Wells for Zoe - St Patrick’s Parish
“When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist” is a quote from Dom Helder Camara (1909-1999) a great prophet in the twentieth century. His stern call to justice was inflected with a joy-filled, mystical love of God bringing to mind an image of St. Francis, all pointing towards the renewal of the church, the transformation of the social order, and the healing of a wounded planet. He must be sad today!
In Malawi, we journey with the poorest, assisting them to empower themselves, bringing hope and enabling them to dream their own dreams, while supporting their plans.
Imagine how exciting it was when we heard that St Patrick’s Parish, here in Lucan had initiated a One World Project and had then decided to support one of our Girl Child students who had qualified for University, against seemingly insurmountable odds, coming from the poorest and most challenging background where at best 4 out of 100 girls finish secondary and very few go on to third level.
When I am talking of poor you can’t be expected to know what I mean.
To begin, clean water is a luxury, where the least worst option, for water, may be five kilometres away from where girls and women carry heavy buckets on their heads. Food shortage is an issue for long periods each year. HIV/AIDS, Cultural Practices, Child Marriage and much more, militate against girls. Then no electricity, no transport system, poor housing and no social services of any nature affect all. So compared to the poorest in Ireland, these rural people are barely clinging to existence in our Pretend, Equitable, Globalised World.
Then out of all this comes a mild mannered but seriously determined girl called Lusungu Chirwa, who smashes all the rules and gets 16 points in her final Secondary School Exam. She might well be married off by now or starving without the help of the amazingly generous support of the congregation in St Patricks Parish.
We are supporting 273 girls in Secondary School, all with backgrounds like Lusungu this year. We tell them every day that they matter and that they are special, building their confidence to make them stronger. Besides their school subject, we teach them about their rights, and very importantly how to grow food. . When they return to their villages they will be seen as educated and are valued. Their children will go to school and gradually the cycle will be broken.
They have a Tumbuka (local language) saying
Teach a boy and you teach one individual
Teach a girl and you teach her, her family, the community and maybe the country”
In 1958, I went to a unique (maybe) co-ed secondary school in Castlerea, County Roscommon, called Meanscoil Iosaf Naofa, run by an amazing woman Mary O’Flanagan, who battled Church and State to set up her own school. In that year, 1958, 9 girls in the whole country did Physics for L.C. but only 4 passed the pass paper, while only 15 got Honours in Maths.
How the World can change, in a generation
John and Mary Coyne. www.wellsforzoe.org