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May 31, 2019

Greetings from a dry and sandy Limulunga, where cool autumn mornings are driving us into scarves and beanies, on our 25-minute walk to morning Mass, sometimes accompanied by Snoopy, who thinks he’s the community dog. The ‘wet season’ has largely failed, and we pass the drying and dying maize gardens every day. This means hardship and hunger for many families, with the prices of mealie flour and rice rising in response to the poor harvests.

Kelvin has returned from a long spell in Nairobi, following his knee operation, and the four of us (Bruce, Isaac, Kelvin and Moy) are facing a new round of projects, after some delay in the funding process. Our surveys revealed that many families around us eat only one or two meals a day, and malnutrition remains a serious problem. We hope to involve even more households in increasing their vegetable and chicken production, so that they can increase their income and make a small business out of it. Funds from Misean Cara (Ireland) and the Edmund Rice Foundation Australia (ERFA) will make this possible.

We also plan to continue our sports tournaments, using them to reach over 300 local youth with our message of ‘Healthy Choices, Brighter Futures’. We are still dealing with very high levels of unemployment, poverty, HIV infection, teenage pregnancies, alcohol abuse and child marriages, in the Limulunga area. Behaviour-changing communication and peer education are two ways we tackle this, thanks to funding from ERFA.

2019 should also see us build on last year’s campaign against Child Marriage. Funding from Misean Cara in Ireland and great support from Edmund Rice International in Geneva enabled us to get recommendations from young people in Limulunga read out in the Human Rights Council in Geneva. So our local youth were in direct advocacy with their own Zambian government.

Jan 18, 2019

A new year, a new community. The last of the ‘pioneers’ in the Limulunga Community, and our Community Leader, Edward Masinde, left on Dec 9 to pursue his professional studies in Nairobi. The day before (Dec 8), we celebrated together the renewal of vows by all of us in the Western Cluster, whether annually or finally professed.

The wisdom of the Brothers is that a new community forms whenever someone enters or leaves a community. That means Limulunga has been renewed eleven times in the last fourteen months! Isaack Odongo, from Kenya, arrived on Oct 12, and Bruce Hakalembe, a Zambian, speaking both Tonga and Lozi, arrived on Dec 9, to join Kelvin Otieno and Moy Hitchen.

We plunged into a week’s workshop on community-building in mid-December, with Bruce and Isaack, and the whole Cluster. Then we spent the Saturday (Dec 15) distributing ‘inputs’, as the funders say, to the 30 new recruits to our ‘Households Tackling Hardships’ project. We ran a hectic week of workshops (Dec 3 – 7), training them in vegetable and village chicken production, plus entrepreneurship skills (so they can continue to make money from these activities). Then they received seeds, fertilisers and tools to get started on their vegetable gardens, and chickens, chicken wire and feed to begin their own chicken production.

They were chosen on the basis of the challenges they faced, as people who were elderly, disabled or women heading households. We have been visiting them since, and have become somewhat ‘instant experts’ on pests attacking vegetables and diseases afflicting chickens. Some households were eating their own vegetables within five weeks of starting, and some have chickens laying eggs already. Others were not so lucky – or so skilled. But there is support, advice and encouragement on hand, through our project team.

As an experiment, we all travelled to a small village called Mushituwambumu, with some parish workers and two of our new postulants, Manyando and Sisii (who start postulancy in Sierra Leone, in early February). In three days, we ran a ‘mini’ sports tournament for six of the local villages out on the plains. The local youth played netball, volley ball and football with great enthusiasm. 13 teams played 14 games, with prizes awarded to winners, thanks to our funders (Misean Cara and Edmund Rice Foundation Australia).

Now we face the new year – and a new community, with a new round of projects. More anon.

September 28, 2018
DSCN0090Marking a field in the sand – use rice husks!
Greetings from the thick hot sands of Limulunga. The equinox reminds us the year is turning, though the rains still seem a distant promise – perhaps in December? But change is part of our definition here in the western province, and we held a braai (barbeque) for the next six Brothers leaving us, by December 2018, on a balmy equinoctial night (September 22). In fact, two came back from their studies (in Kabwe, Zambia) to be officially farewelled!

John Holden, at the Hub, ran a beautiful ritual, and each of the six spoke of what his life in the ‘western cluster’ had meant to him. The most frequent word heard? ‘Thanks’ or ‘grateful’. This was the generation thrown in at the deep end, when the promise of twenty or more older Brothers volunteering for Journeying Together evaporated. They came straight from novitiate, most of them, and took up a new spirituality, a new way of being community, and a new way of doing ministry – in their stride! It is an extraordinary accomplishment.

The new ‘braai area’ at the Hub is a wonderful place for such gatherings. Michael Godfrey’s artistic landscaping, the waxing moon overhead, the Hub community’s culinary skills, the welcoming cluster of seats, all make for a warm hospitable night.

It also served as a backdrop for a second gathering that week. The religious men of the diocese (all 11 communities – Capuchins, Christian Brothers, Oblates, and Missionaries of Africa) have re-formed themselves into an association. We met to socialise first, around the braai, and then spent a morning dreaming, scheming and planning what we would like to achieve as a group. Stay tuned!

September 27, 2018
DSCN0220Some of our Project Team in their new T-shirts – (bk) Mwenda, Victor, Ngela, Edward; (fr) Grace, Kelvin, Dominic.
Greetings from Limulunga, where some trees have dropped their leaves, for the dry season, and others are putting out new growth, anticipating the rains – still two months away. September has seen us visiting the 70 households tackling hardships – mainly poverty, but including age, disability and being female-headed, as well.

We’ve seen their vegetable crops – those on the sand are struggling, in the heat, but those on the plains are thriving on the well-watered blacksoil. Several households are already eating their own produce (kale and Chinese cabbage are the quickest to grow), and some entrepreneurs are selling their surplus at the local markets. This means they can pay school fees for their grandchildren, buy needed supplies – and more seeds!

They are also building chicken houses for the ten or more chickens our funders (Edmund Rice Foundation Australia) will provide for those opting for ‘village chicken’ production. (A ‘village chicken’ is what others would call free range – very free, in some cases.) The tricky bit is how we will distribute the 680 month-old chickens. Probably, we’ll do this in batches, as their chicken houses get built.

With Dom Mwania leaving us so early, for holidays and then studies in Kenya, we held our Discernment Day for evaluation of our living our Brotherhood on September 17, at the Hub. All of us were assessed, annual or final vows notwithstanding! It was a day of honesty, sharing, affirming and challenging – and a long way from the old ‘scrutiny’ process.

September 26, 2018
DSCN0232Volleyball – on the sand (Limulunga Primary School)
Greetings from Limulunga, on the eastern edge of the great Zambezi flood plain, where the dry season is in full force, with daily temperatures in the mid to high 30s. This morning at 4.30 am, we farewelled Dom Mwania, as he heads back to Kenya for his long-awaited home leave (after three years in Limulunga) and then studies in Sustainable Development.

Dom is one of the pioneering group who left novitiate and founded a new way of being Brother, here in the hot sands of the western province of Zambia. Our current community engagement is based on their early years of contacting and building relationships with the local people. The farewells to Dom showed how much he had touched their hearts and inspired them. Edward, our last ‘pioneer’ will leave us, for studies in Nairobi, in December.

As one of this last duties, Dom chaired the Grand Final and Prize-giving for our third and last sports tournament, on September 16. The District Commissioner was our guest speaker, and he spoke well of the Brothers’ efforts to change the negative behaviours of some local youth.

But the team that stole the show were called Katondo. They won the ‘most disciplined team’ award (a full set of jerseys, thanks to our funder, Misean Cara, Ireland). They were the only team who had not picked up a yellow or red card! It was widely known they consisted of young men who had been hanging around the bars and pool tables at the noisy end of town. Yet, they had opted to play, trained seriously, and impressed all with their determination. They were a very popular choice for the award. For us, they symbolised the sort of behaviour change we have been hoping for.

August 5, 2018
DSCN0226Football on the sand – shoes optional

Greetings from Limulunga, where we seem to have skipped Spring and are facing our four hottest driest months (August – November), with the rains, we hope, to arrive in December. The mango and cashew trees that shade our Royal Village are in flower, and are literally humming with bees and flies, so that’s a promise of fruit in December too.

Last Tuesday saw us load our 70 brave householders (elderly, disabled and female-headed) with 10 kg of fertilisers, a watering can, a sprayer - and 3 packets of precious seeds. And off they went, trudging through the sand in little caravans, the women carrying the sacks on their head, with a child on their back, and their free hand clutching a watering can or an older child.

It all depends on the seeds – and a decent water supply. We’ll be visiting them soon to see how they are going. And then it will be time to distribute the chickens – maybe 600 of them? This will be fun.

Meanwhile, we’ve met with captains and coaches of sports teams interested in our third sports tournament. This one is funded by Misean Cara (based in Dublin), and we can thank them for the prizes and the refereeing gear. We expect to run six competitions (men and women’s football, men and women’s handball, netball and volley ball) – all on the thick bare sand, of course. The locals are very fit – they race around on sand for 90 minutes, if need be. The World Cup teams have it easy!

July 30, 2018

Greetings from Limulunga, where the cold dry season is yielding to the hot dry season. Almost all the rain falls in the four months between December and April, then we dry out – first, with cold winds from the south-east, then the heat returns.

We’ve now run three workshops for our 70 participants in the Households Tackling Hardships project, on vegetable farming, village chicken production, and fish farming. Tomorrow, the 60 who’ve opted for vegetable farming will receive their ‘inputs’ (seeds, fertiliser, watering can, sprayer). Our job will then be regular visits to see how they are going, and to deal with specific problems – whether red mites on the tomatoes or the price of fetching water.
We’ve welcomed a visit from the African Province Leadership Team, in the persons of Clement Sindazi and Tony Shanahan, and they joined us for lunch with our 70 participants. A small but feisty group of young women met with the District Commissioner, to follow up our drama performance and public sensitisation on the risks of Child Marriage.

And we have plunged into the organisation of our third sports tournament for over 300 local youth. We’ll be offering football (men and women), handball (men and women), netball and volleyball – all played on thick soft sand! If you play in the tournament, you are also expected to attend the talks we arrange – on making healthy choices about drinking, drugs, sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, and HIV infection.

July 16, 2018

We have been shocked and deeply saddened by Joe Mosely’s death. For Edward and Dom, he was their novice-master; for all of us, he was a welcoming presence in Lusaka and, in April, the genial facilitator of our District Assembly. Edward and Dom have been at his memorial Mass in Lusaka this weekend. Coming so soon after Peter Cole’s death, it has been a sad loss of another major formative figure in our lives.

On the sunny side, we were cheered bv the visit of our eight novices, with Daniel and Patrick. They wanted to see our ‘ministry sites’ so we took them, through the soft sand, into the heart of the Limulunga Royal Village, where we live, and over the hills into the bush. One of them said, “To study the vow of poverty, we should come and live here for a month.” That was encouraging.

This week saw the first training workshop for our ‘Households Tackling Hardships’ group of 70 participants – some older persons, some with disabilities, and women heading households. They learnt about growing nutrient–rich vegetables for their families and small-scale rice farming.

We also ran a ‘sensitisation’ at the local Health Clinic on advocating against Child Marriage. (Nearly half the first born babies in Limulunga are born to young women under 18). We finished the week with the monthly visit from our Hub, giving us good pastoral care – one-to-one interviews, shared reflections, and a gentle facilitation on our community’s progress. Thanks to Sammy Munyua and Mark Cody for that caring work.

July 7, 2018

The big event of the previous week was the launch of our new project, for 70 vulnerable households in Limulunga. At the moment we are calling it ‘ERFA 2018’, because that’s the name of our generous funder (Edmund Rice Foundation Australia), but we’re looking for something catchier. Your suggestions are welcome!

The next phase consists of three workshops at which we and they will learn something of the skills needed to grow vegetables, rice, chickens, and fish (in fish farms). Then, thanks to ERFA, we will provide some ‘inputs’ (seeds, fertilisers, chickens, fingerlings, and feed) to get them started on a more nutritious diet and, we hope, a source of cash for their families. Their job is to decide which of those farming activities they can undertake, given their health, abilities, soils, and sources of water.

This week has also seen four of us return from the Annually Professed Brothers Workshop in Kabwe (at least eleven hours away by bus, via Lusaka). This was an enjoyable and challenging time, with a dialogue with the District Leadership team part of it, and a football match with the locals. (Alas, the Brothers lost. The World Cup must wait.)

July 2, 2018

The Limulunga Community is a multicultural and international community of five Brothers journeying together in western Zambia. Three of us are from Kenya (Edward Masinde, our Community Leader, Dominic Mwania, our Project Manager, and Kelvin Otieno), one from Zambia itself (Malama Peter) and one from Australia (Moy Hitchen). We live in a large village of several thousand people, sprawling along a high bank of sand that forms the eastern edge of the Barotse Plain, which is itself the broad flood plain of the Zambezi River.

Of the three ‘spoke’ communities, Limulunga is the closest to the Hub community, which is in Mongu, the capital of the Western Province. We are about 20 minutes due north of Mongu, when the potholes are filled, and 40 minutes when they are left gaping, which is the normal state of the ‘sealed’ road. That sealed road runs through the middle of Limulunga, then switches to sand and runs down into the plains. All other roads and paths are of thick soft sand. Great for exercise!

We hope to make this brief bulletin a weekly event, to keep you informed of our life and work here in the far west of Zambia. At the beginning of July you catch us launching a new project, involving about 70 households living in poverty. We have spent the last three weeks trudging through the sands, visiting them and inviting them to join the project. ‘We’ in this case means the Limulunga Project Team, which consists of four local people and we five Brothers. The official launch of the project will be on Friday, July 6, and we invite you to join us in prayer for that day, when we all meet and explain what is involved.

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