After overcoming a few more obstacles and delays our school finally started in the end of October and we and the village are very thankful for that! It is difficult to describe in a few sentences the complications we are facing in this operation. For example Jean was booked to go on a truck from Kinshasa to Tshikapa (1000 km) with some of our materials and it took him 10 days to get there! The donated generator went through another test on a separate trip. By the time it had arrived in Tshikapa the brand new machine was all messed up. In order to stop it from moving because of the wheels underneath, the people who loaded it, laid it on its side (!) and consequently during the trip the battery leaked all over!
Philippe’s team came to the rescue, took it all apart, cleaned it up and put it back together again. When we applied for school books, we were told everywhere that there were no more available. But by a string of miracles we got some now at least enough to start with.
In the meantime we got a new team member: Blandine from Kinshasa, a trained nurse and Sunday school teacher who will be a big help in taking care of the kids’ health and teaching them important values for life. She can also be a nurse for the village which has no healthcare at all, and teach them basic hygiene to avoid esp. sicknesses from infections of which lots of people there suffer and sometimes even die from. Once Jean arrived in Tshikapa, Mark and Blandine teamed up with him and with the help of Philippe’s team they drove to Mushapo with our goods which had arrived from Kinshasa by that time. Jean’s wife and her brother also joined them to help with cooking, getting water, boiling it for drinking and the many other chores needed just for pure survival which can take a lot of time in these conditions.
They re-opened the farm and set up camp to have a place to stay and operate from. Unfortunately they are bitten by mysterious little insects. John had gotten those same bites each time he was there and knows how difficult it is to get rid of them. Manuela will bring special insecticide from Kinshasa to fumigate all living quarters. Internet is working at least minimally after many trials because connections there are weak and our equipment is simple.
Jean inspected the manioc fields left alone for some time to see if they could be salvaged since weeds grow fast there and if not taken care of, can ruin your crops in no time. They cleaned those fields and prepare more land for new crops, and changed the farms big simple mud houses into temporary class rooms. They quickly fabricated simple black boards and makeshift benches until we can get proper ones built. It was all hands on deck and we are happy that the many preparations from the last few months are paying off now. The children are so happy to have their own school finally!
Some of you asked us how we are trying to avoid the stealing of our crops in the future since that was a big problem for the farm before. That’s a good question and it will not be easy to find a solution. One way to try to reach that goal is to try to include the villagers as much as possible into our project. It was the chiefs who asked for it in the first place and it’s a school for the children of their village. We asked them i.e. to help us in the construction of the school building as if we give them everything for free they will not respect it. And because the school is for free they agreed to help carry the sand, gravel, bricks and water to the construction site which is a big job. And concerning the field products we’ll ask them not to steal because these proceeds are to help support their school. If they steal, they steal from the school which supports their children. It will be a long process of changing mentalities and attitudes, but we have to start somewhere. Another question: How big income do we expect from the harvest and how much percent of the school expenses will it pay? We are working on a pilot project and if it works it could be a sample on how to change other parts of the country. A lot depends on the harvest, on the local population how much they respect the project and not steal and how well the products will sell. We are keeping records of the investments and proceeds to see how it works. As the saying goes “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Last question: How do we guard the seeds etc. so they don’t get stolen? In Congo everything has to be guarded well. Ex-dictator Mobutu was proclaiming on national TV: “Stealing is not a crime – it just depends on how much.” Unfortunately stealing is a big problem and we have to do our best to protect our items and get the people to understand that if they steal from us, in the long run they steal from themselves. Like now, after the farm closed, many people lost their jobs and left the village Mushapo. Our project is creating new jobs and gives them a new chance.
Two weeks ago John arrived in Prague, just in time to help Kaylee as she had a lot of pain with an oversized cyst and couldn’t walk properly. She is better now though she still doesn’t go out and needs time to heal. She has made a lot of progress in getting our new base set up and this still gives us a lot of work as well as the following up of our new contacts, email communication with the team in Congo and our friends and supporters, administrational work, planning, fund raising etc. Last news flash: Manuela got her visa renewed and has arrived in Tshikapa by now. She is helping the responsible of Vodacom there to get the wood and get proper school benches with tables manufactured which the Vodacom foundation in Kinshasa is donating for our school. We are very thankful for this big blessing for the children!
Wishing you all the best, with greetings from our heart,
Wolfgang, Lenka, Mark, Manuela and team