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Butoke Update, May 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is 22 May, and we have not been in contact for slightly over a month and a lot has happened on our side.

We are waiting for the bean harvest of the secondary season, 100 ha of bean seed farms, 3ha of manioc multiplication and over 150 ha of associative bean farms, The rains have fallen until yesterday which is considered very favorable for the harvests, In normal years there might already be a month of relative drought,

By April, we had the certainty that CIDA and AIM entered into partnership with Butoke for a two year Food Security and Nutrition Project, which is planned to cover 300 ha in 5 territories of the province and support the Community Nutrition Center in Tshikaji. The first instalment of the CIDA grant arrived in early May, and so two more agronomists were recruited to permit the expansion of the Food Security effort to be well prepared.

Also the agronomists’ equipment was acquired. In particular a cross-country motorcycle and a second hand Landcruiser got a lot of admiring teasing remarks of our friends and associates. The motorcycle is a Yamaha DT 125, popular with all NGOs here for its robustness. The Landcruiser is virgin white. Compared to its counterparts on the road, it glitters of newness, even though its antimist lamps are mangled and there is a start of a break in the window shield. But its engine performs purringly well. Together they create a new mobility and freedom that we are learning to manage

But probably as vital are the orders for hoes and machetes and assorted tools for the associations and the seed farms. Also some seeds for the upcoming season have been acquired and some are reserved, some fertilizer too. Because of the lack of a truly organized market for all of these needs, the tracing of sources and procurement are very labour intensive tasks, but two years of experience at it gives us valuable leads.

Almost daily we receive visits from associations, religious congregations and parishes that seek our collaboration for food security. One of the latest is the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Luiza who seek to associate with Butoke to produce food for orphans and destitute elderly. Luiza is at 250 km from Kananga and our newfound means of transport should render such collaboration feasible. Butoke’s world is both expanding and intensifying as more committed groups join.

The Nutrition Center opened its doors on15 november 2005. It has since fed 165 children for various lengths of time. It was high time to do an evaluation of what we accomplished and where we failed why. We have just finished gathering the data, full analysis is awaiting, but already we give thanks to God for a low mortality as only 5 children died, 4 of them in the first week after enrolment in a terrible state. Most recovered quite well and only a couple linger on still able to hold on to life and hope. We can clearly see that we need more work on nutrition education of the parents as well as in depth discussion on how they can organize themselves to provide the essentials to children.

We have also started to prepare lessons of nutrition education that will be broadcasted, a new venture for us. We are looking forward to it, but want to base it on our face-to-face discussions so as to target better.

AIM challenged us to come up with a training of pastors and elders as well as other group leaders on the link between Faith and Social Responsibility including development. We have formulated a plan for a 2-year training program. Struggling with what to teach and how as a good part of our target group is barely literate was hard, but we also were exhilarated as it would be a crown on an effort of two years. It has the potential of stimulating a major awakening of churches and civil society in general in the five territories where we work and potentially rippling beyond. We are waiting for AIM to tell us whether they will support this program, Full details of it are on the web; please if you agree we should do, help us find the means, The whole comes for two years about USD 15000 and it could significantly influence the ethos,

We have now developed a relationship with two arms of the MONUC (UN Peace keeping force) Humanitarian Affairs and the Human rights division. We were able with the help of the Human Affairs to relocate a family, but it demands we assume all the costs of lodging and phone calls to assure the relocation is feasible and desirable. MONUC assumes the travel with their planes. For the Human Rights Division we formulated a project but it is more likely they may ask us specific services comparable to the Slavery Railroad. We have three other candidates for reunion with family members waiting. One cannot travel as there are riots where she needs to go, two are waiting for letters confirming that their family accepts them. We have telephonic confirmation but with absent postal services transmitting letters is a very special art, not mastered by many, as one needs either voluntary or paid intermediaries. Those who wish to contribute to this aspect; remember a little will go a long way. You can pledge small contributions regularly and give them via our Ambassadors, Branch and Réal,

The schools are also calling for a lot of Butoke’s attention and effort. Most will finish a month early in preparation of the elections, but they press already for full payment. They schedule exams and demand all the costs at once. Many who finish secondary school cannot pay it all (around USD 75) and risk to be excluded from the exams, so besides our regular obligations we try to rescue some deserving students who otherwise would be stranded without diploma.

We continue to feed almost 36 old people in the Nutrition Center and give help to destitute elderly here in town: Help the Aged started us on this; but since we have no support specific to do this work:

Last, but not least, we are increasingly involved with extreme cases of a medical or surgical nature. During our fieldwork, in the emergency room of the “Hospital General” where Jean Lumbala works, in the communities where we live, in the parish of Rev Lazare Tshibuabua, in the office we meet some of the worst medical cases Cecile has seen in her 40 year career. In the next few days we have a 3 year old being operated for an imperforated anus with a fistula to the vagina, We have just had another three year old with a necrosing umbilical hernia. We still have in the hospital recovering a 10 year old little girl found by chance during the nutritional survey, suffering from typhoid with perforation of the intestines and subsequent peritonitis. Yesterday, we had a grandma of 50 years old with a double fracture of the leg just above the ankle, which waited for two weeks using only some herbs as there as no money for modern care, Now there is not only an open fracture but massive infection. We have brought her to a specialist and hospitalized for surgical care.

The School children, the elderly and the medical cases are all done on general gifts to Butoke, majority coming from pension funds of Cecile. Lazare and Jean want to share with you that they are living a unique experience working with someone who sacrifices to that extend, We all give thanks to you all and to God for the marvellous work already done and pray that even better will follow. Please if possible share this letter with others who might enjoy reading and who knows also provide some support, the needs are much bigger than the means we dispose of. Please pray God guide and assist us.

May I also ask your prayers, for Lazare and Jean and myself?

The wife of Lazare is traveling for three months with the Congo choir, so Lazare is now mother) father of 6 children, quite a task.

Jean will do his final exam as medical doctor in the month of June, while he also directs the preparations for the main agricultural season. He is determined to give both the maximum, but it is a lot for one man,

I fell two days ago in the bathroom and had a gross contusion on the occiput and a wound of about 1 ½ inches that needed a suture, I am still recovering,

In His love,

Jean, Lazare and Cecile