Back to school! + Day 19 (Part 2)
Well, it had to happen sometime. Back to the bread-and-butter of school life and a new school year... But I have to say that it is one I approach with a lightness of heart that I have not felt in a good while. For various reasons I feel that I'm making a fresh start this September... life is good.
7 of the 14 from our Africa trip came round to our Community House Saturday 8th to exchange photographs, reminisce, have some pizza... Bro. Francis managed to make it up from Southampton and his presence was very much appreciated. Plans were discussed for another trip next year with much of the group very keen to undertake a fresh adventure (probably going back to Mango, Togo and possibly also Uganda).
Back to the trip itself...
Our last full day of work with the children in Kara (and the last of the whole trip) ended with another invitation to the Foyer's evening prayer with all the children, lead by the adult leaders. Bro. Francis was asked to give a reflection on the day's Mass readings. This time when singing "Lord I Lift Your Name On High", the Kara children were able to join in the singing as well as the actions, having by now learned the lyrics in English. Following this were presentations made in both directions. We gave a large bag of football tops, educational resources, sports equipment, etc... plus Liverpool 800th anniversary commemorative medals and Liverpool Capital Of Culture t-shirts for the Foyer leaders. The latter presented us all with some lovely t-shirts in honour of the Salesian priest who founded their orphanage.
Patrick, Bernard, Michel (orphanage director), Pierre and Thomas with their medals.
Team Win proudly wearing their new t-shirts that were a big hit with everyone in the group.
We were then treated to a breathtaking dance from some of the girls of the Foyer.
Our experience in Kara was certainly different from that in Mango, but no less rewarding or moving. We were all deeply touched by the generosity, friendliness and good humour of these wonderful people (children and adults alike) and felt that even if we were not to return to the Foyer at some point in future trips, that we would like to continue our support for the orphanage and the marvellous work that is done there, perhaps through fund-raising.
One last journey on the lorry that had been such a part of our life for the last 6 days.
Bro. Francis, still in great form after 3 action-packed weeks.
This was Bro. Francis' first ever trip to Africa. When he joined our order just over 50 years ago he expressed the desire to be a missionary Brother and work in Africa. He even took as his religious name Francis Xavier after one of the greatest missionary saints in the Catholic church. But the decisions of his Superiors in the order led him to spend all of his working life in England (with time for further studies in the USA). So it was a source of great delight to me (to us both) that Francis finally have the chance to visit the continent and its people where he had always wanted to make his home.
On this last day in Kara (unknown to the rest of the group) I was to give Francis and myself quite a fright! We'd run quite a tight budget throughout the trip and I'd kept hold of a common fund that included all the spending money of our young people, giving it out as and when necessary. As a system it seemed to work well. Events when we left Kara were to bear this out even more powerfully, but more about that later.
I had split the money up into small bundles that I hid in different places in my luggage and at one point I gave Francis some to look after. Anyway, as we were packing the night before leaving Kara, I suddenly realised that I was 300 euros short of what I should have had left, money that was vital for our last few days in Africa. I thought I had given this money to Francis for safe keeping... the poor man! I made him pretty much empty out all his packed luggage (though I did do the same myself) and we searched everything with a fine tooth comb. Francis was convinced that I hadn't given it to him, but out of the goodness of his heart he kept quiet and went along with my requests... Afterwards he said that he saw that I was very stressed and tired and felt it best just to keep quiet and pray that the money turn up.
As is always the case, I eventually found the money (much sweat and stress later... thank you St. Anthony!! :-) in the last place I could have imagined that I would have stashed it... but was I happy?? Too right! Damn well knackered also.