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.
Monday was devoted to a detailed evaluation of the PPS’s work with the Brothers for almost a month. The strength of their work was the fact that they were able to connect the Brothers with a community in a village. The fact that they had been working with this community made it easy to invite the community into a process that was run by the Brothers under supervision from PPS. It would be fair to say that many Brothers were not fully satisfied with the quality of the teaching from PPS and Mrs Mgula accepted this criticism graciously. Overall, the Brothers have benefitted greatly from the time with PPS and certainly are well-prepared to enter into the ministries of the cluster.
Saturday saw the Brothers departing from Limulunga for a day a the Makapaiella Lodge, some 16 kilometres away. Because of the limited transport facilities, David made three trips to the Lodge, taking four Brothers each time. The day was most relaxing in a beautifully scenic setting overlooking Lake Makapaiella. This was a moment of community recreation after the intensity of the previous three weeks. Everyone enjoyed the day, especially the meal at lunch time!
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.
From February 26 through March 1, the ten Christian Brothers of the Advanced Skills Training, together with our two TST members, Brothers Chris Meehl and David Gibson, joined community organizers and drivers from the Peoples’ Participation Service in a three-car caravan that drove for three hours to the village center of Imalyo, for an immersion experience with the people of that far-flung set of villages. The last hour of that traveling caravan was off-road, cruising through sand and swamp and hundreds of overhanging branches on a two-track, snaking path that seemed to disappear at times.
The arriving team was welcomed warmly by a committee of the villagers. The PPS had been working with the people there for more than a month, inviting them to gather to plan a future for the enormous extension of their village area, a zone that has no electricity, no water, no sewerage, no medical post. The schooling offered locally seems to be in a developing stage with few educational materials.
The villagers arrived at the appointed time, some having walked for two or three hours to reach the village center. Minutes before the meeting began, four of the Brothers were surprised to learn that they themselves would be conducting the opening session, based on the study we´d done the week before. We had thought we were there only to observe the community engagement process! So, Brothers Moy Hitchen, Leo Liyungu, Áckim Simasiku and Bonaventure Muunga hurriedly gathered for five minutes to plan the inicial session, which actually came off very well, the villagers responding enthusiastically to the invitation to dream of a new future for their village and map out how it might appear in the future.
Key to the success of that opening session, and to following sessions when other Brothers from the AST were thrust into leadership roles, was the skill of several of the Christian Brothers who speak the Silozi language. Although a number of the thirty-five villagers present could speak English, the ample majority live and work in Silozi, and so our Brothers´ ability to invite and explain and illustrate in that native language, as well as to sing and laugh and dance with the people, set the stage for a workable, warm relationship with the people in our three days of working with them.
The accommodation offered to the Brothers were more than adequate, two Brothers to a bedroom, and three in the main room, in a simple, well-built four bedroom facility. The PPS team slept in tents. The food was ample and delicious, prepared by a talented chef and his team of people who lugged canister after canister of water from the pump, and warmed an adequate supply for showers in the morning. Very gracious was their service.
Not all went smoothly. There was some annoyance among the Brothers at being told only a few minutes in advance that one team or another of us was expected to lead a session. And the Brothers were angered that no provision had been made to feed the villagers who had arrived from long distances and stayed the whole day, through lunchtime. These and other frictions will be debriefed with the PPS the following week in two days of review of the immersion experience.
The final work day produced two climactic moments, one of which was the participants´ work in the morning to finalize their action plan. The villagers chose to concentrate their efforts on the establishment of a medical center in their village center, so one group got down to the gritty details of collecting building materials by certain dates. The other group planned the Who? When? and How? of connecting with government and NGO officials, seeking financial and consultative support. At our final plenary session the two groups proudly presented their action plans developed after two and a half days of work, to the applause of all present. Then representatives of the villagers, the Brothers and the PPS offered heart-felt speeches in which they recognized the fine work and determination of all involved and the warm relationships we´d developed after only a few days together. A final prayer closed our planning work.
The other climactic moment was the invitation to the Brothers and PPS to play that afternoon in a community soccer game arranged by the local teachers. The steady rain did not stop over a hundred local people from watching several of the younger Brothers and the teachers and several PPS members sludge through the wet sand, taking on the local young adults. Brother Bonaventure was secured as the Brothers´ coach, but his reputation as a defensive specialist suffered gravely in a 6-0 rout. But everyone enjoyed the show, a fitting and enjoyable conclusion to engaging the community.
Back home in Limulunga, the Brothers gathered for a quiet morning of reflection and sharing about their immersion experience, and on Saturday, March 3, traveled to the Ikithe Lodge to appreciate the lake view, to enjoy some soccer on TV, and to relax with a wonderful meal, all of this arranged by Brothers Bonaventure and Dominic Kargbo.
At morning prayer on February 23, Brother Dominic Kargbo and Leo Liyungu led the Brother on an examination of our community life: how do we really live together? Do we support and love one another? At evening prayer a beautiful ritual of washing each other´s hands focused the Brothers´ attention on service and forgiveness.
Our professors for community engagement, Mr. Fine Nasilele and Philip Kaunda, of the People´s Participation Service, began the morning of their final day of teaching by instructing the Brothers about the activities and timelines needed make real the services we imagine that will bring us to our dream. The Brothers retired to their two groups to answer the What? Who? When? Resources? questions of their proposed activities. With Philip guiding one group and Mr. Fine the other, the two groups finalized their interventions and presented them in full group session.
After this, two groups of Brothers, one to complete the morning and another in the afternoon, playacted conducting a meeting with villagers to begin an intervention process with them. These tools may come in handy as the Brothers are immersed next week, for three days, in a village they have never seen, guided once again by the People´s Participation Service, who have taught us for the last two weeks.
The Advanced Skills Training group celebrated the birthday of Brother Peter Malama, this 22 of February, with a morning prayer that focused on thanksgiving for the gift of life. Brother Alysious Sefoi created a beautiful centerpiece for the prayer and offered a striking prayer/poem by John O´Donohue, while Brother Chuck Fitzsimmons offered a video celebrating life, and a birthday song celebrating Peter.
The ten Brothers of the program struggled with the logical presentation of their programs. The community dream in an intervention must lead to practices that emerge from the needs of the community and follow in a logical sequence toward achieving the dream. The community affected and the Brothers need to make a clear-headed evaluation of where they are in their practices: aware of the problem, or jolted into a response, or acting regularly, or advancing to the point of fulfilling their dream by turning those practices into actions that now flow naturally from the community and affect its life and destiny.
On this Wednesday, February 21, Brother Ackim Simasiku invited the Brothers to reflect on their lives, getting in touch with their feelings, their bodies, and realizing the goodness of God in their lives.
Our professors, Mr. Fine Nasilele and Philip Kaunda, of the People´s Participation Institute, returned the ten Brothers of the Advanced Skills Training to their study of Community Engagement, today focusing on “visioning” and “planning.” A central question: where is it we would like to be in two or three or five years? In this context, the vision describes our hopes, and can be poetic and imaginary, full of possibilities, something we strive for.
The vision is the “what” we want, as contrasted with the plan, which is the “how.” The plan analyzes, is a prose, reasoned mapping of policies: the plan is something we implement.
Then we assess our progress. How well are we advancing: from awareness, to reaction, to acting occasionally, to acting regularly, and finally to acting naturally.
The Brothers once again split into the two groups which worked yesterday, intending now to apply the lessons of the day to their developing plans for community engagement.
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.
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.