A big day in the history of the project!

It seems there is always movement of energy at the project. Monday it was dancing, Tuesday it was more dancing, this time with the adults, and on Wednesday our first activity was net ball. Or ,at least, that’s the name the kids gave the game. Someone starts with a ball, a squishy, worn soccer ball that had a fair amount of give to it, and throws it to someone she chooses. There doesn’t seem to be any formulation in the throwing, though it somewhat resembled a screen formation in basketball around the net, with girls running to an open space to entice the thrower to pitch to them. Intercepting the ball was seen as a great accomplishment! This was a perfect place to overcome any battle scars from grade school and horribly-gone-wrong dodge ball games for us musungus. With the ball on the ground, it became an all out scramble to acquire the ball and get the game moving again. After capturing the game with a few pictures, Beth joined in. The first ball tossed to her went straight between her hands, much to the glee of the girls; however, that did not stop them throwing the ball to the musungo again and again until her catching and throwing skills improved measurably, proving there is nothing that can’t be accomplished with some practice and perseverance!

Net ball fun!

When we entered the largest classroom we found the teachers in conference solving what seemed a tricky math problem: “If oxygen is 1/5 of the atmosphere, how much is not oxygen?” On the board they had figured 1/5 of 360 degrees. They were in the process of subtracting the answer from 360.

Charles working out the problem

When we appeared, Charles immediately asked for our help. We all crowded around the board wondering what kind of math problem could stump the teachers, and to be honest, a little uncertain whether we could help them out. Before seeing the work they had done so far, they read us the problem…. When we drew a circle on the board and divided it into 5 parts, shading one and asking if 4/5 was the answer, still not sure we had understood their difficulty, Veronica burst out laughing. “It was a trick!” she joked. They all realized it was a simple case of not understanding the question clearly. What we all realized with great delight later is that they were on exactly the right track, just in a far more complex way than needed. 1/5 of 360 is 72. 360-72= 288. 288/360= .8 or 80% which is equal to 4/5! Now THAT was fun! It was a great example of teamwork, communication, and humility. It was a great start to what would soon prove to be yet another amazing day.

Team work!

Shortly after the math lesson, we gathered for the third meeting this week regarding the girls program. We covered such topics as academic, social, and financial support for the girls and also, very important, support for the teachers. It was a lesson in how blinded we are by beliefs and assumptions—for example, the girls not having electricity at night to do homework or practice reading and writing. We explained how we rely on them to tell us these stumbling blocks, as there are many realities of life in Kantolomba that we know nothing about; there are hidden assumptions we do not know we are making. The teachers nodded thoughtfully, and then Theresa pointed out that, for them, not having electricity was normal so it wouldn’t stand out as one of the “challenges” for which they thought to alert us. She pointed out that they also have hidden assumptions they do not realize they are making. What a reminder about the different realities we all live in! And great compassion for why communication can be so very tricky!

Getting the meeting started

Sreedevi summarizing the points so far

Getting input from each team member

Soon it was time for lunch, and we all gathered in the common room where lunch is served. We took that valuable time to refresh our bodies and silently reflect on all we had accomplished. We didn’t stay long, as 4 girls in the girls program were practicing reciting poems for Mama Cheri in anticipation for the first Skype call ever done from California to Kantolomba. One by one, the older girls got up in front of the remaining class, about 45 girls, the teachers and the other adults to recite their poems. To say that the excitement was palpable is an understatement. The entire property was blazing with happiness and the poems reflected the joy, gratitude and commitment these girls have.

Sylvia reciting her poem

And Benendette


And Esther

Once the applause and smiles died down, we still had about an hour before the big event with Mama Cheri. This trip has been the most rain we have seen in a long time, and today was an exception having turned out to be quite sunny. We rallied the girls once more for a hike that we hoped would last longer than the previous day’s hike had. Not only were the girls game for the movement, they brought Susan along in her wheelchair, pushing her uphill and even carrying her over some of the bigger ruts and boulders in the road. No child who wanted to come was left behind.

Natasha and friend prepare to bring Susan on the walk.

Sylvia, one of the grade 11 students, told us she plans to be a journalist when she finishes her education. Sreedevi has been working with her to train her to assist Theresa with taking photos and writing captions for the weekly updates Theresa sends back for us to post on the Living Compassion website. Here is Sylvia’s account of Wednesday afternoon:

I’m Silvia Chin’gandu. I am a grade 11 pupil at Milemu secondary school. My mother is Joyce Mwila. I have a twin brother, his name is Malcolm Chin’gandu (16), my younger sister is Stephania Chin’gandu (15), my younger brother Stevo Chin’gandu (11). I have three friends. Their names are Takondwa, Lillian, Clarence. I have been coming to Living Compassion program for 5 months. I come here to be educated and to get good job, good morals, so that when I completed my education, I will come here to help the young ones.

Madame Joy invited me to write a poem about Mama Cheri, USA team, Jenny and Theresa.

Madame Joy

I was scared to talk in front of the people, and my friend Benadete advised me to go and do the poem. When I was done, I feel so happy and excited. After we practiced, we went out with my friends.

Setting off with friends


We went to the mountain.


Up the mountain

In the mountain, there is a stream.

Some people were washing their hands, some people were just watching. It was fun.

At the stream

Then we came back to Living Compassion.

We saw Mama Cheri on the computer. We are singing to Mama Cheri. We sang a song “It’s been a long time, we have missed you. We are waiting for you.” I told my poem to Mama Cheri, about my dream to become a journalist.

Myself and my friends (Mirriam, Rachel, Esther) talking to Mama Cheri about how old we are and the grade we are in

Then we thanked Mama Cheri about our girls program. We appreciated to her. I want Mama Cheri to be encouraging me about my education, and to support me.

After, I went home. Then I washed my uniform, I cooked, start doing my homework, I even sleep. Thank you Mama Cheri, continue with the same spirit, what we want is you to supporting us. That’s all.

Silvia’s “Selfie”

*All photos taken by Silvia.

And Sylvia is right—it was, indeed, great fun walking with the girls! One the way back down the hill, the girls began singing and chanting and we soon picked up the words and joined in. As we danced our way back to the property, passing through the community, it was easy to project we all felt proud to be an amazing team, each doing our part. Big smiles all around.

We were astounded at the strength the girls had to push the wheelchair uphill over giant rocks!

On the way up

A group of beautiful girls under an umbrella of beautiful clouds!

Marion, Josephine’s oldest child, poses on the walk. We are excited to see how well she is doing! She is healthier, more outgoing and confident, and, it seems, happier than we have ever seen her.

No land goes to waste. We came across this small plot planted with greens under the power lines.

Finally, it was time for the call from California. The computer was set up on a table, the girls were at the desks, the entire Kantolomba team including cooks and teachers and dishwashers and more than one or two special guests were standing or sitting on the other side of the room. The anticipation was tangible!

And then we heard it, that familiar, one-of-a-kind Skype ring-call.

It’s ringing!!!!!!

And suddenly, there was Cheri on the computer screen!

It is impossible to describe the delight, the thrill, the absolute unabashed love from Theresa when she saw Mama Cheri for the first time in years!

We think it speaks for itself!

The whole team gets to wave hello!

After we quickly rearranged the room for better lighting, the call officially started with a welcome song from the team.

So happy to greet Mama Cheri!

Charles translates the song for Cheri.

Eunice and Emmanuel, Josephine’s two youngest, dance to the singing.

Next, one by one the teachers and several of the women who have been at the project since the beginning got a few minutes with Cheri to express thanks, love, happiness, and joy at being part of Living Compassion.

Josephine greeting Cheri

And Veronica


Jen introduces Joy who has not officially met Cheri as she joined the team more recently. Joy spoke eloquently about what being a part of the project has meant to her. “We are very far away physically,” she acknowledged, “but spiritually we are very close. Please keep up your encouragement of us. We feel it very much!”

Regina expresses her deep gratitude with Theresa translating.

Theresa gives Regina a Bemba translation of Mama Cheri’s response.

Regina’s delight!

Cheri also spent some time hearing from the four Grade 11 girls, Miriam, Sylvia, Esther, and Rachel, and Sylvia recited her poem to Mama Cheri which was received with equal joy and gratitude.

Mirriam recites her poem.

Then Sylvia

(See Sylvia’s post above for a beautiful photo of the grade 11 girls speaking with Mama Cheri.)

Loveness, who was just able to walk last time Cheri saw her, gets a moment to say hello.

Imagine Cheri’s surprise at seeing Twaibu who is very nearly a grown man at this point!

And Twaibu’s at getting to see Mama Cheri live via computer!

Thanks to modern technology, Jen was able to take Cheri on a virtual tour of the property, pointing out the water tanks, the new kitchen building, the property boundaries, areas for future building, and of course the beautiful sky.

Setting off on the tour, we see a few of the new staff through the window and introduce Cheri.

Viewing the water tanks

Greeting Young Foster at the kitchen

The property boundary

Greeting some friends along the way

And the newest members of the Living Compassion community, who were quite fascinated by the computer!

The tour ended back at the library where the teachers sang a song they prepared for Cheri. Once again the feeling of total acceptance, joy and love reverberated around the room, and 45 minutes later, a promise to make Skype calling a much more regular event concluded the momentous afternoon of connection.

Wishing Cheri goodbye

“Bye-bye, Mama Cheri!”

It certainly was for us, and easy to project for the whole community, that the call was an embodiment of all this project is, how much it is practice and how far we have all come together!

There was no way anyone had any energy left to do anything more so we called it a day and headed back to the lodge.