Sustainability

August 2, 2009

The St. Gabriel’s community includes not only those who provide care at the hospital here in Namitete, but extends into the villages in the catchment area. The Carmelite Sisters, who sponsor St. Gabriel’s hospital, also support projects in the surrounding villages. During the year before our trip last summer, Elizabeth gathered donations from our friends and family. We then brought the donation to the Sisters, knowing that they can best direct contributions to areas of need. They told us about the village of Chinyata that needed to expand their school – they had two classrooms in buildings, but the other classes were being held under a tree. The donations were given, and I visited Chinyata this year to see the progress.

Father William has been overseeing the work at Chinyata, and he told me about the challenges of making a project sustainable. Chinyata was chosen as a village to support not only because there was a need, but because there were signs that the village people themselves would contribute to the work – they had built their own homes with mud bricks, and the chief showed interest in learning new ways to promote the village agriculture.

The edge of the village of Chinyata, the new school in the background

The edge of the village of Chinyata, the new school in the background

The project not only involved building a school and housing for the school teachers, it also included building a water pump and clothes washing station, establishing village latrines and planting trees. The donors have required the members of village itself to participate in the planning of the project, as well as to contribute to the labor. It is hoped that with this shared responsibility, the project will be sustainable – the principles of improved agriculture will be carried out over the years, the school buildings will be maintained and the sanitation will be kept up. It is a challenge met by every project started with sponsorship, and a test of the true motivations behind both those that give and receive.

The progress in Chinyata is encouraging. They have classrooms for Standard 1 through Standard 6 filled with 750 students – needing only two more to complete the primary school through Standard 8. They have completed three of four duplex houses for the teachers. The water pump and clothes washing station were functioning well. There was evidence that the fields were prospering, even though my visit was during the dry season. We saw trees planted in the fields – a certain type of small tree that has leaves that fertilize the soil when they fall, an edible pod and a root system that draws water to the field. This allows the villagers to reduce their dependence on expensive fertilizer and take care of their fields with a natural process.

Students on the last day of school, helping to clean the school

Students on the last day of school, helping to clean the school

Inside the Standard 5 classroom

Inside the Standard 5 classroom

Trees planted in the fields - the leaves fertilize, the roots draw water and the pods are edible

Trees planted in the fields - the leaves fertilize, the roots draw water and the pods are edible

I look forward to returning to Chinyata in the future….it seems it will be a bright one for this small village tucked in the hills between Namitete and Mchinji.

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