The day was spend with the Brothers taking the first half of the morning to reflect on the benefits that they received during the Advanced Skills Training Programme. They then broke into groups to share on their personal reflection for the rest of the morning. Then in the afternoon the group came together to share on the fruits of their individual and group reflections. This was a very valuable day and produced some interesting suggestions for future ASTs.
Following the experience of the Brothers living for a few days in distant Imalyo, Chris invited the Brothers to reflect on the experience from various angles: the environment, interaction with the local community, the work of facilitation, the facilities, the sense of community life while in Imalyo. The Brothers took the first part of the morning for personal reflection of the above topics. Then, in the second part of the morning, they shared the fruits of their reflection, first in smaller groups and then in the wider forum. This morning’s sessions proved very valuable in integrating the immersion experience into the context of the Advanced Skills Training Programme.
At morning prayer on Tuesday, February 20, Brother Moy Hitchen asked the Brothers to consider God´s word, its efficacy and life within us: how had God´s word touched us and moved us in these recent weeks of study together?
Our professors, Mr. Fine Nasilele and Philip Kaunda, moved us to a consideration of a well-thought-out visit to a community (and indeed, the Advanced Skills Training group will visit a community next week, an immersion to give us a real taste of actual community engagement): we visit to learn from the community; to help the community identify its strengths and concerns, its hopes and resources; and to build up relationships with the community. We hope to mobilize the community and build a common dream together. We hope to self-assess our actual state of things, and then prioritize and plan. We hope to act on our plans and measure our progress.
The AST students then divided into two groups, first to work individually on our own personal dream for “our village,” then to put our dreams together into a common village dream. One group presented its plan, called “Limulunga in 2022,” which featured the five Brothers´ dream for a new, useable road between Limulunga and the larger town, Mongu, for an educational system that had sufficient secondary and technical schools, and for a farming regimen in which all families had sufficient food.
The second group´s vision included a dream for that same new road, a road that would help to develop agriculture in the area and provide jobs, especially with an eye to involving youth.
Brothers Moy Hitchen and Peter Malama, on this Tuesday, 13 February, led a morning prayer that invited the community to imagine travelling in a boat with Jesus, where he reminded us of his multiplication of the loaves, and warned us about the leaven of the Pharisees, and asked, “Do you still not understand?” Was this Jesus´ way of Community Engagement?
Ms. Ngula Ikafe Mubonda, our instructor, directed the Brothers to explore what community might be, by sitting their experience in their home countries. Moy offered an illuminating explanation of his primary communities, such as family and religious community, which tend to be small and where he is irreplaceable; then of secondary communities, such as workplace or neighborhood, which tend to be larger and where his absence can be filled. Other of the Brothers´ responses sounded like our hopes of a better future: in our varied communities we share responsibility, and love each other, and protect and help each other; we share things in common, and one man´s problems are accepted as a problem for all.
In the afternoon, Ms. Ngula led the class outdoors to look over the vast and beautiful Barotse flood plain, and to notice the irregular placement of small groups of Mango trees, and to realize that these were places of slight elevation on the flood plain where small villages had formed. What about these communities: how could we get to know them? What might be their concerns? How might we link one village with another? A visual, visceral lesson in community engagement.
On Saturday, February 10, the Advanced Skills Training program enjoyed an outing to the spoke community in Senanga. Brother Chris Meehl borrowed a passanger van from the Cheshire Homes for girls, conducted by the Presentation Sisters, and the ten Brothers of the Program filled the van to capacity. The road to Mongu is very difficult, with so many dangerous potholes that the van just inches along, a fifteen minute trip lasting thirty minutes.
But once beyond Mongu the road becomes very drive-able and the scenery is lush, with magnificent trees, extensive grasslands and tiny villages. A ninety minute ride brings us into view of the important Zambezi River, and a few miles beyond lies Senanga. Brothers Steve Sithali and Rohan d´Souza greeted the travelers with coffee, soda pop and biscuits, and after a time of meeting new Brothers and conversation, the group moseyed out to the banks of the Zambezi, where five of the Brothers alighted two tree trunk canoes to enjoy a cool trip across the water, paddled by the local canoe owners.
Afterwards, the group walked half a kilometer to the Safari Lodge, where they enjoyed the beautiful grounds and views of the Zambezi, and settled down to a delicious lunch pre-ordered by Chris and Rohan. What a nice way to get off the pastoral center property and see something new!
The ten Christian Brothers studying in the Advanced Skills Training program gathered on Monday morning, February 5, to begin a week´s investigation of Project Cycle Management, directed by Ms. Mapala Nkonkomalimba, a consultant with wide experience in the development and implementation of projects. After a morning prayer led by Brothers Joseph Kapalu and Emmanuel Allieu, Ms. Mapala distributed folders and launched into an explanation of the stages of the development, implementation and evaluation of projects. It is the case that the future of Christian Brother ministry on the margins of society will be tied to projects written by the Brothers and their collaborators, and funded by agencies and organizations that increasingly demand a clear concept, workable strategies and a clear set of results for the monetary support they offer. It behooves the Brothers, therefore, to understand the required procedures that will fund their future ministries with people made poor.
Ms. Mapala explained how project funding has evolved over the years, from acceptance by funders in the past of a generalized set of activities, to the modern demand for results-based planning. Requests for projects can no longer be based on trustworthy religious offering hoped-for accomplishments, but must now must demonstrate a thorough process of thinking through a recognized series of steps and stages leading to specific outcomes and long term impact. Modern donors seek value for the monies they put forward for solicited projects.
Amandi asked a crucial question with regard to child abuse, ‘Why don’t we respond to red flags better?’ By red flags he meant serious indications that there may be a child protection issue involved in a person’s behaviour or in a specific situation. There are many reasons why this happens and often the reason for our reluctance to speak out is fear; fear about what others will say, fear that we may be attacked, fear that we will create tension, fear that we may be attacked. Sometimes, it is due to lack of experience in raising difficult situations. At other times, we know that people will deny any accusation, and therefore we are reluctance to bring a complaint to the community. Or we can be inclined to minimize the seriousness of the offence.
Amandi then highlighted some red flags that might indicate a problem may exist:
A person who:
- Lack of peer relationships, few adult friends
- Has childish interests and behaviour
- Spends excessive amount of time with children
- Has Personal history of abuse or deviant sexuality
- Is excessively passive, unassertive personality
- Goes on vacation with children
- Children in his personal living quarters
- Giving lavish gifts to children
- Physical boundary violations
- Horseplay or wrestling
- Pied piper or Peter Pan personalities
There followed a series of case studies where red flags indicated a serious potential risk to children and the Brothers were invited to identify the risks and point to possible solutions.
Then Amandi introduced the Africa policy document entitled Keeping Children Safe and emphasised the need for each ministry and district to have their own specific policy.
The Advanced The Advanced Skills Training (AST) began on Monday, 15 January, 2018 with 10 Brother in attendance: five from Zambia (Ackim Simasiku, Bonaventure Muunga, Joseph Kapalu, Leo Mboo Liyungu and Peter Malama) , three from Sierra Leone (Alysious Sefoi, Emmo Alieu and Dominic Kargbo) and one from Latin America (Chuck Fitzsimmons) and one from Oceania(Moy Hitchen).
The AST is geared to prepare Brothers to engage in a new form of ministry that seeks to respond to the needs of people made poor. Some of the new skills that will be required to prepare Brothers for this new ministry are: community engagement, financial management, advocacy and pastoral cycle management. These are very important skills and it will take time to see how Brothers will learn to engage in this new approach to ministry.
The AST which began on 15 January will conclude on 11 March.
Today we had the third integration day for the Brothers on the OP. The integration days are moments when the Brothers take stock of how the various programmes are impacting on their lives, and how each module is creating connections. The Brothers decided this time to have the integration day at our centre here at Br Paul Noonan Formation Centre. Each Brother met with their spiritual director and took moments of private reflection to being the various strands of the programme together.
PIC: Brs. Conrad, Edwin, Placid and William were warmly welcomed into Erpakon by the local community.
The Inauguration of the Hub House took place on Sunday, Dec 10th.
Brs. Ruvan Rebello and Edwin Fernandes, along with Sr. Happyline Shadap, went off the previous day to get the youth of Jyntru organized in preparing for the opening ceremony.
Religious, friends and the Cluster Bros were ferried down to Erpakon village, on the edge of Jyntru village, by about 9:30 am.
From afar, the house looked impressive, nestled amongst the trees. An incline lead up to the house, and a stream gurgled in front of the house. A soothing, scenic setting!
After the usual preliminaries, at 10 am, Morning Prayer began, followed by the Chairman of the sub-district welcoming the Brothers and visitors. Br Steve Fernandes, the Province Leader, then cut the ribbon, aided by the Hub Community members. Fr. George Maliekal, the Province of the Salesians, then blessed the house, accompanied by a couple of other priests and some Brothers.
Mass began at 10:30 am and the readings seemed to invite the Cluster Brothers that their mission was to bring consolation to the people they were rubbing shoulders with, and to be like John the Baptist in being heralds of good news to them.
By the end of mass, the crowd had swelled, to about 500-600 folk. The Rangbah Balang (local Church leader), Bah Aron Syngkli, then greeted & welcomed all, as was customary.
Bouquets of flowers were presented as welcome, and the Hub members were enveloped in shawls, after which the cake was cut.
A welcome song by some young ladies came next, followed by speeches by the Br. Steve, the Province Leader and then by the Rangbah Shnong (Village head) of Erpakon village. Welcome indeed, seemed to be the theme, reminding the Brothers of our own culture of hospitality.
An action song by a dozen little children reminded us Brothers of how we could help in the growth of young minds and hearts.
A Vote of Thanks to all who contributed to our being there in Erpakon was proposed by Br Ralph Sequeira. Sr Happyline then led us into prayer which took us to the dining room in the house, where a most elaborate Khasi meal was spread out.
The meal was reminiscent of other meals of the distant past. We were a motley group of people, intermingling together, sharing hopes & stories, despite language constraints. A rather wet morning, but that did not dampen the spirit of the occasion nor the locals in coming out in large numbers.
Indeed a day well-spent, and a hopeful beginning to where our Nairobi Chapter invites us.