After the relatively quiet, rainy day yesterday, we arrived in Kantolomba refreshed and ready to go. Which was good, because as soon as the car drove onto the property, kids swarmed around, waving, shouting hello, smiling big. Today was Sreedevi’s first day, and that added extra excitement. “You are in trouble!” Theresa warned with a huge smile, motioning out towards the dozens of children.
The “trouble” Theresa was referring to!
Being something of a veteran to these situations, Jen suggested we exit the car playing the chase game. We, as the saying goes, hit the ground running. Lots of squealing and laughter and chasing different groups of kids as they pretend to try to get away. It is an excellent way to use up some of the extra energy before starting in on what they are most interested in—to shake hands, hold hands, practice their English.
Beth greeting our young friends
At one point, caught in the middle of some trees, Beth started a jumping jack game, counting to ten with many of the kids chiming in, and then repeating English words with each jump.
When that game ended, Theresa sang a song about a mango tree, “Mango tree, mango tree; we jump under the mango tree, we sit under the mango tree!” And the US team learned a new Zambian song.
Partly to keep the schedule but also to rescue us, the teachers started to call the children to class, a few of the youngsters touching us on their way by and always, always, flashing beautiful smiles.
Theresa arranges a group photo before everyone disappears into their classrooms
As chaos waned, we settled into the enjoyable task of being here. After driving through the heart of Kantolomba, over the dirt roads filled with potholes, lined with food stands and bars and informal dump sites (there is no place to officially take trash), the turn into the gate of the Living Compassion property is like arriving at an oasis. The amount of care and hard work the Kantolomba team puts into keeping the property clean and well-kept really shows. Beautiful flowers, cut grass lawns, neat fences, colorful chitenge hanging to dry, all add to the peacefulness of the surroundings.
Beauty on the property
We had a chance to sit in on some of the classes, such as Charles’s class of children whose families cannot afford to enroll them in government school, where the lesson was on math.
Susan and Mary, twins of Martha, a member of the team, arrived around 11:00am for their lunch before an 11:30am start at the local government school. We seem to never tire of the inspiration of these young girls, and so we figure you never tire of hearing about it in the blogs! Susan and Mary were among the first 100 children. They come from a family of three other sets of twins! Susan and Mary, along with one younger sister, are the only survivors. They were the last set of twins, and all the others were born before the presence of Living Compassion, when clean water was not available, most families could not provide enough food to prevent malnutrition, and health care was very difficult to access. Susan and Mary are thriving, having both just passed their grade 7 exams last year and made it to grade 8. They are shining examples of how far Living Compassion has come!
Susan stands on a desk to reach the chart to sign herself into the girls program for the day.
An individual portrait of Mary
And one of Susan
Margaret is another marvel. She is the granddaughter of the woman who lives on the property and is the caretaker. She was tiny and in rags when we first met her when we bought the property in 2007. She is now a beautiful, healthy, self-confident young woman!
Lunchtime brings many photo opportunities.
Lined up for handwashing
With the “little ones” Theresa takes great care to make sure each one actually comes away with clean hands.
And this little one took it quite seriously. See her hold her freshly clean hands safe as she hoists herself up onto the porch with her forearms and legs!
The serving team gets ready for the lunch rush.
And always, as the children finish their meals and come to sit on the shaded walkway in front of the classrooms, they want to show off their English. “Hello!” “What is your name?” “How are you?” And to reply when asked in turn, “I am fine.”
Beth gets to talk with some students.
Many of the children have plastic containers to take home either the entire meal (preferring to eat at home with their families) or a good portion of it to share with their families. Even the shyest children, sitting by themselves, smile at the camera. And for those who are not shy, they are the first to be in the picture and run to see the digital image of themselves, often met with laughter, glee, finger pointing and teasing each other (or at least that’s our projection!).
Packed for home
Brother and sister heading off
A little post-lunch play time
A bit after noon a group of us met in Veronica’s classroom for a meeting about the newly ventured girls program. After Jen explained this was a pre-meeting to put together an agenda for the meeting where more detailed planning of the program would be sorted out, the Kantolomba team shared their insights into what they would like to see for the future of the girls program. Key words were: motivation, consistency, discipline, communication, support, resources, timetables, available space. Beatrice offered that she has already been encouraging the girls to consider what they want from the program, how they imagine their lives changing, and supporting them in the belief that they have the ability to achieve that. A big high five celebrated that wonderful information! It was agreed to meet again tomorrow to start formulating the specifics of the program.
We will be better about getting photos in the meetings from here on!
Then a quiet break to eat.
We had a lovely treat after lunch. A couple of grade 12!!! boys introduced themselves. Boston, left, and Moses, right.
These are boys who have been more fortunate than most. Moses has a collection of relatives who are able to put together the funds needed for his education, and Boston, an orphan, is assisted by a local priest. Living Compassion provides them with a nutritious meal every day and a community to be a part of. They were both very articulate and spoke with us about their aspirations. Boston plans to be a psychologist, and has a clear plan of studying first at a program in Ndola, then continuing his education in Tanzania and finishing in Pakistan before returning to work here. We talked about the great need for counseling in Kantolomba, and he agreed he would greatly enjoy returning to assist his community. Moses plans to study medicine and become a doctor.
Sreedevi gets to speak with a group of grade 10 students. Mirriam, far left, wants to be an accountant.
Josephine and Jen reading with some of the girls after lunch
As we were getting to speak with individual students, Theresa and Veronica were busy with stipend day. Today is February 1; stipends for the cooperative are handed out the first day of each month. There is a very formal procedure to it. Many of the women, especially the older ones, have not been to school. Theresa takes great care and time to carefully count out the kwacha so they can see it is all there. Sometimes she says she needs to do it two or three times. Each woman comes, sits with Theresa as the kwacha is counted out by Veronica, the on-site accountant, and then signs the register to acknowledge she has received the funds.
Signing the receipt book
Later in the afternoon, after the girls program had adjourned, and most of the students had left the property, lots of singing, clapping and laughter rang out from the largest classroom, adjacent to the library. We went to see what was happening. A chitenge cloth, a wide strip folded over and about the length of a long belt, was being passed from girl to girl (about 20 were still hanging around). Whoever got the cloth had to dance in the middle of the circle. It wasn’t long before the chitenge made it around the waist of each US team member. As we all got excellent lessons on exactly how to move our feet and our hips by some very proficient teachers (the girls), nevertheless the peals of laughter coming from them as they watched us wholeheartedly imitating their movements indicated that it would take several more dances to master the subtle and artful movements involved. It could be that the strong back muscles the girls and women have developed through carrying everything on their heads also contributes to the exquisite ability to dance so beautifully. Soon the room became hot and stuffy, and we moved the party outside into the cool breeze and by the cooperative team sitting on the grass. In the end, no one was left out from getting a chitenge, or scarf, or rain jacket tied around them to get them into the middle of the circle!
Joy dancing with the girls
The whole cooperative in on the action!
When we finally called “Chapwa!” (enough), good work had been done. A community had been reinforced, strengthened, added to, and celebrated. If anyone says school isn’t fun, they haven’t been to the Living Compassion property in Kantolomba! The US team went back to the lodge, tired, exercised (to the tune of 11,000+ steps!), and exhilarated. After a basic and delicious dinner we gratefully retired for the evening.
Some bonus scenes from the day:
You can always tell Josephine’s children as they are very smartly dressed! This is Emmanuel, second to youngest.
Joy with cooperative member Peter’s twins, Joseph and Sheba. They were among her first students in the pilot English preschool started with the help of Sister Phil several years ago.
Veronica poses with a few of her students.
We bought some carrots that had already gone bad when we opened the bag. In Africa NOTHING goes to waste, and we knew if we left them on the ground, when all was quiet the pigs would come by and polish them off. At the end of the day there was no sign of carrots!
As we drove out of the property for the day, we heard a little voice shout, “Goodbye.” Hidden from view at first, as we drove further we saw a group of friends hiding in the grasses.
Our farewell crew
The swimming pool back at the lodge was a lovely treat for our well-danced feet!