I don't normally feature works by religious organizations on the Blog, but this is a story of cooperation and innovation that I would like to pass along. I received it from AfricaFiles , and I believe that they got it from the London Conference of the United Church of Canada. Below is an excerpt from a letter sent from Mozambique by Karen and Bill Butt.
At the bottom of a mountain in the village of Molumbo, 49 teen-age school-girls are living in a lar, or residence. They're girls from isolated areas who've passed the last grade of their rural schools and want to continue their education. The lar began and is run by a group of local women who call themselves AMER (Portuguese acronym for Women's Association for Rural Education), each contributing whatever small amount each personally can. Three years ago they started with 12 girls sleeping in a hut on a dirt floor. Without the lar, the girls would have nowhere to live, and would leave school, to return to the life of subsistence farmers.
When PEDRA first came to work in Molumbo, the girls were hungry. AMER couldn't afford enough food, and hungry girls were leaving school, going back home. PEDRA called in the their parents, who rallied, and formed a Board with president, secretary and treasurer, who decided what each girls' parents could contribute to keep the lar going.
Now, after harvest, the parents give corn which the girls bring to the lar in sacks.
The governmento donated land and an abandoned army barrack where the girls now sleep. PEDRA put in doors and windows.
The parents banded together to fix the roof when it blew loose in a windstorm.
They built a dining room / study room with their handmade bricks, an open-walled kitchen, a store-room for food and bicycles, and a reed-and-bamboo fence around the compound to give the girls privacy - all with their volunteer labour and local materials.
With some help from PEDRA they hired a dedicated, diligent guard who said, If I had seeds the girls and I could put in a garden. They cleared the tall grass and planted, and now they grow a steady supply of sweet potato, cabbage, lettuce, beans and tomatoes, as you see in the web-site photo. [ photo attached to the letter posted at http://www.stpaulsunitedchurch.com/World_-14161.html]
They sell surplus in Molumbo market, to buy salt and oil for cooking.
The girls planted trees-banana, citrus, eucalyptus. A rainstorm washed out some but others have grown much taller already than these growing girls.
PEDRA gave 4 guinea-fowl. Now they have 8, and keep on hatching more.
IBIS, a local Danish organization, visited the lar, admired, and donated a well and a pair of goats, and lessons in their care. Now the lar has bred 4 goats, with more on the way as they keep on reproducing.
Newly united, organized, articulate, the parents with help from CCM lobbied the district ministry of education, who has come to see the lar as a magnet for girls' education in the district. They lobbied the local Catholic priests, and now in a formerly empty Catholic schoolroom the government offers classes to Grade 9. In 2008, they'll add Grade 10.
Two half-days a week, with volunteer instructors and advisers, the girls take part in the PEDRA program of arts, crafts, educational enrichment and lessons about HIV-AIDS.
Here is a community of school-girls and their allies putting into practice what Jeremiah envisions. They continue to have ideas for the future. They would love a solar energy source so the girls can study at night, and bunk beds to get them off the cold floor. AMER and the parent committee continue to envision, and that is what is so important. It's truly a success, a solid community initiative that took root, and looks as if it'll keep on thriving.