Monday, December 30, 2013

A Final Thought for 2013

I can't believe 2013 is almost over. How time does fly. It seems like the time goes by even faster here in Mozambique. Perhaps it's because there's so much to do, but before I know it the roosters and goats are waking me even before dawn and another day begins.

We have been so blessed here that I certainly can't complain about anything. It goes without saying that our orphans we work with in Amatongas keep us motivated and we know the work must continue. So, in my last blog of the year I just have to spotlight one of our sponsors. Without these incredible people who have helped us on the way we would be nowhere. Chrisof Jensen (CHS '84), my classmate back at Catholic High in Baton Rouge, is a great example and just one of those who help us care for these students who would otherwise really have little to no educational opportunities. He sent me this below.

The Jensen Family in Raleigh, North Carolina has been an active supporter over the years and currently supports four students.  "The opportunity to assist in the education and religious growth of these young men, through the good works of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, is very inspirational", writes Christof Jensen. "The support of even one child can make all the difference, and we want to encourage others to support Brother Chris and the volunteers with their financial aide". 
The Jensen family sponsor Arnaldo, Modesto, Paulo, and Jossias
Please consider helping us as our numbers continue to grow. Sponsoring a student is simple and the rewards last a lifetime. 

Brothers of the Sacred Heart Foundation "Amatongas Mission Sponsor" 4600 Elysian Fields Ave. New Orleans, LA 70122

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday Work

Just when you think the work maybe will end or at least decrease a little, we begin new projects. First, we are helping the primary school in Amatongas build new classrooms. This will help benefit our school as well since the primary school is presently using some of our classrooms during the day.

Director of the primary school (left) and supervisor of work

Four new classrooms are being added

Also, we are adding 12th grade in 2014 and we needed to find a few new classrooms ourselves. So, we are renovating the Parish Youth Center into two classrooms, 11th and 12th grades. The building will still be used by the parish on the weekends, but during the week it will be used by the school.

A new ceiling is being installed to help reduce heat, as well as new windows, black boards, lighting and a new door and entryway for the 12th grade.

Carpenters install new ceiling
And finally, the corn update you have all been waiting for. Well, you may not have been waiting for it, but you get it anyway since it's a major preoccupation for me, the brothers, the students, and pretty much everyone living in Amatongas and probably Mozambique. Of course, corn is the main staple of the diet here and in most of Africa.

Below is the 5 hectares of corn we planted just a few weeks ago. Thanks to good rain this new field will most likely be our best and should produce a minimum of 30,000 kilos and hopefully closer to 40,000.
You just gotta love those straight lines produced by our new planter
 Meanwhile our other two fields are looking much better after the rains last week. It seems like they grew a foot or two overnight.
Some students and our parish youth group helping to clean the corn fields
 And when you finally see the corn fields begin to flower, it's a beautiful sight.

The 1st field we planted begins to flower

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Feliz Natal!

From our family to yours, we wish you Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Orphan Interview for 2014

We like to interview our new orphans before they arrive the first day. The reason for the interview is to get to know the student better, make sure they are truly in need and ensure their desire for a good education. With so many students wanting to board with us, the interview has become essential. Yesterday we were lucky to have Br. Jose Ignacio, our Superior General in Rome, join us for the afternoon.

Betinho Nicon is a 13 year old 8th grader who lost both parents due to illness a few years ago. He and his brothers and sisters live with their grandmother about 9 kilometers east of Amatongas. He has been walking to and from school each day, about a 2 hour journey one way. Br. Fabian, Betinho's English teacher, noticed he would come late to class frequently and suggested he come board with us.
The walk into a small village
Betinho's grandmother is an elderly, but strong, woman taking care of many children. She was excited for her grandson and asked how many more we could take.

Meeting with Betinho and his grandmother 
 Betinho and his brother sleep in this mud hut...
Br. Jose Ignacio picture in front of Betinho's small hut
 ...with no electricity or water. We didn't see many clothes in the hut, or books, radios, etc.
Betinho (red shirt) with his brother inside their mud hut
 As a boarder, Betinho will receive a real bed, three meals a day, clothing, school uniform, school supplies, a place to study at night, tutoring and much more. Hopefully, someone out there will want to sponsor Betinho or others like him.
The sister looks on...

...and three other children as well. 
Betinho's grandmother was very excited to offer us two chickens as gifts of thanks.

Offering gifts of chickens as thank you

You never know who will show around the corner

Thursday, December 12, 2013

More Mouths Means More Corn

The video below may not seem like a big deal, but in Amatongas it was a gift from God. Thanks to the Ruckstuhl Foundation in Baton Rouge we can now plant as much corn in one day as we previously planted in one week by hand. We'll need a lot more corn this year with 106 mouths to feed. Ground corn is the main staple in the diet here and is eaten twice a day, every day. This year we planted 400 kilos of corn. That's almost 900 lbs for those of us metrically challenged. Now as long as we get good rains we should harvest enough corn for the students to eat and for us to sell in the market.

Help Us On the Way to 106

Yes, we're on our way to 106 boarders when the next school year begins in February, 2014. What started out as a small operation continues to grow, it seems every day. With 50 of these boarders being orphans from the local area, it makes our task much harder, but all the more rewarding.

We want to first thank all of those who sponsored orphans this past year. Without your help our little mission would not be possible. You have given these young men hope for the future and in Mozambique it's all about the future.

I can't highlight all our sponsors on this blog, but I would like to spotlight a few. First, thanks to the de Brueys family in Baton Rouge for sponsoring the four students below in 2013 and have already renewed for 2014. Edson, Hortencio, Quizito and Francisco not only receive an education, they also get three great meals a day, clothes, school uniform, bookbag with school supplies, toiletries, a place to study at night and last but not least friends for a lifetime. All of these things are paid for by the $300 per year sponsorship for one student.
Edson, Hortencio, Quizito and Francisco

I would also like to highlight and thank our volunteer community of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in Baton Rouge who sponsor Lazaro. The brothers sent me this picture below which is a picture of Lazaro that has been placed in the brothers chapel. The brothers not only have made sacrifices to sponsor Lazaro, but also pray for him every day. There are presently 6 different communities of brothers sponsoring 9 of our orphans. I'm not sure if we would have made it this far without their help.
A picture of Lazaro in the Brothers Chapel
In less than two months we will be doubling the number of boarding students which also means we double the number of orphans. And yes, I'm already getting nervous thinking about feeding, clothing, and caring for the new boarders, especially the 25 new orphans. However, I know God will provide us through new sponsors.
Our new beds are ready to go for 2014

How do we feed twice the number of kids?

Will the little ones in Amatongas have a future?
Click on the sponsor link on this page or go here to join our Louisiana Marathon fundraiser. The countdown to February 2014 is on.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

We Have Water!!!!!

I never thought I would be so excited to share a post, even though it's a few weeks late due to internet and electrical issues. Yes, we finally have a new bore hole. It's something we have been praying for and waiting on for over 2 years. Since our arrival we have really been rationing water, going through periods of very low or no water levels. At the same time we have been trying to expand our number of resident students. Not enough water and more students don't go together.

Thanks again to our friends at Africa Directo and "C.A.M." The Community of Madrid for providing us with the funds for this project. I, for one, will never take water for granted again.

The moment we strike water!

The kids here always come out for a good show

Our students are very thankful

The crowd grows by the minute

Two new 5,000 liter tanks were installed

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Futebol Rules

Futebol "Soccer" indeed rules the day here in Amatongas, especially on the weekends. It has become even difficult for me, an American Football loving fanatic as most of you know, to use the term "Soccer" when the rest of the world has a different name.

Since our arrival in Amatongas, just over 2 1/2 years now, our community of brothers has been sponsoring the Futebol Championship Tournament for all the young people in the area. What that really means is we pay the referees and buy the awards at the end of the year. Hundreds of people of all ages come out to see the very competitive games every Saturday and Sunday afternoons for months.

Our resident students also have a team coached by our own Br. Angel and managed by Br. Fabian. Their name is Corazonistas United and even have new uniforms from Spain now.

Thankfully, when our Canadian volunteers were here Maria got some great pictures of the action.

Coach Br. Angel in a calm moment watching the action

Fans enjoying sugar cane while viewing the game

Fans surround the field

After each goal is scored everyone rushes the field, everyone

We are all enjoying new nets brought from Canada.
Here shoes are removed before playing the game.

This is a serious game, make no mistake.

And the refs here are always right

Two resident students serving as water boys
obviously watching the game intensely

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Let the Children Come

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 10: 13-16)
I know I share with many people this favorite quote from scripture. It's hard to put into words the difficulty of this post, not my usual. However, it is a reality we live in. Children, young people and the elderly die at an incredible rate here in our small village. Almost daily we have a funeral. You become kind of numb to the feeling of seeing or hearing of another needless death.

Mozambique has a population of around 24 million with 10 million being children. So, roughly 50% of the population is made up of children. Four million children die in the first four weeks after birth which rates us in the top 12 countries with the highest under-five mortality rate in the world.

Other than premature births, most deaths of children are caused by infectious diseases and, of course, malaria is the biggest killer claiming 46% between the ages of 1 and 4. Also, I believe many deaths back in the bush go unreported, so the numbers could be greater. Lack of fresh water and very poor medical facilities will continue this trend for many years to come making our mission more important to the children in the area. I see many large service organizations in the area, but in my 2½ years here I don’t see what they're doing. It will be a long slow process I know.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mutuchila Veggies

As promised the trip ends at our new Mutuchila Farm. From what I've heard the Franciscans used this valley by the Mutuchila river to farm about 200 hectares, almost 500 acres. After the war people slowly moved on to the area and we now presently have about 20 hectares (50 acres), but we're trying to acquire more. The farm is mainly used for corn and beans, but we now are planting a large vegetable garden thanks to new irrigation equipment. Thanks again to our friends from Manos Unidas for donating the pump, hoses and sprinklers that are now used everyday. We are presently planting cabbage, onions, tomato's and couve which will be happily consumed by our borders and then the excess will be sold in the market.

Our two new sprinklers...

...get used twice a day.

The caretakers children watching the cabbage grow.

Our new pump by the river.

Tomato's, cabbage and onions almost ready to harvest.

Karine, a volunteer from Canada, helps to plant tomato's

Marie-Pierre (Canada), our photographer, has her picture taken for once.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On The Road To Mutuchila

Almost everyday I drive the tractor, usually with trailer in tow, down to our farm near the Mutuchila river. It's a farm that we have now irrigated and use a small section for year round vegetable growing. Anyway, I'll have more on the farm later. This post is about the ride down to the farm. No matter how I'm feeling, often tired, sometimes frustrated, the smiles of the kids along this road brings a smile to my face and heart. I have driven down this road now hundreds of times and each time the kids come running, sometimes dancing and singing to see the tractor roll down the path. Just an awesome feeling I wanted to share.

We often pick up stragglers for a ride

By the way, you can tell these pictures were not taken by me, they're much too good. Thanks to our visitor/volunteer from Canada, Marie Pierre, for these wonderful pictures. You will be seeing more from her in the coming days.