. . . “knowing they are loved”
The smiling Fr Jacob, who is staying with us at St Canice’s till just before Christmas has quite a compelling story to tell. Jacob hails from a parish in a poor rural area in the Chipata diocese in the Eastern Zone of Zambia. Ninety percent of his parishioners are poor, relying on small-scale subsistence farming of maize, corn and soya beans.
Jacob is in Sydney to visit and meet with young people from the Cardoner Project, an initiative of the Jesuits for young people recently out of school. Through harnessing the power of faith and social enterprise, the Cardoner Project empowers and enables the communities it works with, to create sustainable and lasting change.
One of the problems in the church in Africa is poverty, so educating children is a major work.
Some young people from the Cardoner Project have already visited Zambia on an immersion for two weeks teaching children in the primary school. Through this exposure, they appreciate more that the world is bigger than Australia and the kids in Zambia are not so privileged. Most kids don’t even have basic needs.
The Australians recognise how poor but happy these children are. Smiles and joy are written all over their faces from simply “knowing they are loved”. All involved benefit from different aspects of cultural exchange, each learning through one another.
The area where Fr Jacob is parish priest has high number of orphans, unemployed, drug addicts, broken marriages, and HIV. So, it’s imperative that he starts with the little ones, show them and their parents that education is good. His program is to have as many children as possible in his Mary Mother of God Primary School.
The primary school started in parish hall four years ago, and then expanded into two office spaces. Fr Jacob then sent an Application to the Pontifical Mission in Rome and to the Loyola Foundation in US. There are now two more classrooms with an attendance of 290 kids. Next year, with another classroom block there will be 500 kids receiving an education. Teachers have been recruited locally as volunteers, as they receive no government funding, or teachers.
One of the obstacles is parents taking their children with them on piece-work instead of educating them. Fr Jacob believes that if he were to introduce a Feeding Program, more children would come.
The Cardoners here in Sydney are mobilising their peers to garner interest and support to meet some of the needs of Fr Jacob’s parish. This includes getting second-hand computers and laptops to meet the Bishop’s priority for kids be exposed to Science and Information Technology. In addition to this and the Feeding Program, Fr Jacob envisages a Library to inculcate the spirit for students to sit and study.
Fr David Braithwaite SJ, CEO Cardoner Project says “Social entrepreneurship is an expression of the innate intelligence and dynamism human beings seeking a better world”
When you see Fr Jacob around the parish, at Sunday Mass, please go up to him and say hello. Perhaps you may ask him how you can help him in his mission.
Michael Musgrave 27thNovember 2019