Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Cycle of Poverty

Wednesday 1st June

I made the effort to go to church this morning. This year I have not got adjusted to Zambian timing, so I am still up late and don't arise till around 8 am. Most people are up and about by 6 hrs! Mass is at 6.30 am in the morning. It was good to attend – I often try to get to mass in the UK, but that service is at 9.30 am.

It is quite cool here first thing, but yesterday it soon warmed up and felt quite hot in the afternoon – even in the shade. Power was a bit slow to return and my laptop battery gave up. I decided to wander around the market, pick up a few onions and maybe chase down my Frisco coffee. I also thought that I might meet a few of the stallholders and say hallo.

Boniface called out to me as I wandered around the market. He had returned from his gig and was lounging in the sun. He wanted to show me the recording studio that he was using. Inside a hair salon, a guy has setup some equipment where he does recording and edits the music and videos. The power returned as I entered the studio of Crazy Boy and he showed me some of the videos he has made for Boniface.We chatted for a while. It struck me that with the internet he could provide some services to others who perhaps have taken videos and want to put them together – maybe I need to try to do something myself and see what he can make of it.

I am fortunate to have a nice garden where I can sit and ponder. I often read a little to relax. It is difficult not to feel guilty, but often after a session in the garden, what I need to do becomes clearer. When I go to renew my permit I am often told strictly that I must not do any work – and I now claim to be retired, so maybe it is not only OK, but it is my duty to relax.

I spent another afternoon at PIZZ School. I saw only five students. The final student wasn't well - she had sores on her face. Mrs. Sianga had called her mother, who came with a lovely baby. The story is only too common. The mother, herself orphaned at a young age and brought up in a poor household got married – probably again when she was very young. Girls like her are often married because the guardians are struggling to feed the family and it is one less mouth to feed. Her husband died a few years back, when the girl I met was very young, her mother has AIDS. She took a boyfriend – in order to help feed the family, but he treated her badly and she chased him away. She now has another child to feed. The girl has not been tested for HIV/AIDS but it is likely that this disease is behind her current sickness.

It is easy for us to judge, but we cannot imagine the pressure of knowing you have absolutely no food for the family to eat. Girls in particular are very vulnerable in these circumstances and many, like this mother, never complete their education, but find themselves on a course that keeps them in poverty and often leads to an early death. The PIZZ project aims to stop that cycle and in doing so supports not only the 380 children now at the school and the 60 at secondary school, but also the other children in their families and their guardians.

Fr. Clement and Francis (another priest from the church) picked me up a little before 20 hrs. They took me to Kisito which is a retreat centre about 14 km away.

Many years back when I was helping at the hospital I was invited to go for a couple of days on a retreat with the hospital nurses. It was towards the end of my stay and I was very busy, with a lot of work outstanding. I hesitated and then, realising that I could never complete everything anyway, I accepted the invitation. I felt very privileged to be asked to join the group. On retreat we usually spend time reflecting on our lives and there are opportunities to share some deep and often personal thoughts. It takes a lot of trust to be open within a group, so I felt honoured that I was included in this intimate gathering. A couple of years later I decided that one day I would make a small pilgrimage to Kasito and walked there. I spent a while in the chapel before returning home just before dusk. I have often thought of returning.

Things seem to have changed a bit at Kisito! Yesterday we took advantage of the pool table and had a serious competition – helped by a few beers. I felt more at home here than I am at some of the bars we have previously used. We had the table to ourselves and met a couple of the local priest based nearby. It was midnight before I returned to Homecraft.


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