And so it is… our final day! One of the grand gifts of awareness practice is what it does to time. Yes, there is a way in which, once back at the Ndola airport, it can feel like we were just landing, but nevertheless, there is a great sense of expansiveness, as if a whole lifetime has been lived in these two plus weeks. In fact, it has.

Theresa and Sreedevi pose for a goodbye photo before Sreedevi goes through airport security.

We are now a small but mighty crew to finish out the last day.

We arrive at the property for our last hero’s welcome!

It is Saturday, workshop day for the Girls Program. Today the workshop was to be an introduction to the agreements list, hot off the press after final sign-off from the whole team the day before.

The girls assembled for the workshop.

Theresa led the workshop, beginning with a discussion with the girls about agreements and guidelines in general. What are guidelines? Why have them? What purpose do they serve? She asked for examples of guidelines the girls have in their homes: “We must help with the cooking.” “Be home by 6pm.” “Everyone helps with chores.” This segued into looking at how guidelines are in place to assist us, to help us stay on course, to keep moving in the direction we want to go.

Theresa is a gifted speaker, a wonderful grass-roots leader.

After the general discussion Theresa passed out the agreement forms. She gave the girls some time to read through the document and then began to explore it, point by point.

The girls reading the document

For a number of the items, we grown-ups had fun acting it out, knowing from our own experience that a visual, in this case a funny skit by the adults, always makes a concept come alive. We role-played rude versus courteous, offering assistance when needed. This produced big laughs and, it seemed, comprehension as well!

At one point we discussed greeting people in our community. Bernadette raised her hand to relay a story about a neighbor she greets who never greets her in return. Should she stop, she wondered? Martha chimed in with a lovely response about how we can continue to greet the person, and we never know what effect our kindness may be having; we never know what is going on with someone else.

Bernadette, middle of the back row

Martha participating in the facilitation

This was followed by Janepher (this, we think we have discovered, after many years of confusion, is often the Zambian spelling of “Jennifer”) raising her hand to share that she has an elderly neighbor who greets her each day, and that up to today, Janepher has not returned the greeting. She plans to change this. Alright!

About midway through the document, as it seemed eyes began to glaze over, we decided this was plenty for the first workshop on agreements and guidelines. As Martha noted, it is very important that each girl understand each point well. They will continue next week.

Rose joined us for the workshop. It has been a couple of years since she was an official part of the team as a nurse, and she was eager to see how things have come along. She remains a resource for the project, and she may be able to take a mentoring role as the girls finish grade 12 and begin enrolling in career education—especially given the high percentage of future nurses!

Rose arrived as the younger children were having their meal. It was touching to see how excited folks were to see her.

Joanne so pleased to have Rose here!

Two beautiful smiles!

In speaking with Rose about the program, she was pleased to hear of the careful support being put in place and the emphasis on exposure to possibilities. “What about school fees?” she asked. We explained the financial guidelines we had formulated: the parents provide the uniform, shoes and exercise books; the girls cover their personal needs with their stipend, and Living Compassion covers school fees. She broke into a huge smile and offered her hand in a gesture of high five. “This is very good!” she exclaimed. “You cannot expose a girl to the merits of education and then leave her with no way to access it. And having parents pay for the uniforms is very important. We must all be stakeholders.” It is really Rose who planted the seed for this direction many years ago when she started advocating for skills training and shepherded Floriano through bricklaying school. It was encouraging to hear her solid approval of the parameters we just spent the last two weeks working out.

Rose reading the summary of the Girls Program

The most fun part of the workshop was the end, when Theresa handed out long-lasting laminated pictures to each of the girls. These are the portraits the girls created in last Saturday’s workshop, where they were guided to look at what they want for their future and the things they need to remember to achieve that. As Theresa handed out the pictures, she told the girls with a big smile that she expected them to have this picture in-hand when they come back to visit the program after they have become a nurse, doctor, pilot, journalist…. Big cheers and laughter with that!

Theresa passing out the laminated drawings

Everyone insisted on seeing everyone else’s!

Stevenia shows off her portrait of her as a lawyer!

And then the highlight of the day. As we adjourned from the workshop, we went out to the courtyard and took group photos of each career group!!!

Martha and Veronica were very excited to take their rightful place among the accountants. The tradition continued as one of the teachers stood in with each profession group.

The accountants. Beatrice sat in for one of the girls who was not there for the photo.

Rose and all the nurses!

The teachers, including Ethel!

Theresa stood with our two journalist—makes sense!

Josephine kept the lawyers company.

Joy did the same for our lone pilot!

The doctors stood on their own.

As did our filmmaker

One of our primary aims for these two weeks was to work out the details of the girls program, but even more than that, to plant and nurture the seed for the girls that they matter, that they are important, that they absolutely have the ability to achieve what they would like, and they have lots of support to do that. Taking the group photos, we had a tangible sense that that objective has, indeed, been reached.

After the photo session, the girls had fun showing their pictures to one another and the staff.

We closed out the day with the customary dancing and singing. Then hugs and well-wishes by the dozens. “Please greet the team in America,” we heard over and over. “We are so grateful for all you have done for us.” We always respond that we will, and that we know we can speak for the entire team back on the other side of the Atlantic when we say, “We are so deeply grateful for all you have done for us!”

Natasha is definitely among our most talented dancers!

Thank you for being with us on another heart-opening, wildly successful chapter in this marvelous transformation; and consider yourself thanked and greeted by an astounding group of courageous folks in a community that, though you may never travel there, is your home. You are considered family here.


Waving from the gate

We shall miss your fun Bemba lessons, Pauline.

Waving as we pull away

In Deep Gassho,

The February 2016 travel team

Students in the Girls Program posing with the banner painted at the 2015 Bridge Walk. 10 years of love and counting!