All posts by Comboni Missionaries Ireland

Ivory Coast: Breaking Chains

For 35 years now, Grégoire Ahongbonon has been helping African mental health patients, providing them with treatment care and work. In the final analysis, 'They are no different from ourselves'. Grégoire Ahongbonon, 65, originally from Benin, is no psychiatrist. He does not have any health-care training. He is a mechanic by trade. But he has become not only a great expert but also one of the people in West Africa most committed to the mentally ill. “They are not dangerous. They are not witch doctors or violent people. One has to understand their gestures. If you approach any of them, listen to them and trust them, they return your trust”, he says. Grégoire’s interest and concern for the living conditions of the mentally ill goes back to the eighties. “In those days, there were only two psychiatric hospitals in the whole of Ivory Coast, a country with a population of over 20 million where I had gone to seek work. That is when I first got the idea of trying to help them”. However, it all grew out of a deep crisis. It was the fifth of November, 1982, when Father Joseph Pasquier, Grégoire’s spiritual director during that difficult period, proposed that he should go to Jerusalem. He returned completely transformed, aware that, in his Christian life, he had to be 'a living stone'. He received the gift of being able to see his own situation in a new way, a situation that had always been before his very eyes, without his seeing it as it really was “I had just been to Mass and received Holy Communion - he recalls - and I saw a man completely abandoned, almost naked and wandering alone. For the first time I saw Jesus himself in him. I believe that all Christians, wherever they may be, must try to learn how to be an instrument of God in their daily lives”. He returned to Ivory Coast in 1983 and founded the Association of Saint Camillus de Lellis, drawing inspiration from the words of the saint 'The sick are the apple of God’s eye and close to his very heart. Respect them'. Before that time, Grégoire recounts, remembering his encounter with one of them – "I had noticed people of that sort but I was looking without seeing: then I really saw them and I said to myself: 'This is Christ himself, the same Christ I look for in churches and to whom I pray; he is here right in front of me". He started his work by forming a prayer group and organising the beginnings of assistance in the hospitals and prisons. “At that time I used to go around bringing food to the sick, especially those with psychiatric problems, people nobody cared for or were even hidden away. I sought them out, going from village to village”. In 1994 he opened his first 'Welcome Centre' in a former coffee shop at Bouaké hospital towards the north of the country. Since then, more than 60,000 mentally ill people have been treated in the various Centres, some of which are also in neighbouring countries - Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso. At present, there are about 25,000 patients being treated in eight Care Centres, 28 Consultation centres and 13 Rehabilitation Centres. More than 1,000 people have been physically freed from their chains; in some cases, the patients are chained to prevent them harming others, but all too often the chains become a real form of torture. In almost all cases, those people are the victims of witch doctors or quack healers who may even profess to be Christians and hope to gain from the sick by promising miraculous healings while, in actual fact, they extort money from families who do not know how to handle their sick members. “As long as there is even a single person chained to a tree or confined in a hut, the whole of humanity will be in chains”, insists Grégoire who, with his commitment and his work, seeks a change of vision and mentality, and even to undo the many prejudices and 'legends' that surround people affected by mental illnesses. For this reason, together with his work of hospitality and treatment, Grégoire continues tirelessly with his work of sensitisation at all levels, both in Africa and abroad. Grégoire knows very well that it will take many years to convince people that “mental health illnesses are illnesses like any other and can be treated with medicine and that the mentally ill are people like ourselves. For many of them the first 'medicine' is work. When they have work to do, they regain their human dignity and feel like everyone else. They need to feel loved and especially need to feel trusted. After all these years, I am convinced that the mentally ill can be treated and cured, but not only with medicine”. Because he is so convinced, Grégoire has involved many former patients in his Centres, whether cured or stabilised, thanks to therapies that require the use of psycho-pharmacological medicine but also a good dose of humanity, Christian love and community support. “Their presence" – he adds – "helps create a relationship of trust with the other patients and gives them the chance to have a regular job”. This is also confirmed by the Camillian missionary, Thierry de Rodellec, who runs the Djougou Centre in Northern Benin. “The charism of this work" – he says – "is to look upon the sick in a way that differs from that of official psychiatry. There is no longer a barrier between the one who gives and the one who receives treatment; they are both on the same level of equality. The first moments when sick persons are approached, when they are taken off the street or arrive at the Centre accompanied by their relatives, are decisive: they feel people looking at them as nobody had done for years. When they start to feel better, they accept with enthusiasm the suggestion that they, in turn, take care of the new patients. In this way, a therapeutic community is built up where the sick take care of the sick”. In his work, Grégoire strongly feels the presence of the Church and prayer. He tells us “There are many lay people and priests who support us, in Africa and elsewhere. We feel supported most of all when one particular aspect of our work is understood: this is not our work alone. I know that, without the prayers of many others, I could not continue. The first thing I ask for is for everyone to pray for us”. He also spoke to us about the 'Oasis of Love Fraternity' which began within the Saint Camillus Association, Grégoire’s operative branch. Today the Fraternity has around twenty former patients consecrated to the cause of the mentally ill. These are all signs of Divine Providence which has never fallen short “My family is very much involved in my work. My youngest daughter chose to study medicine and is now a doctor, specialising in psychiatry. I did what God asked of me and God looked after those who supported me”. With great emotion, he tells how his family never lacked anything. “Also for my wife Léontine, our commitment has become her joy. I could not continue without her. We are all united in this work with the Lord”. (L.M.)

Kenya: A Young Lady Makes Water An Entrepreneurship Success Story

Approximately 39.1% of the working population in Kenya is unemployed. The bulk of these are young graduates considering around 50, 000 students graduate annually from Kenyan public and private universities. The Ministry of Education estimates that 2.3 million youths are unemployed. The informal sector has become a big source of employment to young people.Many people are opening small scale businesses locally known as ‘juakali’. Others have a dream of starting successful companies and enjoying the Kenyan dream. The difference between those who make this dream a reality and those who fail lies on their hard work and trust in God, says Ruth Mawia, a young entrepreneur and founder of Koola Waters. Ruth is a 28 years old and the owner and director of Koola Water Company. The company deals with manufacturing, treatment, packaging and distribution of pure drinking water. Ruth was born in Kyondoni, Kitui County, and Eastern Kenya. She says being brought up in a semi-arid area where water was very scarce was a way of God’s formation in what she would do later in life although she had no idea about it at the time. Although Ruth was brought up in a semi-arid area and was concerned about the poverty in her homeland, she did not know what to do to help her community. After finishing her secondary school education Ruth joined African Nazarene University where she studied Mass Communication majoring in Electronic Media. It is during her internship at Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) that the idea of starting a water manufacturing plant was born. She started her water company in 2014 with an estimated capital of two million Kenyan shillings ($20, 000). She raised the capital through prudent saving, loans from family and friends and through partners. She said that three years after starting her company, she has paid off all the loans and now the company is registering profits. Located in Karen, Nairobi, Koola Waters now packages 1000 litres per hour from 1000 litres per day in 2014. She says this has been due to increased demand of the product and also increased sales which have enabled the company to invest in more efficient machines. The company gets its water from Nairobi City Council but they have now drilled their first borehole. The borehole will provide reliable clean water at a cheaper cost. This will make it possible to subsidize prices to the consumers. "The biggest challenge was market penetration”, she says, “most consumers did not want to change their brand and it was hard to convince them”. By providing better products and services – pure water, good customer care and timely delivery – than their competitors, they have been able to overcome that. Since the company was not making profit during its early years, there were many financial difficulties. Most of the times, she used to bail out the company with her salary. Holding onto a job and operating the company proved difficult. She took a gamble and left her job to concentrate fully on the young company. Looking at the lorries being packed to distribute water to different parts of the country is a clear testament that the gamble paid off. Under the directorship of Ruth, Koola Waters has grown to be one of the most sought after water brands in the country. The company now provides water to residents in Nairobi. The company is in its final phases to start the distribution of Koola water to the Western part of Kenya. It is amazing to see a company that is three years old serving millions of Kenyans. The target customers are mostly the mass market, with majority of customers being Kiosk owners, shops, whole sellers and depots. Koola Waters also sells in several supermarkets and hotels in Nairobi. Ruth has been recognized as a successful young entrepreneur by many organizations giving countless interviews on television and other media channels. She was listed by Bizna Kenya under ‘Top thirty under 30 millionaires in Kenya’ category. She was also given a fully paid trip by the Chinese Embassy to China. She has also been recognized by her former university, African Nazarene University. Through Koola Water Company, she has started an academy for young entrepreneurs. The academy gives mentorship, consultation and coaching. Interested young entrepreneurs are free to email her through the Koola Waters website. She also engages in charity work in several children homes including Korogocho, Mathare and Rongai children’s homes in Nairobi. She also helps in a Girl Rescue Centre in Machakos. “My biggest joy comes from putting a smile on others”, she says. “Without God, we cannot achieve our dreams. In every venture we must make sure God is the controlling partner. God guided me during the early challenging moments of my company and he guides me every day as I continue managing my company” she says. Ruth also advices graduates not to lose hope due to lack of employment in the country. She says God has made everyone a success and if you have an idea of starting your own business then put faith, hard work and dedication to it and it will succeed. Ruth has employed 9 young people in her company and she encourages those who get the opportunity to own a company to consider employing fellow youth. She explains that it is only through helping one another that the unemployment issue in the country can be resolved. - M.L.

Erythrina Abysynica: The Anti-Helminthic Plant

It is one of the well-known popular plants which is often used in traditional medicine. This veritable multipurpose tree is also often grown to protect the soil. This medium-sized deciduous tree is widely distributed in warm regions of southern Africa and the savannah of eastern Africa. In fact, the plant is native to a number of sub-Saharan African countries, including Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The plant grows to about 5-15 metres in height forming a thicket, with a well-branched, rounded, spreading crown with a short trunk. The mature bark is usually grey-brown to creamy brown and is deeply grooved. When the bark is cut, the tree exudes a brown sap. The leaves are compound, alternate, 3-foliolate with lanceolate stipules. The flowers are in strong, sturdy racemes on the ends of branchlets, orange-red, up to 5 cm long; the calyx joins to form a tube, split along the under surface almost to the base and separating away into long, slender, distinctive lobes at the apex; the calyx and standard petal are a striking scarlet to brick red. The fruit is cylindrical with a woody pod. The seeds are red with grey-black patches. The tree’s genus name Erythrina comes from the Greek word ‘erythros’ which means red - a reflection of the showy red flowers of the Erythrina species. The specific name abyssinica means ‘from Ethiopia’. This popular plant is known by various names across the African continent. In Ethiopia, the plant is referred to as kuara or korra in the Amharic language; the Bemba people in Zambia refer to it as mulunguti while in Uganda, the plant is referred to as Lucoro and muirikiti by the Acholi and Baganda tribes respectively. The Shona ethnic group in Zimbabwe call it mutiti and the Kiwahili speaking people of East Africa refer to it as muhuti or mwamba. However, the plant is sold under the trade name of 'red hot poker tree'. In fact, E. abyssinica is a well-known traditional medicinal plant with all its parts highly valued for treatment of a number of diseases, although the root and stem bark are the most commonly used parts. The pounded stem bark is steamed and the decoction administered to treat anthrax in some East African communities. The infusion of the pounded leaves is taken to treat peptic ulcers; and also for treatment of diarrhoea. A leaf decoction serves as an emetic. The paste from pounded leaves is applied topically to treat wounds and to ease pains at the joints. The bark is pounded in a large wooden mortar and pestle to form paste which is then used in medicinal applications. It is traditionally used to treat malaria as well as to expel gastrointestinal parasites. Roasted and powdered bark is used to treat external skin conditions, such as burns, ulcers and swellings such as boils. The bark decoction/infusion is also used to treat a wide range of conditions including snakebites, amoebiasis, cough, liver inflammation, stomach-ache, colic, measles, and male impotence. The bark of the immature green stem sap is used to treat eye inflammation. A decoction is taken orally as an anthelmintic and to relieve abdominal pains. The stem bark decoction is also known to be very effective in treatment of hypertension and mumps. The liquid from the crushed bark of green stems is used to cure trachoma, which is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. The roots are also pounded to form paste and the infusion made from it used in the treatment of malaria and gastrointestinal parasites just as is the case with the stem bark. The decoction/infusion of the root is also orally administered for the treatment of peptic ulcers, schistosomiasis, and epilepsy. The freshly harvested flowers are also used in traditional medicine. The infusion of the pounded flowers is taken orally for the treatment of dysentery. A maceration of the flower is drunk as an abortifacient, and applied externally to treat earache. Fruit infusion is orally administered to treat and manage asthma and meningitis conditions. In addition to the numerous medicinal uses of this plant in African traditional medicine, this veritable multipurpose tree is also often grown to protect the soil. The plant has a number of other uses too, including being used as a material for dye, live fencing, craft material, wood and fuel. The tree is often grown as an ornamental and shade tree in tropical areas both within and outside its native range. The leaves are given to goats and sheep as fodder. The seeds are locally used for making curios and necklaces. The infusion from the leaves is used to treat cattle-skin diseases. The plant is known to have phytochemical compounds particularly flavonoids and isoflavonoids which are the key to its medicinal potentials. - R.K.

Peru: Weaving By The Sea

The arts of crocheting and fishing narrate the stories of the beaches of northern Peru. Peru has always been a land of weavers since pre-Inca times. The finest varieties of cotton such as tanguis, pima and native cotton are cultivated in the north of the country. But Peru is also a land of fishermen, who at three o’clock in the morning leave home, equipped with hooks and the nets which they weave personally, to catch the abundant and exquisite fish, the base of the Peruvian cuisine. The life of fishermen is marked by knots and dawns at the beaches of northern Peru, Cabo Blanco, Puerto Pizarro, Canoes of Punta Sal, Máncora, Tumbes, Los Órganos, El Alto and Talara. This coastal region is described as 'the ceviche route' by famous chef Gastón Acurio in his book Cebiche Power. This book which is basically a tour through the more than 3,000 kilometres of coast of this Andean country in search of the most delicious ceviche, introduces readers to the history and secrets of each region and their most representative ceviches. Gastón Acurio is the host of this journey and reports the anecdotes and stories of the fishermen he met. He also spoke with their wives who, while waiting for the men to return home from fishing, prepare the lunch which generally consists of delicious ceviche with a lot of lemon (the best is that of Piura) and seasoned with varieties of chili that accentuate the flavours of the sea. But the women leaving in this coastal region of Peru are not only famous for their ceviche dishes, but also for their crochet works. Most of them are very good at knitting and crocheting, arts which they have learnt from their mothers and grandmothers and like them, they spend long periods of time crocheting, seated on rocking chairs in front of the sea. It is said that the art of crochet came to America from Europe, where it was developed in the sixteenth century. It became very popular among women who used to gather to spend whole afternoons knitting, crocheting, eating and chatting. Although it is not known for sure if crochet originated in France, the term comes from the word 'crochet', which in French means 'hook'. In colonial and republican America, crochet found fertile ground and became such a popular activity in colleges and religious orders that it turned out to be also an important source of income for many communities. Peruvian cotton fibres are among the finest materials in the textile industry worldwide and are characterized by their softness, resistance and brightness. When the Europeans arrived in America, they discovered that cotton was used to make very beautiful and complex textiles. Incas used this material for their sophisticated fabrics. One piece often incorporated several techniques. That is why today cotton is the natural material for weaving stories, as Isabel Allende says "Writing is like crocheting to me: I’m always scared of losing a stitch”. - Marcella Echavarría

“Take Courage, Build my House”

Christian Carlassare, a Comboni Father tell us how he became missionary. While visiting the small hermitage of St Damiano, in Assis (Italy) I heard that the Crucifix spoke to St Francis there and told him “Build My House”. Those words resounded also inside my heart as I was a student in a technical institute for building constructions. I had already clear in my mind that I should seek in life something more than merely building houses. Moreover, I also realised that relationships will be fruitful when built on love for God. During springtime 1993 I accompanied a friend of mine who invited me to attend a youth meeting at the house of the Comboni Missionaries in a nearby town. I already knew something about them through their publications. I heard also about some Comboni missionaries: one among them was Fr. Egidio Ferracin, martyr in Uganda, whose sister lived in my neighbourhood and whose nephew was my football companion. At that meeting I came to know more about them, especially about St Daniel Comboni and his vision for the mission in Africa. I wondered whether this could have been the way offered to me by the Lord. After a month I went back to the Comboni community to meet the vocation director and I asked him to accompany me in the discernment about my vocation. During all the year I witnessed that the Lord, by calling me, called also them to deepen their faith and strengthen their missionary spirit. I joined the seminary in September 1994 and through all stages I was helped to deepen my vocational motivations, to grow as a person with a sound spiritual life and knowledge. During this time of formation I also matured more interest and concern for the people and mission in Africa, particularly in South Sudan. I was ordained on the 4th September 2004, by a Franciscan Bishop and I was assigned to South Sudan. I just felt grateful for how the Lord made everything just happen in my life. Everything had a purpose. I arrived in South Sudan on the year of the comprehensive peace agreement (2005) – a year of great hope – and I was sent to form a new Comboni community in the mission of Old Fangak (Jongley State). People welcomed me warmly and the confreres as well - I learnt a lot from them. Nonetheless the first period was not easy. I had to put much effort to get on with the people in this very poor set up and find my place or rather understand what kind of contribution I could offer. At the beginning I did not know what to do, but it was clear where I had to start from: learning their language. So, I put much effort to learn the Nuer Language. I also learnt to be patient and go the way people do journey with them. During the first years we were also concerned to put up the structures of the new mission in semi-permanent material. We did it counting on the volunteer work of the Christians under the direction of Bro. Raniero Iacomella. It was a great occasion to join hands and work together. Fr. Antonio La Braca was mostly concerned to introduce me into the pastoral work. The first thing he did was to take me around to visit all the chapels and centres of the parish (about 60). It took almost one year and half because most places are reachable only after days of walking through bushes and swamps. Each chapel was organised as a small Christian community ministered by the catechist, in most places the priest could reach only once or twice a year. During this visits we were accompanied by catechists, women and youth. As soon as I got confident with the language, I could put hand to another building: the spiritual building of the Christian communities that needed much leadership, coordination and encouragement. Christian communities were in fact there before the arrival of the missionaries, but they were facing many challenges. Chapels and Centres were very disconnected among themselves, so I had to work much to bring them together through the activities of the youth and a common pastoral plan and calendar of activities. Then, I realised that catechists and Church leaders were in need of spiritual and catechetical formation. Therefore in the parish centre we offered a rich programme of courses for the different groups of the parish. Relationship is actually the key for a fruitful mission rather than many other enterprises. We must be close to the people and their daily struggles. We must also promote a spirit of communion among the Christians so that the Church can visibly be seen as a family where people have a sense of belonging that goes beyond their clan and tribe. As I look back to these ten years of pastoral work, I (personally) did not build much, but we (together) built a Christian community more mature in faith and concern for each other. This I believe is the House of Jesus. I am grateful to the Lord that let me live in his house and with his people. Since the end of October 2016, I am now the animator of the community of Pre-postulants in Juba.

Brazil: Agroecology Is The Future

The Comboni Missionaries have established the Centre for Rural Innovation and Agroecological Development of Açailandia (CIRANDA) which promotes family farming in order to guarantee a dignified life to people and respect for the environment. We, the Comboni Missionaries, have been offering our pastoral services in the city of Açailandia since 1992. For twenty years we have served in one of the parishes of the city, and for four we have taken over another one in the industrial zone, where there is a working class neighborhood with a very high rate of pollution. We have always focused on the social and environmental problems of the area. The region, which was once mainly agricultural, has changed greatly after the implantation of large farms that have a strong impact on the native vegetation and on family farms and increase pollution through the use of insecticides and fertilizers. In this context, we have established the Centre for Rural Innovation and Agroecological Development of Açailandia (CIRANDA), which promotes family farming in order to guarantee a dignified life to people and respect for the environment. CIRANDA, however, is also the name of a traditional dance of the region that generally begins with a small circle of just a few people, which steadily grows as other people begin to join in. These 'latecomers', without any kind of special ceremony, merely insert themselves into the ring by separating and holding the hands of the original participants. The project promoted by the Centre for Rural Innovation and Agroecological Development of Açailandia is inspired by the dynamic of this traditional dance, and in fact it aims to interact with the different sectors of the population, by developing innovative initiatives in the training of children, youth and adults in family farming. The goal is to improve the life style of the communities affected by the mining operations that proliferate in the area, by strengthening and making their agricultural production systems more efficient in the face of changes in the environment, climate and economy. The project, which has already been recogniSed by the State, will be carried out in the structure known as Casa Familiar Rural, which was established in 2001. With the support of large companies, an example of agroecological exploitation, as a pilot project, is being organized, in order to show people the ecological and economic benefits of these new techniques. A 70 hectare-area will become a productive unit that will serve as an example of a new style of sustainable agriculture and livestock. The medium-term objective is to implement a reference agro-ecological centre, which would be the only one in the country, since mining companies are very influential in the area, and heavily affect family farming and small rural communities. The centre is supposed to function as a testing ground that allows farmers to learn about new forms of cultivation. A second step is the promotion, adaptation and implementation of these technologies in the properties and communities of farmers as well as the improvement of training in agroecology for school communities in order to achieve the consolidation of an active network of farmers and institutions involved in this primary sector. Several structures, such as the headquarters of the centre, which will include an auditorium, an office, a residence for an employee and, finally, an area for the commercialization of the production will be established. A storage system will also be built in order to collect rainwater as well as a garden/filter acting as ecological sanitation. Hand-crafted thermal solar energy and photovoltaic solar energy will provide electric power. We are also planning to get a small biogas plant to supply power for the kitchen. We have to buy cows for the organic production of milk, restore the stables, and repair the fence. Legumes will be used to obtain ecological pasture in this agroecological unit. Free-range chickens and pigs will be raised outdoors with plenty of fresh air. The project of the centre also includes the improvement of vermiculture, apiculture, and organic horticulture and fruit farming. Lastly, microcredits will finance the start of the agroecological production and the implementation of appropriate technologies by the participant farmers. - R.M.

Oral Literature: The Lion And Jabu

There was a young herd boy named Jabu. He took great pride in the way in which he cared for his father's cattle. And his father had many cows. It was quite a task to keep these cows out of trouble, away from the farmer’s mealies (corn) and out of the dangerous roads. Jabu had some friends who also kept their fathers’ cattle, but none of them had even half the herd Jabu did! And none of them were as careful as Jabu. It was a sign of Jabu's father's pride in his boy that he entrusted such a large herd to such a young boy. One day as he sat atop a small koppie (hill) watching the animals feed and braiding long thin strips of grass into bangles for his sisters, Jabu’s friend Sipho came running to him. “Have you heard the news, my friend?” panted Sipho. Before Jabu could even answer, Sipho rushed on to tell him. “Bhubesi, the lion, has been seen in these parts. Last night Bhubesi attacked and killed one of Thabo’s father's cows. The men of the village are already setting traps for the beast!”. Jabu wasn’t surprised by this news. His keen eyes had seen the spoor of the lion - his left -over kill, his prints here-and-there in the soft earth, his dung. Jabu had respect for the king of the beasts. And since Bhubesi's pattern was to hunt at night when the cattle was safely within the corral, Jabu had seen no reason to alert the village of Bhubesi’s presence. But the killing of a cow! “I wonder - thought Jabu to himself -, if the cow was not left out of the corral?” Thabo was known to be a sloppy herd boy, a fellow who ran with his head in the clouds. He had been known to forget a cow or two before. “Come, friend!" - Sipho urged - "come and put your cows away for the day and watch with me as the men set the traps!”. Jabu slowly shook his head as he looked at Sipho and smiled. “You know me, friend. I cannot put the cattle back into the corral so early in the day! They need to be driven to the river before they go home". Sipho smiled. “Yes, I thought you would say this. But I wanted to tell you anyway. I will see you later, friend, perhaps by the fire tonight!” And Sipho ran toward the village with a final wave to Jabu. Jabu began to gather the cows together. He waved his intonga (staff) and gave a loud whistle. Each cow looked up, then after a moment’s pause, slowly started to trudge toward Jabu. With a grin Jabu began to take them to water. Jabu bathed his feet in the cool refreshing river as the cows drank their fill. It was a fine sunny autumn day, and if his mind had not been so busy thinking about the lion and the traps the men were setting, Jabu would probably be shaping the soft river clay into small cow figurines for his young brother. Then Jabu heard a sound that stole his breath from him. “Rrrrroar!” came the bellow. The cows all froze, a wild look coming into their eyes. “Rrrroarrrrrrr...” It was Bhubesi, and he was near! There was no time to drive the animal’s home; the lion was much too close. Jabu slowly rose, looking carefully around, his hand clenched on his staff. He walked purposefully, trying not to show the fear that made his knees tremble, pulling the cattle together into a tight circle. The cows trusted him and they obeyed. “Rrrrroarr...oarr..oarr...aaa!” Jabu listened. Bhubesi was not declaring his majesty or might. It sounded more like a cry for help. Several more bellows and Jabu knew, Bhubesi was in trouble. Somehow this took most of the boy’s fear from him. Gripping his staff, Jabu quietly began to walk toward the lion’s cry. Yes, indeed, the lion was in trouble. Jabu found him in a small clearing several metres across the river. He was caught in one of the traps laid by the men of the village. His head was firmly wedged in the barred structure, and the more he struggled, the tighter the snare became. Jabu stood and stared. Never before had he seen the king of the animals so near. He truly was a majestic animal. And a large part of his heart was sore for the creature. Then the lion saw the boy. “Hawu! Mfana! (Oh! Boy!) It is good that you are here. Please, help me. I am caught in this stupid trap and I cannot free myself. Please, please, will you come and pull up on the bar that is holding my head here. Please!”. Jabu looked into Bhubesi's eyes. He could not read them, but he could hear the desperation in the animal’s voice. “Please, Mfana! Please! Before those hunters come and kill me. Please release me!”. Jabu had a tender heart, but he was no fool. “I would very much like to free you, Bhubesi! But I am afraid that as soon as I did so you would make me your dinner". "Oh, no, Ngane wami! (My friend) I could never eat someone who set me free! I promise, I really promise with full sincerity, that I will not touch a hair on your head!”. Well, the lion begged and pleaded so pitifully that Jabu finally decided to trust him and set him free. Gingerly he stepped over to the trap and raised the bar that held the lion’s head. With a mighty bound the lion leapt free of the trap and shook his mane. “Oh, thank you, Mfana! I really owe you something. My neck was getting so stiff in there, and I fear it would have been parted from by body by the hunters if you hadn’t come along. Now, please, if you don't mind, Mfana, one last thing... I have become so thirsty from being in that thing, I would really like a drink of water. Can you show me where the river is? I seem to have become confused with my directions". Jabu agreed, keeping a wary eye on the lion, and led the lion upstream from where he had come, away from his father’s cows, since Bhubesi had made no promise about not eating them! As lion drank he watched Jabu with one eye. He was thinking to himself, “Hmmm... nice looking legs on that boy! Hmmm... and those arms are good looking too! Pity to waste such an excellent meal!” When the lion raised his head from the river, both eyes were on Jabu, and this time the boy could see what was reflected there. Jabu began to back up. “You promised. I saved you from the hunters, and you promised not to eat me!”. >“Yes" said Bhubesi, "slowly walking toward the retreating boy - You are right, I did make that promise. But somehow now that I am free it does not seem so important to keep that promise. And I am awfully hungry!” “You are making a big mistake. Don’t you know that if you break your promises that the pieces of the broken promises will come back to pierce you?”. The lion stopped and laughed. “Hah! What nonsense! How can such a flimsy thing pierce me? I am more determined than ever to eat you now, boy”, and he started stalking Jabu once more, “and all this talk is just serving to make me hungrier!”. Just then an old donkey happened across their path. “Ask the donkey", said Jabu to the lion. "Ask him and he will tell you how bad it is to break a promise”. “He, wena! (Alright, you!) You are certainly dragging this thing out! So I will ask the donkey”. The lion turned to the old creature. “I want to eat this boy. Isn't that okay?” Jabu broke in, “But he promised to let me go after I freed him from the snare”, Jabu added. The donkey slowly looked at the lion and then at Jabu. “I say" - the donkey started, "that all my life these stupid humans have beat me and forced me to carry things. Now that I am old they turn me out and leave me to waste away all alone. I do not like humans”. He turned back to the lion. “Eat the boy!” and the donkey moved on. “Well, that settles that" said the lion as he began to approach the boy once more. Just then Mpungushe the jackal stepped between the two. “Oh, terribly sorry - he said - to have disturbed you. I'll be on my way...”. “No!" - shouted Jabu - "wait and tell the lion how bad it is to break a promise”. “A promise?" - asked the jackal. "Well, I suppose it depends upon the promise, doesn't it? Why? Did one of you make a promise?" Lion sat down and rolled his eyes up toward the heavens. “Yes”, Jabu said. And he told Jackal how he had freed the lion from the trap, and how Lion had promised not to eat him, and how now Lion was intent upon doing that very thing! “Oh, what a silly story!" said Jackal. "My nkosi, the great king of all the animals, stuck in a little trap made by humans? Impossible! I don't believe it”. “It is true - said Bhubesi -. It is a strong and terrible trap!” “Oh, I can't believe anything is stronger than my king. I must see this thing! Please, will you take the courtesy before your dinner to show me this trap that you are speaking about? Please! Then you can eat your meal in peace!”. So the lion, keeping Jabu in front of himself, led Jackal to the trap. “But you can’t tell me that this little thing could actually hold your head! Never! I just can’t imagine it. Nkosi, would you mind just sticking your head there so I can see how you looked when the boy found you?” “Hawu. You are taxing me with your questions. This last thing I will do for you and then you must be on your way and leave me to my dinner in peace". So Lion stuck his head back between the bars just the way he had been when Jabu had found him. Then, quicker that lightning, Jackal threw the top bar in place. Lion was caught fast once again! “Yes" - said Jackal - "now I see how you were trapped. What a pity that you are so trapped once more. But the boy is right, Nkosi. Broken promises always catch up with you!” Lion roared in anger, but the sound trap held him well. Jabu thanked the jackal and ran back to his cows, who were all patiently waiting for their shepherd's return. Jabu drove them home and into the corral. What a day he had had! “Jabu, Jabu, - Sipho came running from behind Jabu -. The lion has been caught in the trap near the river! You and your cows missed all the adventure!” Jabu turned and smiled at his friend. “We have had all the adventure we need for one day”, he said. And as Sipho headed back to the hunters to hear the story once again of the mighty lion caught in the trap, Jabu greeted his mother in the cooking house and sat down with a sigh. - A Traditional Zulu Story – South Africa

Jumia: E-commerce Africa Style

It manages 48% of commerce in electronics, has spread to 23 countries and is now aiming to conquer Egypt with its vendors. Africa, too, has a website for electronics sales like Amazon, which sells all sorts of things from clothes and guitars, to electronic games and computers. It is called Jumia and, since its debut in 2012 it has had 1.5 million clients and today it is the largest website with 48% of the African market. The most important market is Nigeria, followed by Egypt. It operates in 23 African countries and controls around 126 local websites. Its competitors are Amazon and Souq.com, found mainly in North Africa. The Jumia shareholders are a large group of African and European companies such as MTN, Orange, Millicom International Cellular and the society of Berlin Rocket Internet. But we must also mention Goldman Sachs, the American commercial bank. Jumia is growing at a very fast rate; in 2016, it was the first African start-up to be valued at over a billion dollars. The secret of its success? Besides selling objects in local currency, it has adapted e-commerce as we know it – you choose an item, pay for it and it is delivered – to the African situation where not everyone has a bank account or a credit card. Even in the remotest village, using a smartphone, one may buy all sorts of goods from Jumia, but most of all – and this is what makes Jumia different – the African e-commerce websites allows one to pay cash on delivery. In 2017 Jumia reported an income of 507 million Euro: +42% more than in 2106. It is now hoping to make Egypt the largest of its markets on the continent, using a vast network of abusive street vendors. It has asked the government regulate the network of vendors as soon as possible, offering fiscal incentives and favourable loans to allow the distribution of Jumia catalogues on-line to passers-by. The “informal” commerce of street stalls and vendors amounts to at least 37% of total consumer spending. In Egypt, inflation has reached 30% and it is likely that many will choose the cheaper goods offered by Jumia, perhaps by using a simple booth in a street market.

Philippines: Feeding Street People

For the last five years, a retired engineer and his wife have been feeding poor people on the streets almost every week, Kamias Road in Quezon City. Nobody knows about it - neighbours, family members, and friends. “We do not advertise or brag about it”, Imelda said. “It is our expression of faith or faith in action in a simple way”, she added. “In one of the sermons I heard some years ago, the preacher said that one can help other people by giving them something they are in need of”, pointed out August Romero, a 68-year-old mechanical engineer. They are parishioners from Holy Family Parish, Kamias Road, Quezon City, in the diocese of Cubao. Keeping this in mind, the couple decided to feed people on the street. “You cannot give them money. It is sensitive to give them money, because one is not sure what they will spend it for. What is best we thought, is to give them food”, August added. For doing this, August got inspiration from two people. One is the late Rodolfo Vera Quizon Sr., a Filipino director, comedian, movie, television, stage, and radio actor. He is fondly called ‘Dolphy’ who is known for his comedy works earning him the nickname, "The King of Comedy”. Every time Dolphy went out of his house, he always carried packets of sandwiches which he distributed to poor people on the street. “This was our background. We thought of doing the same in our own way in our vicinity - Kamias Road in Quezon City. All these poor people on the street are in need of food”, August recalled. In the beginning, the home-cooked food of 50 packets with rice and meat were distributed once a month, then two or three times in a month. Then it became weekly. Now it is three times a week. The other person who inspired August is Pope Francis. From the time he began his pontificate, Pope Francis has been speaking for the poor and their rights and dignity. “Pope Francis’ talks and sermons on the poor have touched our lives and way of living”, August said. When asked how he prepared the food to be distributed, August said that he personally does the shopping the previous day and with love and passion, personally cooks the meal with the help of a housekeeper. The food is cooked in the morning so that it can be ready to be distributed by lunch time. Together with his wife, they distribute the food packets on different days in the various streets using their red car. “The more effort you put in it, the more satisfaction it generates for oneself”, he said, quoting another biblical verse or remembering the words of Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20: 35). He explains that they never distribute leftovers or give away stale food. “We cook fresh food and distribute it. As soon as they get the food packets, they start eating these. They just thank us for the food. Our interaction or communication with them is limited. Sometimes, they can identify me because of my red car". “We go to the streets where the poor are. We avoid narrow streets so as not to obstruct the road and cause traffic. It is always a hassle-free service”, he added. When asked why he does what he does, his answer was, food is basic to all. These people on the street always look for food. When they do not get it, they sleep. Consequently, they become crazy. It can drain their physical strength. When this happens, they are helpless in a way, he explained. The retired engineer never considered himself rich. “We are not rich, but God provides enough for us. We can still survive with what we have. We will continue to feed our brothers and sisters on the streets as long as we can afford and our strength permits. In case we physically cannot do it any longer, we may seek others’ help to do it. Until that scenario arrives, we will do it with love and passion and still keep it to ourselves”, August said. The couple have a daughter and three grandchildren who are settled in America. August was born in Romblon Province on the 10th March, 1950. It is a cluster of 20 islands lying in the Sibuyan Sea that is practically at the centre of the Philippine archipelago. It is south of Marinduque, west of Masbate, east of Mindoro, and north of Panay Island. Romblon is also known as the “Marble Country”. August was educated at Don Bosco, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. He earned his mechanical engineer degree from the National University, Manila. He worked as a teacher in Manila for a while and later he worked at the Balara water filter station in Quezon City. “Now that I am retired and have enough time, I can help the poor in my own way. Every time I pass through some streets of Manila or Quezon City, my attention goes to people on the streets and I have a feeling for them. Thank God, I am trying to follow the dictate of my heart enlightened by my Christian faith”, August quipped. - Santosh Digal

Mozambique: Benfica – Urban Mission

The parish of St. Francis Xavier in the outskirts of Maputo: a centre of Christian and social commitment. Two Comboni Missionaries lead the parochial community. The parish of St. Francis Xavier is located in the chaotic neighborhood of Benfica, near Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Here, at five o’clock in the morning, the streets are already congested with tricycles loaded with goods, and women carrying products in big bundles on their heads looking for a somewhere in the street to lay their goods on the ground and sell them. Lessons at the parish school start at 6 o’clock in the morning. Spanish Comboni Missionary, Father Juan Sanchez Arenas, is the parish priest of St. Francis Xavier, a parish founded in 1949. He has the task of making the schedule of the several pastoral activities implemented at the parish such as taking care of five external chapels, adolescent catechesis, administration of the finances of the parish, the coordination of the parish groups. Father Juan Sanchez is a jovial person who likes joking and laughing. At the same time he knows the social, political and ecclesial reality of Mozambique deeply, therefore listening to his comments and knowing his opinions is always very interesting. Fr. Antonio Bonato, the other Comboni missionary serving at the St. Francis Xavier, is Italian and he is mainly in charge of the school. The Benfica neighborhood is home to some 80,000 inhabitants, about 13,000 of whom are Catholics. Many inhabitants of this peripheral neighborhood of Maputo leave the suburb in the morning to reach the capital where they work and, when they come back, at sunset, they go to the St. Francis Xavier church to help the missionaries with their parish activities. There are three Ministries that stand out among the others for their importance and good organization in the parish. In the first place, there is the Social and Pastoral Ministry which relates to issues such as justice and peace, health, women, social communication, development, charity, migrants and education. The latter is a priority in this parish. The St. Francis Xavier Community School has 1,400 students: 100 children in the nursery, 880 students attending Primary school, 340 in the Secondary school, and about 80 adults who attend literacy classes at night. The State subsidizes primary education entirely, and the secondary only partially and therefore many children in Mozambique do not attend school because their parents cannot afford tuition fees. The parish school building is located at the rear of the church and it provides classes on a 3-shift daily schedule. Father Bonato underlines that "It is not easy to coordinate three shifts of lessons and rotational teaching for different levels of education". The Liturgy Ministry is the second most important Ministry at the Benfica parish. Fr. Juan praises the choir singing at their church, "They sing very well, and have even won awards at several diocesan competitions!" The Liturgy Ministry also includes the Acolyte Ministry, the Word Ministry, the welcoming service and the service of hope which is carried out by well-trained people who accompany those who are seriously ill until the time of their death. They collaborate with the families of the sick and then make preparations for the funeral and burial in the cemetery. Fr. Juan underlines "The burial of the dead is one of the great works of charity that our church provides". The Ministry of Catechesis, the transmission of the faith in Jesus, is the third most important Ministry at the Benfica parish, it incorporates a wide range of parish activities, such as Adult Catechumenate which include formation courses for those who were baptized as children, and a three-year formation program for non-baptized adults. The youngest children of the Benfica neighbourhood attend kindergarten at the Escolinha Comboni-Marinette centre, a joint project between the Comboni Missionaries and the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, the Order founded by Marie Rivier – known as Marinette – the blessed born in the south of France whose congregation has spread throughout the world. The centre provides its 100 children with breakfast in the morning when they arrive and a midday meal served in the dining room. The Escolinha Comboni-Marinette has several classrooms and a courtyard equipped with toys and games for the children. Volunteers from the movements Legion of Mary and Hope and Life collaborate with the Comboni missionaries in order to carry out the several activities implemented at the parish. These volunteers are mainly committed to providing social support. They visit and assist inmates in prisons or other marginalized people. It is beautiful to see how faith and life are interconnected through social support in the Benfica suburb. - J.C.