The Savour of S.A.L.T.

At morning prayer on Monday, February 19, Brothers Emmanuel Allieu and Joseph Kapalu focused the Advanced Skills Training community on our need to reach out:  “…for I was hungry…I was naked….I was in prison…”

Mr. Fine Nasilele and Philip Kaunda, our new instructors for this second week of Community Engagement, led us through a study of the stakeholders in any intervention we may enter: besides the usual suspects, like the traditional leader, and civic and church leaders, etc., the teachers urged the Brothers to take into account the “opinion leaders,” people in the community who can be a force on your side, or a formidable foe if opposed to you.

The Brothers must be aware of “social capital,” the networks, social ties and support systems within the community that can fortify their efforts.  Indeed, “Participatory decision-making can uncover and mobilize community assets and resources that would otherwise have been overlooked.”

Any good community organizer will employ the SALT system: S, for stimulate, support and share; A, for appreciate; L, for listen, learn and link; and T, for Team, Transfer, and Transform.  The Brothers should look to mobilize the community, to build dreams with them, to assess their findings, and finally to prioritize and execute an action program.

Integration Day

Saturday, February 17, to assist the Brothers in their Integration Day, a time to reflect on the five weeks of their training and sharing.  The day began with morning prayer as Brothers Leo Mboo and Dominic Kargbo led a morning prayer prepared by Brother Chris Meehl, in which they asked the Brothers to “enter into the mystery”: to contemplate, to listen to the silence: that we not be afraid of reality, that we not be locked into ourselves.

The ten Christian Brothers of the AST had signed up for various appointments with the three visitors, three appointments each for Sister Miriam and Sister Maimbolwa, and four for Father Francis.  Throughout the morning the Brothers visited with these spiritual companions and reflected, too, on their own:  1) what had been your learning over these initial weeks?  2) How much effort have you put into your recent spiritual development?  3) What have you struggled with in your time here in Limulunga?  4) What benefits have you gained from the AST program?  5) How do you feel about joining the cluster here in the Western Province? and 6) How do you feel about this new approach to ministry as outlined in Journeying Together?

Gender Equality

Brothers Leo Mboo and Dominic Kargbo offered a video at morning prayer on Friday, February 16, that presented a river, with its smooth flow and its obstacles, with its rapids and even with its drying up, as a metaphor for the course of our lives, an insight for our Lenten journey.

The Brothers of the Advanced Skills Training then turned to an analysis of the four videos presented the afternoon before by our teacher, Ms. Ngula Ikafe Mubonda, with their emphasis on gender equality.  In three of the videos, actual village men spoke of their life as the male in the family, a life apart, drinking up their salaries and leaving “women´s work” to their wives.  But in each of these cases a breakthrough forced the men to reconsider their position: for one, it was the advice of friends and his church; for another it was the clear misery of his wife and children; for the third it was the increased profits that accrued when he and his wife began to cooperate in his work and their family life.  In all three videos the men were believably converted to a gender equality that increased the livability of their lives.

The class then turned to an exercise of defining the tools available in community engagement, envisioning the circumstances in which these tools might be of use, and imagining what disadvantages might arise in their employment.  For tools like art and creativity, workshops and focus groups, and web-based internet the Brothers, in two groups, filled several sheets with their findings and presented them in plenary session.

Community Engagement Skills

Brothers Alysious Sefoi and Chuck Fitzsimmons led morning prayer this Thursday, February 15, letting the Lentan scriptures resound in the assembled Brothers: “Happy the man who fears the Lord,” and “Take up your cross…”

The first morning session of 1.5 hours was taken up by a special visitor, Ms. Nomathemba N. Muhali, a social worker of the Department of Social welfare.  Ms. Noma, through many stories experienced in her career, insisted on a collaborative model for social welfare, not depending on government alone, but involving many sectors of the community to look out for “the best interests of the child,” and the best interests of any vulnerable sector of the population.  Particularly noted were the Area Coordinating Committees of many local areas, volunteers who serve their community by being aware of problems and following up the measures decided by the Agency or dictated by the courts.

In the second part of the morning, our instructor Ms. Ngula Ikafe Mubonda led the Brothers through a consideration of Community Engagement skills: communication, process, planning and evaluation.  Flexibility is a key ingredient as an intervention responds to changing circumstances.  Ms. Ngula used the afternoon session to show a series of fine videos featuring local families in the Mongu area responding to the challenge of changing gender awareness and the value of neighbors learning and working together as a group.

Five Levels of Community Engagement

At morning prayer on Ash Wednesday, February 14, Brothers Ackim Simasiku and Bonaventure Muunga asked the Brothers to fast from hurting words and pessimism, and be filled instead with kind words and hope.

The Brothers worked the entire morning responding to the challenge of instructor Ms. Ngula Ikafe Mubonda to imagine and develop an intervention in their country of origin that informs, consults, involves, collaborates with, and empowers the people: these are the five levels of community engagement.

Brothers Moy Hitchen and Chuck Fitzsimmons imagined an intervention in Nuevo Chimbote, Peru, where Chuck is missioned.  There the parents rally around the building and growth of initial and primary schools, but fade in establishing and development of secondary education.  The two Brothers imagined meeting and informing current parents and students as a way to build a base to involve unconvinced parents and children.  They imagined primary school visits and high school open house, collaborating with administration and teachers, leading to the empowerment of the local community through a legally established secondary education promotion group.

Two Brothers from Sierra Leone, Alyscious Sefoi and Dominic Kargbo, developed a multi-leveled response to the stigmatization endured by the survivors of the Ebola virus.  Starting with information, including church teaching about the dignity of the person, the Brothers ended by empowering many different people to face up to and claim the rights and self-respect of the survivors.

The Five Brothers from Zambia, Leo, Joseph, Bonaventure, Ackim and Peter, responded to youth pregnancies, informing, consulting, involving, collaborating with, and finally empowering a Youth Development and Agents Committee.

We prayed  for our Brother Donal in his hospital stay.

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.

Community Engagement Workshop

Brothers Joseph Kapalu and Emanuel Allieu led the Brothers in a community prayer that asked us to open our hearts to the people and to God, a fine theme this Monday, February 12, as Advanced Skills Training enters the second of its two months, concentrating now on its core teaching, that of Community Engagement.  Compared to a week we spent on Mission, and another week we studied Child Protection, the AST now will study community engagement for four weeks, until the end of the program in March.

Ms. Ngula Ikafe Mubonda was on hand, accompanied by Fine Nasilele, Margaret Inaka, and David Chala Muwowo, colleagues who will assist Ms. Ngula throughout these four weeks.  Community Engagement, we were taught, “deliberately involves us with the community, to listen, to join, to lead and to enable conversation around a given topic or issue, in order bring about a win-win situation.”  CE is both a process and an outcome, in which we work with the people in order that they accept responsibility for solving their own problems.  As it´s said in Silosi, “Munwana ulimunwi hautubi,” or “You can´t kill a louse with one finger”: you need several fingers, and CE needs a community of interested people who can inform, consult, involve, advocate, and empower.

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 final day

Brothers Leo Mboo and Dominic Kargbo led the Brothers in a morning prayer of healing, considering Jesus´ curing the man with speech and hearing defects.  “Be opened!” was a call to each of the Brothers, and to our instructor, Mpala Nkonkomalimbo, to unlock our hearts and ask for God´s healing.

The Brothers immediately returned to their exercise groups, where one group was preparing an intervention on the Afforestation of the Western Province of Zambia, and the other a project dealing with youth hanging aimlessly around the drinking spots in the town of Limulunga.  Ms. Mpala directed the groups to appraise their structural plan, called The Theory of Change: 1) were the steps relevant, leading to the desired outcome? 2) were the planned activities effective in leading to planned results? 3) were costs and actions efficient? 4) was their plan feasible?

The two teams of Brothers were required to determine if their plan was sustainable, if the benefits imagined would accrue to their targeted constituency, if the environment, gender issues, HIV sensitivities and people with disabilities had a place in their structures; and if their finances and resources were adequate and in order.

The two teams presented their final plan for review in the general session and learned from their mistakes as well as their accomplishments.  After an evaluation of the week´s workshop, Brother Alysious Sefoi led a thank you and an appreciation of the fine teaching of Ms. Mpala.


The Theory of Change

At morning prayer on February 8, Brothers Alysious Sefoi and Chuck Fitzsimmons focused on the risk accepted by Jesus, entering the pagan city of Tyre, and of the Cyro-Phoenician woman, speaking in public to a foreigner, and the great result their faith and love produced.  Then our instructor in Project Cycle Management, Ms. Mpala Nkonkomalimba, led the Brothers in an examination of the “Theory of Change,” a system that describes the sequence of events that leads to an expected result.  The Brothers would use this system to plan, with transparency and accuracy, the step-by-step progress that would form their plan and lead to the outcomes and impact they propose.  Then, as an exercise, two groups of Brothers selected a portion of their proposed interventions and discussed the logic of how to proceed and the phrasing they would need to put their plan into action.

In such a system as the Theory of Change, monitoring and indicators are important tools.  Monitoring is the ongoing management activity that allows a project´s participants, and also the project´s donors, to assure that the project continues on the correct path.  The Theory of Change requires indicators that will verify that the intervention marches forward.  The two groups of Brothers huddled together once again to identify agreed-upon indicators that would show that their activities are on track.