What a giant day! It’s not that “so much got done,” but more that there were huge process leaps in several areas. It was one of those days where the seeds that have been planted and watered suddenly sprout. So thrilling!
Like clockwork, we arrived to find Joy working with the grade 8 students.
Joy with the grade 8 students
We do not have any IT geniuses on the team—yet! Perhaps in 5, 6, 7 years, we will have dozens of trained professionals across many fields, adults who grew up as Living Compassion children! THAT will be fun! For now, it is important that we make sure Theresa is 100% comfortable with her new computer before we leave.
Sreedevi takes great care to go over the details of the new computer, writing down all the instructions as they go.
In the middle of the computer lesson we had a wonderful surprise—in walked Brenda! Brenda has been away in the village visiting her sick father. It was a grand treat to see her. Brenda brings a unique humor and playfulness that is missed when she is not here.
In the U.S. we discovered “chalkboard fabric.” It is the consistency of a thick picnic tablecloth and is designed to be written on with chalk. This is a very valuable resource in Zambia since chalkboards are expensive, tend not to be good quality, and do not stand up well over time.
The fabric must be “primed” before using it.
You rub chalk thickly over the whole surface.
Then wipe it off and repeat. It is now ready to use.
We were all delighted at the clarity of the writing! Look at the difference with the old board!
We had a few minutes to walk the property before the Girls Program meeting. We notice that young babies here are willing to be held by us, but the slightly older ones, from about 8 months to 2-3 years old, are terrified and run away crying when they see us. We do our best to keep our distance.
Ronika, one of Joanne’s children, comes to greet us, while Michael, her two-year-old brother, runs for cover (if you look very closely you can see him peeking out from behind the curtain of the house).
We came across a group of the women preparing a part of the ground for planting. They always religiously take the opportunity to practice their English when we approach. And they take great delight when we do our best to learn a Bemba phrase.
Pauline is an excellent Bemba tutor—very patient and enthusiastic!
Time for the next Girls Program meeting. Last week we used the analogy of geese flying in formation when we spoke about teamwork and the importance of supporting each other. Serendipitously, we came across a short, inspirational YouTube video using this same analogy.
Starting the meeting with an inspirational and energizing video
We worked through a misunderstanding about the Girls Program with the team.
The team thought that anyone who wanted to opt in for academic support would receive it, even if they were not officially in the program. They would not be eligible for the financial side of things until next year.
There was an emphasis being put on the financial component of the program that we had not intended. This sparked a fabulous discussion about the nature of support, what it entails, and the resources needed to provide it. At one point the analogy of a life raft came up. If we simply keep bringing more and more people onto the life raft, it will eventually be of no good to anyone! In the same way, if we keep bringing more and more girls into the academic support classes, we will lose our ability to truly reach the girls. Instead, the plan is to build a strong, sturdy ship large enough to accommodate everyone! That takes some time.
There seemed to be great relief in acknowledging this. Everyone wholeheartedly agreed that the quality of what we offer in the program is the top priority. “So, what do we do about our problem?” we asked ourselves. The problem: we are a group of people with huge hearts who are willing and ready to help anyone who wants to participate. We all smiled, recognizing that this is not actually a “problem” at all but, in fact, a great asset!
It was amazing to see that as soon as we clarified the issue, Theresa immediately had an idea that the entire team was enthusiastic about. Here is what we got to. For any girl enquiring about the program:
- Politely explain that we are happy that she wants to invest in her future.
- The program is closed for 2016.
- We have a list of candidates for 2017. Would she like to sign the register to be a candidate for 2017?
- At the end of the 2016 program, we will be looking for students who are dedicated to their education for the 2017 program.
- In the meantime, she is welcome to use the library as a resource. She may come every day to read in the library. There will be a sign-in register at the library.
- Also, she is welcome to talk with one of the teachers and sign up for the extra lessons offered at Living Compassion. These are lessons separate from the academic support of the girls program.
Sreedevi making notes
Wow! The integrity of this fledgling program is maintained, and the possibility for other girls is wide open. As we finalized the discussion, we agreed that it is, in fact, an advantage that there will be a waiting period. The 37 girls now enrolled in the program came forward to participate before there was any financial component. These are girls who are clearly eager for and dedicated to their own education and ready for this commitment. The waiting period provides a way for the next set of girls to prove their commitment to the elements of the program, instead of being attracted only by the financial support.
Whew… that was big. Next, we worked with our sets of agreements and guidelines. Creating them has been a remarkable process. A second breakthrough for the day was speaking English as a guideline. Are we really ready for that? If we make a guideline that you must speak English, are we prepared to enforce that? Are we saying that everyone will always only speak English at Living Compassion? This brings many complexities with it, needless to say. And if we are not prepared to enforce it, what does that do to the integrity of our guidelines?
So, do we leave it off? “No!” The team was adamant that there must be a strong guideline to speak English. “How about try to speak English?” So we did an exercise in which we try to stand up. Everyone got it right away…. Hmmm…. Silence…. What about motivating one another to speak English? Yes! That’s it! We can definitely follow that guideline!
Joy said, “I have an example. This morning when I arrived at the property I greeted Charles in Bemba. He replied, ‘Good morning. We are practicing speaking only English.’” Joy told us how grateful she was for Charles’s reminder!
Aha, we noted! Charles was the lead goose this morning, and we drew an impromptu sketch of the birds in formation! We also used it as an opportunity to practice encouragement and recognition, all doing the clapping we learned a few days earlier.
Charles takes the lead!
10.15: At the end of the meeting the team adjourned to begin work on timetables—schedules of when each grade level in the girls program will meet.
Later, Ethel walked into the room and asked Joy something in Bemba. Joy politely replied, “I’m not sure, Ethel. Perhaps you could ask me in English?” A huge smile spread across the face of one of the grade 11 girls, Mirriam, as she remarked, “Things have changed around here.” That was one of those moments you want to bottle up and keep with you! Things have, indeed, changed around here, and it has truly taken a giant team to bring it forth!
If you can hang in there with us, we had one more major breakthrough in the day. Silvia and Mirriam, the two grade 11 girls Sreedevi worked with on taking photos and writing captions, took their first solo go at it.
Last meeting with Sreedevi before setting out
It was spectacular! They walked around the property politely asking potential subjects if they could take their photo, framing the photos just right, ensuring the sun was behind them, and taking numerous pictures. As they went they noted the relevant details in their notebook.
Capturing details of their photography subjects
Once complete, they reviewed the photos they had taken and chose the best ones. Then they sat down and wrote out captions for each.
Working on the captions
Then we were all invited to see their photos and hear the captions they had written. It was a thrill! Much beaming all around!
Showing off their work!
At the end of the day it happened that just about all the girls in the program were gathered informally outside before heading home. Theresa took it as an opportunity to be sure we had all the names and grade levels correctly recorded in our book. Though we are getting there, we have not mastered all 37 names, and it was a pleasure to practice putting more faces with names and to get to greet each girl individually. Calling someone by name is such a simple, beautiful way to acknowledge care and respect.
Theresa recording names
What a fabulous shirt!
A cooling rain rolled in as students and staff headed home. What to us feels like welcome, fresh air proves quite chilly for local folks.
Ethel huddled up in a jacket we loaned her
Pauline teaches us “nakutalala”: it’s cold.
And Theresa shows off the prize pumpkin Brenda brought her from the village, carried with love on a long bus journey!
It’s a good life!