Prayer and contemplation is a good way to start a day, and knowing we were off to Kaleere, something we needed.
Kaleere is a remote and needy parish. When we visited 4 years ago the school consisted of groups of children studying under various trees around the church, and a mud and banana leaf constructed classroom. They still have 2 classes under trees and use the dilapidated old classroom. However they also have a fabulous new classroom block, built by the community with the roof, doors and windows funded by Christian Hope supporters. It was a glorious day weather wise and the children studying under the trees appeared to be in the best place – but thinking back to the torrential weather last Friday I guess it isn’t always so good! We looked at books and classroom displays, their handwriting is excellent, and they are learning words I have never heard of in their biology lessons – did I mention this is an infant/junior school? Uniform, clothing, and shoes appear to be optional and ragged at best.
Whilst on tour we saw members of the community – many of whom are pensioners but still helping build foundations and flooring for new classrooms in progress. We were presented with banana leaf sun hats in case we wanted to join in the labour! We resisted that urge but wore the hats – much to everyone else’s amusement.
School rules insist the children speak English at all times in school which must pose some issues for the younger ones! I was assured by the Headmaster (a mere youngster in my eyes) that the punishment was not too severe!
We were then taken into the church, the whole school of 326 children crammed in too, accompanied by their brilliant teachers, where we were welcomed by the youthful Headmaster, and then entertained by the Kaleere School Talent Group to a fabulous show of singing and dancing. They made the songs up themselves, welcoming us “the visitors they cannot forget”, thanking us for CHI support, for books, fees, desks, water tank and the building help.
It was nearly time for lunch break as we came out of church so, as usual, Carmen decided it must be Havoc time and she and Ian proceeded to throw footballs and tennis balls into the throng of increasingly excited children. I think they were almost engulfed by the enthusiastic children, but no one was hurt too much in the mêlée!
Reverend Canon Eriab was quick to rescue us and we were whisked off to visit the shallow wells which CHI supporters have also funded. Enos who has helped oversee the various projects in Kaleere accompanied us too, along with Samuel – Eriab’s son who does a lot of voluntary work within the Kaleere community. Both Enos and Samuel have a very in-depth knowledge of the community so their input was invaluable. The shallow wells are used constantly, two of the wells serve approx 400 families, and at the moment one has been out of action for a few days awaiting repair. The alternative of a mucky pond is no competition. These wells have helped with health and sanitation issues in the community. Another shallow well would not go amiss – oh for bottomless funds!
From there we visited some homes, where they had benefited from a parish project where they were supplied with livestock and garden tools and seeds. Charles has made such a success of his garden that their family room is full of sun dried corn cobs which need to be stripped and ground by hand, in a pestle and mortar, to make maize flour. He has 9 children aged 4 to 14, hopefully they will help him. I certainly think his wife deserves a rest and should be let off this chore!
We visited other homes, that of Teresa, who looks after 6 orphans, Clement who looks after 4 orphans, and Jalia who looks after 4 orphans. All these ladies are well into their 70s and possibly beyond, but they keep pigs and chickens, grow crops and look after young children, housework comes last on their list of things to do! They truly are the unsung heroines in this community – but there are many more who do the same. It appears from their testimonies that their lives have been helped immensely by Christian Hope input but still so much more could be done to help this impoverished and remote community.
The sky began to darken so we had to hot foot to our next appointment – with the younger members of Kaleere who had benefitted from the small loans projects, the three we met were all young Mums with 16 children between them, two had set up food stalls, each selling different fruit and veg, and the other had a general shop, all sited along the main road. They all said they were doing well but would like to expand their businesses, but this could only be done with a further loan, and the waiting list is long!
Suddenly the heavens opened and we had to leave quickly. The road had been impassable last Friday after the storms and so we knew we could easily get stuck! We had a young and skillful driver for the day, also named Eriab, and thankfully he negotiated the flooded roads, the potholes and ditches and brought us safely home.
Tired, full of thoughts, saddened by the seemingly insurmountable task of deciding where our limited funds could be best used, and knowing that our best option is to pray and leave this with God, we hope you will keep this community, and our decisions, in your prayers too.