Our Primary Communities

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.

A Day Away

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!

Project Cycle Management

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.

Red Flags

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 AST Begins

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.

 

Integration Day

 


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.

Blessing of the Hub house

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.

The completion of the Language Course

PIC: The Brothers at the Living Root Bridge near Mawlynnong

The Brothers returned from their various places of language immersion on November 22.  The Community prayer included a sharing of their experiences.  A further sharing of how valuable the exercise was for each of them followed.  An evaluation Language learning was then carried out, since decisions ha be taken regarding the future of the remainder of the language program.  It was decided that we enhance some of the skills from our learnings of the immersion experience. The program had to be restructured and modified accordingly for the rest of the duration.

While Sr. Happyline did the prayers and the structure of the Lynti Bneng, Savio continued to teach us hymns in Khasi. Maryline and Sr. Nelia continued with small tutoring groups. David Ryan and Roshan were inducted to give some of the basic nuances of conversational Khasi.   The Brothers in general found the Khasi Primer and the Self Learning Khasi teaching books helpful.

We had also reached the final straight of our year long preparation of our Journeying Together.  In the ensuing days, the community prayers centered on themes such as snared, hope (entering the season of Advent), doing your best. All these were connected with our lives here and experiences here. The centering prayer continued in the evenings.

Preparations were set in motion re the opening of the Hub. Invitations were sent out and Ruvan kept updating us of the progress of the Hub building construction. Alongside, the Patharlynden and Umtyrkhang community houses were being followed up.

On 3rd and 4th of December, all of us embarked on a two day overnight outing to Shnongpdeng, on the Bangladesh border. That was followed by the Evaluation and the Farewell dinner. This bought us to the successful conclusion of the Language course in Shillong. 

 

 

The joy of living simply

PIC: The brothers preparing their dinner in their simple village house. 

On the 13th morning, 4 or us set out to Patharlyndan village – Edwin, Gambhir, Mahendra & myself. We were put up in an abandoned house that was used by teachers earlier. The house was just basic – with a tapped electric connection, no water supply, no furniture except for a couple of wooden frames as beds and a few stools to sit around the fireplace. The family that owned the house gave us utensils, cups, crockery and vessels to cook and store water.

Much of our day was spent in cooking and going down to a stream to collect water or to bathe or wash our clothes. Since most of the villagers, except for pregnant mothers or those who had to look after small children, were out in the fields from very early morning, cutting paddy grown in their fields or the fields of those who hired them, we could not really visit houses. With the setting sun, they would end their work and return home, only to be occupied with household chores, after which they would go to bed.

We did have a woman who would visit us pretty regularly with her children. She would come and sit and just talk. We witnessed a football match played between the Patharlyndan Village team and a team of another village, on a ground that was inaugurated by the MLA of Mairang. That was a wonderful experience as a good number of people from the village – men, women and children all gathered around the field cheering for their team, which eventually won. On another day, we took a walk to the neighbouring village (Donkingdeng), that had their market day. We bought supplies, had lunch, watched another match in a football field of that village and eventually headed home.  On Sunday we spent the whole day with the people in the village – first at the morning prayer service, followed by a meal at a house, and then at a prayer service in another house. It was nice at last, to meet families that came to church or to the house for the prayer services. They showed a lot of eagerness towards our coming next year. We also would regularly visit our house, and enjoy seeing it coming up. On one of the days, we took the car that belonged to the head of the village, and visited the Parish Priest, and a few other villages in which we had stayed during the course of this year.

As far as practicing Khasi is concerned, we did try to have our own little class in the evening. We did spend some time in tea shops, practicing the Khasi we knew, as well as tried to converse with those people we would meet during the day.

On the whole, the village experience was an eye opener. Living in a basic house (like those of the villagers) made us realize how much the people in the village go through each and every day of their lives.  Many of them would not even have electricity to add to their woes. We left the village on the 22nd and were back home in the evening.

My experience of immersion

PIC: Br. Willie D’souza with the students of Providence School

The mystery I call God accompanied me on my journey to transformation. The ten days of Language Learning Immersion Experience was a real transformation experience. The venue that I chose, namely, the Providence School, for my immersion was God sent; the best according to me.

Every morning, I left Lurshai centre at 8 o’clock. I boarded either a bus or a taxi to Polo market and from there I walked up to Providence School. On my way up to the school, I took the risk of talking/chatting with the people. Some were friendly and some were hostile! Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience, being present to the situation, people and to the universe. I was in Providence School by 8:45am and started my day there at 9 o’clock.

In Providence School, from 8:00 am to 10:30 am the children are in various skill training classes, namely,  candle making, cooking, baking, bag making, gardening etc., etc. I went into three of these classes, candle making, cooking and gardening. Here, I interacted with the students and teachers. Both the students and the teachers were very co-operative; I put into practice the little Khasi that I had learned and began to converse with the students in their local language. So, it was situational learning and I learned a lot over here. Every day, I learned a new word, I wrote the word and its meaning in my book. As days went by, I became more confident and I began to converse with the children only in Khasi.

At 11 o’clock, I sat in the KG section of Providence School. Here, I listened to the teacher, teaching the little ones in Khasi and English. The teacher was very good because she believed in the dictum, ‘Festina Lente’, hasten slowly. Here, I learned to frame small sentences for conversation and I gave the teacher to correct them. Here, I was ready for the next day’s class with regard to situational learning. It was great! At twelve o’clock, I had my lunch and rested for a while.

At two o’clock in the afternoon, from St. Edmund’s School, I went walking towards Shanti Bhavan, near the Governor’s House. Here, I interacted with the men section of the inmates. We started our session with a prayer in Khasi and I read the day’s Gospel reading for them. One of the inmates then read the same reading and later we had a discussion on the reading in Khasi. The conversation lasted for an hour. This was the daily routine for the next ten days here in Shanti Bhavan. Here, I came in contact with many young and old people, listened to their stories and took the risk of getting to know them. I learned to become more patient with myself and the people here and treated the inmates as my brothers and friends. I left this place at four in the evening and walked to Ward’s lake, I took a taxi from Ward’s lake to Polo market. From Polo market, I walked to Lurshai centre in Lumshyiap. I reached the centre at five o’clock in the evening.

There were many learnings from this immersion. First of all, to have a complete trust in the providence and to believe in the everyday God of surprises! My trust and belief in this everyday God strengthened and I learned to rely on HIM. Taking risk was another learning and I took risks to talk to people in the local language while walking in the market place. I am challenged to meet Christ present in one and all. The God of surprises demands of me faith and compassion- faith in God and compassion for the poor. I have learned a deep sense of God’s abiding presence in all with whom I have come in contact with. I have been invited to live what I have learned. My life has become better and more enjoyable when I look beyond myself to others. I thank my God of surprises for this beautiful experience.