Newsletter from Africa – October 2013

Dear Friends of Africa,                                                                            Mazinde Juu, Tanzania, Oct.2013

 

On November 21st 1960 I arrived at my mission post in what was then known as Tanganyika Territory. I was transferred out of the southern province in 1972 and eventually landed in the northeastern section where I am presently working in Secondary schools for African women. I have come back to the South for a few days visit to see my old haunts and have found that much has changed over the past 40 years .Life has definitely improved for many of the families, but like the climate with the implacable sun without a drop of rain for four months, the rural life for the ordinary farm family is bitterly hard. Even the leaves on the trees have shriveled and hang like tatters from the limbs in the breeze. The Mango trees however boast over all the rest and hang their luscious fruits on long strands that seem the most improbable way to grow a fruit that can weigh half a kilo when it is fully grown. But they hang in there as the saying goes and tide many a family over the drought months with nourishment which keeps many a child alive. I recall meeting an English farm expert in the 60’s who declared that the Africans would never become real farmers until they cut down all the mango trees. His contention was that they could live on mangos for three months and really did not have to worry about putting by enough of a harvest to last them for a full year depending as they did on the mangos for their livelihood for three months of the year.

On the 21st of September we celebrated the 21st graduation ceremony of our School at Mazinde Juu. There were 88 graduates out of the 90 girls who entered their first year in January 2010. It was a particularly memorable day to have as the guest of Honor the former Student Prefect from the opening of the school in 1989. She was able to give a powerful message to the student body on what the school had to offer them for their life to come and the urgency to use every effort to make the most of the opportunity that the school was giving them now to prepare them for their life in the big world of tomorrow. The ceremony began with a formal blessing which I usually give. This was followed by a dramatic Swahili hard driving Rap kind of versifying urging the graduates to be a credit to themselves, their parents and the school. This feature of the program was done by the children from our parochial school and for me was the event of the day. Their part began with Dora, a little four year old girl from the Kindergarten, sounding off in a hall seating 600 without a mike and her voice resounding off the walls without missing a beat or a syllable. She set the pace for the following nine children who all took Dora’s lead for a flawless presentation. It was truly an electrifying performance and during the resounding applause a little first grader did impeccable cartwheels back and forth across the stage. Our parochial school is the handmaid of the parish life and we strive to give our local children every advantage they will need to make the most of what they will meet in High School. So English is the medium of instruction even in primary school and along with Swahili and the local tribal languages a child is fluent in at least three languages by finishing grade school.

I want to assure you who have been so faithful in supporting our work here in education that your sacrifices are bearing fruit and as Our Lord enjoins us; “strive for fruit that will endure.”

Sincerely,

Father Damian

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