Day 2 – Saturday
Got up early, had a good breakfast at the hotel and left to pick up the rental car – made our way north on the M1 to meet with father Angelo at Kasunga about 100km from Lilongwe– He was waiting there for us and we then followed him a further 60km to the village of Nhkamenya. We met the Pastor of the parish, Father Robert Mkandawire and Father Robert Banda who was another priest there. We were offered lunch and made to feel very welcome. They had prepared rooms for us at the main house where the priests lived Lunch was chicken legs accompanied by okra, a traditional dish made from cornmeal and some fresh cut fruit. They prepared a special cake to welcome us. Father Angelo took us for a tour of the grounds and indicated to the local hospital surrounding primary schools and the main church which was built in 1950. The Church and home for the priests is the center location for over 100 outreach communities ranging in distance from 5 to 60km away.
Tomorrow we head out early to visit one the outreaches where Father Angelo will say Mass.
Day 3 – Sunday
We rose early today, had breakfast at 7.30am and left for the outreach of Jaketera, the parish takes care of over 100 outreaches that individually look after 7 – 12 villages. The day was an experience neither Rich nor I will ever forget. Traveling with Father Angelo we went off the highway and out toward what they call the bush, Father was descriptive about the surroundings we passed and navigated the bumps like an expert rally driver. We arrived at the outreach and were greeted with such genuine appreciation for our visit it was indescribable – they had prepared a room for us to rest and have a refreshment. We were introduced with a tour of the outreach by the Head Master while Father Angelo prepared for Mass. The tour was enlightening for us to see how much they valued the education of their children even knowing there was not much to offer them following it and how seriously they prepared and worked at it so far out in this remote area. We examined the class rooms, looked at how the buildings were built and toured the complete area finishing up at the church/school room to go in for Mass. I am Catholic and my travel partner Rick is Episcopalian. I felt very amazed at the cordial and respectful way with which the Mass was attended. There was a choir of 30 singers that sung in perfect harmony it would amaze any one of you reading this. The conductor and the performers seemed like they had been practicing for Broadway, it was fantastic and an experience I will never forget – nor Rick I think.
During the Mass we were introduced and welcomed warmly to the community – language did not seem to be a barrier and the longer we stayed there the more it began to feel that we were part of the group speaking together on a level basis. We shared some time after mass taking pictures and looking at photographs of where we came from and our families and just having a great time. We surveyed the grounds more and listen to what the needs of the community were. The community of 11 villages comes together here at Jeketera to meet for Mass and for the prosperity and education of the outreach as a whole. We listened, learned, and we took notes – it was marvelous.
We returned to the parish along the bumpy dirty road to a prearranged meeting with the youth club where we shared some of the footballs that we had brought. – the gracious reception it received again was unbelievable with each group so delighted to have a new football and some American sport tops to wear. We enjoyed sharing the moment and finished the evening with dinner and a few green beers with Father Angelo, Father Banda and Father Mkandawire and talked about our experiences that day.
Tomorrow we start at 6am
Day 4 – Monday
I woke early to the sounds of “cock a doodle doo” they have a lot chickens here at the Parish and they like to start early even before the sun starts to come up. After the cold shower (water is heated by solar and it has been cloudy and cool since we arrived) I attended Mass at 6.30am at the main Church – Rick had not slept too well so stayed in bed. It was a small mass with a group of about 25. After Mass I met with the Sisters that ran the Secondary boarding school for girls and arranged to meet them after breakfast again for a tour of the school.
Father Angelo, Rick and I toured the Secondary School – it was very impressive and well organized. The leaving certificate exams were being conducted in the main hall so we looked around the other parts of the school. It turned out that Sister Mary Kaunda, the Head Teacher at the Secondary School had spent four years in Ireland studying Education at Maynooth College – we had a good chat and spoke about Father Alphie, Father Ben and her time in Ireland.
We left the Secondary School and went to the Primary School maybe about 1 km away from the parish where we were greeted by singing students and some very appreciative school teachers and committee members. We took a tour of the school and then paid a long anticipated visit to the Bore Hole Well that had been built in September last year funded by the 2009 golf tournament and our club. What a difference this well has made to them all. It is hard to understand when you are back home in the States but when you can see for your own eyes where they used to have to go to for water and the short distance they now have to go, the impact is much clearer and very satisfying to have been part of its creation. Following the tour we were introduced to all of the committee members and teachers and then entertained by singing from the children and two dramatizations from the drama group about how the water hole had affected not only the children and teachers but also the parent’s attitude about now sending their children to school with a fresh clean water source. It was fantastic and very humbling.
We were served refreshments at the Head Teachers house as is customary for visitors and were beginning to get very full. We had a busy schedule planned by Father so we thanked them every much and then departed for Kavilintchere J P School about three miles south of the parish. Again we were greeted by singing and dancing and a very organized and respectful address by the Teachers, parents and committee members. We were given a tour and saw how many bricks the community had already made by themselves and how far they had come in preparing and finally getting this new school, only open one year now. Before a school can officially open it must meet certain standards and be approved by the Education Board – now remember these standards would not be consistent with those in the States but I guaranteed you they are so much better than we all may have imagined or been aware of. The children were so well behaved it was just a pleasure for us both. They described their difficulties in what they were trying to achieve, they had succeeded in getting open and had 180 students enrolled. One of their major problems at this point was now the lack of a clean safe water supply. Water is the source of life as they described it but it is not only that for these communities it is what glues them together it is the clean water source as we had seen at the Nhkamenya primary school that brings the kids here to the school, keeps them there so they do not have to track 2 or 3 km away to get a drink during the day, it promotes the washing of hands after they use the well constructed bathrooms and it gets the teachers to class on time. As well as all this it gives parents from other villages comfort in the fact that their kids have these facilities available to them while they are at school and it encourages them to send them there. There is a great emphasis on education here in this very poor country and there structure is well formed and respected. Again we were entertained by the women of the community and a special dance and song, in addition one local man that attempted a few Michael Jackson dance numbers that entertained everyone; there was a lot of laughter and positive energy.
We were treated to more food and refreshments and felt it rude to decline so just got fuller for the day. We thanked them for their hospitality and moved back toward the parish and made our way through town and then North on the main road for about 20 miles and then onto a dirt road for about 5 miles. We arrived at the community of Emoneni, which was just along the border of Zambia in fact if we had gotten out of the car on the left side on the road we could have jumped right across the border. The community was the recipient of the Maize Mill that we financed through the proceeds of the 2010 tournament. We were received again very thankfully by the community leaders, members and children. This particular community of which Father Angelo had grown up in and where his parents still lived, had taken on the additional burden of being an adoptive community caring for approximately 26 orphans within their own households.
The Maize Mill was in operation and we were given a demonstration of how it worked and how the Maize was turned into flour. It was great to see the people lining up to put their collected Maize through the Mill and receive it as flour out the other end – This is the stable diet for most people and as Maize keeps well it is stock piled and can be milled when needed.
We met with Father Angelo’s parents and nieces and nephews and again were thanked for what we had done for them with the Maize Mill. It was getting dark and we said our goodbye’s and headed back to the parish – Father Angelo drove. On the way we stopped at what I would call Father’s old local pub at the Trading Center (which I imagined he probably walked the 4km or more when he was younger) and shared a green beer with a few of the local people that were there.
Tomorrow we head to Lilongwe in the morning for a 12noon meeting with the Rotary Club of Lilongwe