Friday, January 25, 2008

The Shanty Compound

Sister Josephine, of the local order of Franciscan nuns, took us to one of their seven nutrition centers in the Luanshya area. We bumped along on a rutted, red-dirt road for several miles, all the while passing little homes of such obvious and abject poverty. Always there would be children outside. Africa gives a whole new definition to “dirt poor.”

On the drive we learned that the Sisters feed over 2,000 children every day in these isolated areas the nuns call shanty compounds. The one we went to, Walale, feeds about 695 every day, with special attention given to the younger, more vulnerable children. All are AIDS orphans, primarily being cared for by extended family in the area. This noon meal will be their only meal for the day. Funding for the project primarily comes from an organization called Charity Without Bounds, a Catholic charity in Italy. With the $4,000. the nuns receive each month, they not only feed the many children, but also provide basic schooling, life-skills training, hygiene, rudimentary health assessment (weighing and tracking of at-risk infants), simple clothing, and more. Two coordinators work on-site along with a novice nun here from Kenya.

In addition to feeding children, this program seeks to work with whole families in the village setting. From what I understand, the Franciscan Sisters have given small plots of land to families to work. Sister Josephine makes trips back to Italy to speak and raise money; however, it is becoming very hard to sustain the levels of giving needed to make a difference here. The Sister must often make some hard choices about priorities—really wrenching decisions considering the level of poverty. Because of the difficulty in sustaining funding from the West, the Sisters are partnering with projects at Kafakumba to develop a stream of funding that can be generated locally.

On our drive back we passed three funeral processions. This was the first that we had seen cemeteries and there were several along the road, generally with fresh graves obvious. The processions were made up of four men carrying a simple wooden coffin, followed by a small group of people. Because of AIDS there is a steady procession of these sad journeys.


RaeLynne said...

Madalynne and I saw you in the sea of children. She screamed "Grandpa!" I have been telling her you are in Africa helping other children who need help. That did not stop her from pointing at and touching the screen to see if she could touch you. Obviously, the grand baby's do miss you.
Love you,
the M & M's

Dave Marty said...


Thank you so much for keeping us updated. Through your stories I'm remembering how overwhelming it all was when I was there the first time, and I have to admit that I have some real mixed feelings about returning in a couple of months (Lord willing). I'm so looking forward to once again seeing some of the people I met before; but I also know it's going to turn my thoughts and emotions into a jumbled mess again. It's just about impossible to be there and not have one's worldview turned upside down.
God be with you as you continue to learn and grow. Please tell the Enright's that Mary and I said "hello". And if you run into the Chola's, the Costa's or the Munza's, give them my greetings, too. Thanks!

Dave Marty

Mary Marty said...


Thanks for sending your updates. I am Dave Marty's wife andf I read with great interest as I prepare myself for our trip in Late March. I wonder how my world will be rocked.

Prays for safe travels are lifted for you and your husband.


Dewey said...

I am enjoying your commentary very much. (I am a little envious.) Keep up the good work and know that I am praying for you each day.

btschwenk said...

Great reading your blog and seeing the pictures. They are right when they say you can't visit Africa without leaving a piece of your heart there. Praying lives will be drawn closer to Him because of your visit.
Your neighbors,
Barry and Thelma