Welcome to Zambia

My name is Br Martin. I am a Capuchin Franciscan Student from Ireland and have just embarked on a four month mission experience in our Vice Province of Zambia. I will be keeping log of my progress and experiences on this blog over the next four months...you are most welcome to keep me company along the way

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Back to Chibolya and the Way of the Cross

It had rained. Usually not a bad thing here unless, that is, you are preparing to go into a compound, which we were. Chibolya compound in fact on a return visit, this time to work with a group of 30 young people delivering the five day awareness (drug & alcohol) programme. This time we worked in collaboration with a wonderfully talented and creative organisation called ‘Barefeet’. Barefeet was founded by a young Irish man, Adam McGuigan, with the aim of working with street kids and kids exposed to all sorts of risks and dangers. Adam is a dramatist, who previously worked for the BBC, and is now Artistic Director of Barefeet. They are renowned in Zambia for their levels of creativity and enthusiasm and this accolade is not undeserved. I had met Adam the previous week at their office in relation to another project SHARPZ are launching but this week we are working with the equally mesmerizingly talented Michael and Martha….you can see them in the pictures and some video, which will follow as soon as I can get a connection fast enough to upload it.

For me Chibolya had changed (or was it I that had changed ?) in the weeks since my first visit. Don’t get me wrong it was still difficult territory but, this time, as we were welcomed by smiling friends, happy to see us and we in return most happy to see them, it was nice to be back. The first thing we noticed as we drove in were four lovely new water drums for distribution in the community. These drums each hold in excess of 5,000 litres of fresh water. Joyce, a lady in her fifties and one of the community organisers, told me that typhoid, malaria and cholera are rife in the compound and that she had been to hospital twice in that last 6 weeks. Fresh water will surely help this. The irony, attached to the drums, is that they were donated by Zambian Breweries. So What! To the Irish mind this is no biggy….sure Guinness do good stuff all the time and Dublin wouldn’t be half the city it is today without all the money St Arthur pumped into housing and social projects. I know...I said the same thing. 

However, this is not Dublin and the Breweries here have a very different modus operandi. Africa has a young population and is therefore the biggest growth market for international breweries such as SABMiller, Anhauser Bush and Diageo (the now owners of over very own drop). These companies aggressively market their products, specifically targeting young people in disadvantaged areas with low cost, high alcohol content drinks. Trucks leave the brewery on the outskirts of Chibolya with plastic drums containing thousands of litres of very cheap, very intoxicating ‘beer’ bound for other compounds and villages.  Alcohol, and its misuse, is now credited as the number one cause of HIV cross infection in sub-Saharan Africa. The irony of these four drums being there, as we began work with young people in the compound, was neither lost on us nor, possibly, even coincidental.

I was there for the first day of the programme and it was a great success. As we waited for our lift home we were treated to an impromptu performance from the Chibolya Cultural Theatre Group of traditional African music and dance. The sounds of the drums and whistles called children from all around the neighbourhood. Some stood and watched while others emulated the dance moves. A wonderful end to a fantastic day in the compound….. you know that place is starting to take a piece of me with it every time I visit.

On to more Spiritual things! Lent found its way to Africa on Wednesday as we donned our ashes. It was welcomed in style in the College Chapel as students and locals joined for a rousing celebration which gave the congregation a chance to dust off the Lenten hymns, which are always a joy to hear.

Friday saw the first Stations of the Cross through the grounds of St Bonaventure’s. It had rained (recalling the intensity of it...check out the video on my Facebook page… I feel ‘rained’ is hardly descriptive enough) and the grounds were lush and green as we made our way from Station to Station. Hymns were sung in English, Nyanja and Swahili and one of our college cats even joined in for a while before becoming distracted by a passing lizard and in turn a number of Friars became distracted by the distracted cat! The stations ended in the Chapel just as the sun began to set and the sky flamed red. The spirit of prayer and silence was maintained as we went our separate ways back to our respective friaries. Though I was in the midst of 160 people it was probably, for me anyway, one of the, most fraternal experiences I have shared in.

This week we prepare to return to Mazabuka to deliver the final two stages of the SHARPZ Child Protection Policy Development Programme and then we will have to see what March will bring and how St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Zambia!!

And just to finish..this is the Gloria as sung in our College Chapel by 150 Friars at 7.00 am on a Sunday morning......amazing!! This is the sound of Zambia for me and of Heaven, I hope!


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