News from Monze

Our Lady of the Wayside - February 2020

As with countries throughout the world, Zambia has been struggling with the Coronavirus Pandemic. The number of cases appears to be smaller than for many countries, however it is likely that the numbers underestimate the true extent of the virus. Most people will not receive tests or even treatment - especially in the rural areas.

Bishop Moses of Monze died of the virus and Fr.Wilson tells me that at least 15 priests in Zambia have died from the virus. Fr. Wilson himself caught COVID-19, but has now regained most of his strength.

Efforts have been made to linit the spread of the virus, with school and church closures, mask wearing and attempts at social distancing, but the environment makes this difficult.

As with the rest of the world the impact economically on the country and individuals has been very significant.

We have been able to send some money from the church and individual parishioners to help keep Our Lady of the Wayside functioning. In particular a donation to buy sunflower seed allowed the oil press to be brought into action last year, thus multiplying the donation. Another donation for sunflower seed at the start of the rainy season has generated a good crop of sunflowers which will again be turned into oil to generate extra income. Other funds sent out have enabled the most needy to receive some food to help to sustain them until the new maize crop is harvested.

Fortunately this year the rains have been good and consistent. A good harvest is expected.

It is hard for us to understand the importance of a harvest to everyone in Zambia. Many of our friends from Our Lady of the Wayside will have an income of less than £1 a day. However they will probably have a hoe and a little bit of ground where they can grow a little maize and perhaps a few other vegetables. This food is largely how they survive. Without it they will struggle to survive. Most of the parishioners make a small income from buying and selling in the market. In a good year the farmers have money to spend in the market and shops. In a bad year the parishioners will not have grown enough food and will not have much trade in the market.

The parishioners form a busy community. They come together on Sunday afternoons as Small Christian Communities to pray together (Our Lady of the Wayside is split geographically into about 10 Smal Christian Communities). They meditate on the Gospel for the next week, receive feedback from the regular Church Council meetings and visit anyone in their community who is sick. The church runs a pre-school and provides some HIV/AIDS support. They have some farmland, and a piggery nearby. In the church grounds they have erected buildings for a grinding mill and oil press. These buildings were largely built using labour and materials provided by parishioners. The parishioners manage and run these activities in order to provide income for the church.

This year income has been an issue so they have concentrated on the sunflower crop. They will also probably grind maize for local people and might buy maize to grind for extra income.

Please pray for our friends in Monze as they struggle with the pandemic. They are hoping for some vaccine before too long, without it they are extremely vulnerable to the disease.