Reflection on a Scottish /Irish visit to Mthunzi
In July 2005 a group of 15 people from Scotland and Ireland visited Mthunzi. Marian Pallister, who had already come to Mthunzi several times, sent this report.
Scottish/Irish visit July 23-August 4, 2005
Our group of 15 arrived in Lusaka on the morning of July 23, 2005. Only two of us had visited Mthunzi before and for the rest, this was a first experience of Africa, not simply Zambia. We were welcomed by George Baridi at the airport and at Mthunzi, there were bear hugs for "Mama Maureen" and myself from our old friends (staff and boys), and very, very warm welcome for the newcomers.
It had been a long journey and this was a culture change for the majority of us, but we were put at ease and guided into Mthunzi living with kindness and gentleness.
Our programme was a busy one. We took two and a half days out to visit Livingstone, and we went to Mass at Lilanda where we visited our old friend, Father Dario, a Comboni Missionary, and as always there was a further warm welcome. For the rest of the time, Mthunzi was our hub from which we visited the local school and took part in many cultural, sporting and educational activities.
The boys staged a number of evening entertainments for us and we put on a Scottish night with typical Scottish food, music and dancing (with some Irish music for good measure as the party included two young Irish women, both talented musicians). I think we underestimated the appetites of the boys, but we at least gave over 90 people a little taste of Scotland!
Our visit to the agricultural show with the boys was interesting, eventful, but above all, fun.
Rosa, one of the Irish girls, carried out an art project with Charles and Conrad, creating a mural which we all though was wonderful. We hope you do. My thanks to Rosa and my congratulations to the two boys whose talent proved to be immense.
We were all impressed by the qualities of the staff, especially (as always) by Oscar and Joseph, and we were very grateful for the gentle care of Edina and the practical support of Baridi.
Maureen Morrison and I, who have previous experience of the centre, were particularly impressed by the new ventures at Mthunzi and by the very obvious positive development of the boys. They are a credit to the educational system.
We have all been enthused by our visit and determined to concentrate our support on the education of the boys.
Our ideas include:
· Partnerships with local schools here in Scotland to fund/provide suitable educational materials for Mthunzi, Lonjedzani, and for Tubalanje school.
· Individual sponsorship of boys' education both at primary and secondary level.
· Music and culture development. Denise Boyle from Ireland has suggested taking a group of her musician friends to Mthunzi to teach various instruments.
· Edinburgh Festival: we would hope to work on a proposal with to the effect of having the Mthinzi cultrual group to take part in it.
· The donation (around £3500 with the additional money from Annie and Rosa) which we left is intended for education purposes: this would include school fees for the older boys who are academicaly able but could also provide, for instance, a small fee for the lady Priscilla Sakala (who makes papier maché crafts and batik and tie-dye fabrics) to teach the boys new craft skills in the same way that the carver from Kabwata is doing. Further funding from us could enable other tutoring, such as car mechanics.
No promises can be made about any plans coming from our visit, but we are all trying. Fr Michael Hutson, our parish priest, has asked us to stage a briefing social evening for the parish which will hopefull set the ball rolling. Our many supporters here have already been generous with toys and cash.
The four teenagers who travelled with our group, Paul and Marc Sinclair, Annie McDermott and Piers Ranger, developed warm affection for the boys and received affection in return. My assessment would be that their presence was beneficial to both themselves and to the Mthunzi young people. The young adults, Denise, Rosa, Simon and Sally, made what I hope and believe was a valuable contribution to the 13-day visit. The qualities and skills of Rowena, Patricia, Frieda, Maureen, Brian and Carol were also a positive contribution.
May I thank everyone once again, and especially we would like to send greetings, love and prayers to all the boys.