifetime for me. I was deeply touched by the warmth and hospitality of the Zambian people and the dedication and commitment of the Sisters. As I returned home, I had a desire to share about these people, their beauty and their needs with others. I thought if we could find ways to “build bridges” between cultures and communities, it would benefit everyone. Now I have an opportunity to visit again and accompany others on their journey.
A friend gave me a book recently about making pilgrimages and indeed that is what we are about to begin. Today as I write this, we are celebrating Epiphany, the feast of the seekers on a journey to distance lands. The seekers found Jesus and were in awe. It seems we are the seekers as we go to learn, to receive, to be and to find Jesus in our midst.
This book, “And Grace will lead me Home, a Guide for Pilgrim Journals” suggests that travel is a way to learn about how we relate to the world, ourselves, others and to God. The author, Paul Rohde, a campus minister in Sioux Falls, SD, says: “second to taking the trip, the next most important thing is telling the story.” He says that writing in a journal not only helps one remember the experience, it also helps one pay attention to what is seen, heard, felt and discovered. By writing, one is better able to reflect on what one notices and what is affecting and changing in oneself, in one’s faith and world view.
It is our hope that through this blog we will be able to share our experiences, what we see and hear and what our seeking stirs in our hearts.